Bird Sighting: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Have you seen this bird on Seabrook Island this summer?

Photo of a Black-bellied Whistling Duck taken by Lynn Maney-McIntosh on the roof of her garage on the evening of July 7, 2020.

If not in person, you might have seen the photos that appeared in the July 2020 edition of The Seabrooker (page 13). This is a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and they have been seen this summer in the marsh near the 17th green of Ocean Winds, at Camp St. Christopher, and as in the photo above on the garage roof of Lynn Maney-McIntosh in the 3100 block of Seabrook Island Road. This species has also been seen this summer at Kiawah River Estates, Kiawah River Development and on Kiawah Island.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a beautifully marked bird with longish legs and neck, chestnut back and chest, black belly and underwing, electric pink legs and red bill. When it flies you can easily see the bold white stripe on top of its wings. They can nest on the ground or in tree cavities, more recently taking to nest boxes. They are a very noisy waterfowl and do sound like they are whistling. Listen for this noise.

In recent years, their range has been expanding north. This explains why there are more sightings documented in our area in, a system which documents bird distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends through checklist data collected by millions of people across the world.

You should be on the lookout for them perching around shallow ponds; walking in the short grass of lawns and golf courses; and especially in agricultural fields, where these large ducks eat lots of grain. They feed nocturnally, so watch around sunset for large flocks to begin flying out to fields from their roosts. Or just look up on your roof like Lynn did!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck photo taken by Lynn Maney-McIntosh in her backyard on July 5, 2020.

REMINDER: Summer Virtual Movie Matinee Series

Movie Matinee | The Spinal Column

If you would like to join us for any of Seabrook Island Birder’s “Virtual Movie Matinees” you must REGISTER to attend. Then we will email you the Zoom link the day prior to the event. The first move, Beak & Brain – Genius Birds from Down Under is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Continue reading “REMINDER: Summer Virtual Movie Matinee Series”

Change of Pace: Birding During a Pandemic

Note: This article, written by Joleen Ardaiolo, first appeared in The Seabrooker, July 2020.

Great Horned Owlet by Dean Morr

Birdwatching can be a solitary hobby, as you certainly don’t need a birding group to compile a list of every bird you locate during a year. However, on Seabrook Island, birding activities and programs held before the pandemic had become quite the social events. The more activities, the merrier! The more participants, the merrier! 

Continue reading “Change of Pace: Birding During a Pandemic”

Ask SIB: Why is this Northern Cardinal Doing This?

This is a common question we receive from Seabrook Island Birder (SIB) members! Have you ever seen this behavior at your home?

We have a female cardinal that continues to try and get into the house. Generally 3-4 times a day she flies up the window sometimes she perched on the sill looking in. This has been going on for over four months.

Christine Dennis

For starters, rest assured the bird is not trying to get into the house. During the breeding season, birds aggressively attempt to drive off intruders of the same species. This is an instinctive behavior and not something the bird can control. What you are experiencing is a bird that sees its reflection in your window and instinctively attempting to drive the intruder away. The process follows a pattern. First the bird sees its reflection. Thinking it is an intruder, it displays a warning posture. Needless to say, the reflection responds with the same threat. This quickly accelerates to a full out attack. This is not something the bird can understand or learn not to do. 

The solution is to change the reflectivity of the surface the bird is attacking. This is easier said than done! There are several things you can try, none of them visually appealing. Some people have had success with strips if different color paper taped on the inside of the window  to break up the image. Completely covering the reflective surface on the outside works, but it also blocks the window. Installing screens will break up the reflection and soften the blow if the bird does hit the window. Finally, some people tie moving objects, pie tins, ribbons, etc., around the area to create movement that scares the bird away.

All that said, the bird will not hurt itself, will not break or damage the window, and will stop eventually when the breeding season ends.

Bob Mercer, SIB’s “Resident Naturalist”

Thanks to dlinnehan, we found this video on YouTube which provides great footage of both male and female North Cardinals attacking their own reflection.

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) welcome questions from our community of birding friends! If you have one, just fill out the form on our website or send us an email!

Summer Virtual Movie Matinee Series

With the heat of the summer and the need to still social distance, Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) has scheduled a “Virtual Movie Matinee” series using Zoom!  Join us on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays in July and August!  And the best part is you don’t even have to be on Seabrook Island to join!

Once you register, we will send you a link the day prior to each event to allow you to access our Zoom live video. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the  show together (generally an hour), and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions.

Sign up for one, two, three or all four here and then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

Join us for Beak & Brain – Genius Birds from Down Under on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

The Keas of New Zealand are the only parrots that live in snowy mountain areas. They like testing their brains, solving puzzles and challenging tourists: they unscrew bottle-tops, dismantle windscreen wiper blades and tear open rucksacks.

Watch the trailer here.

Join us for Peregrine Falcon Lord of the Skies on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

While hunting, the Peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of over 90 miles per hour. During its aerial displays, it holds the all-time speed record of 242 miles per hour. It’s not surprising that this powerful bird of prey has conquered the planet and can be found on the five continents. Worshipped, dressed up and trained for prestigious hunts, this powerful and beautiful bird has long fascinated us.

Join us for The Saga of the White Tailed Eagle on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

The sea eagle was once widespread throughout almost all of Europe and graced the coats of arms of many different countries. During the 19th and 20th centuries it was driven to the brink of extinction by hunting, the increased use of pesticides and the destruction of its habitat. This touching animal drama recounts the true life story of one individual bird, observed over the course of a year. Beginning with its birth in a lowland forest in Central Europe the film team follows the eagle’s first outing with its brothers and sisters and subsequent distant migrations to places as far away as Scandinavia. Finally it chronicles its dramatic lead poisoning, recovery and resettlement in a nature reserve.

Join us for Owl’s Odyssey on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm

A female barn-owl’s home is demolished and she seeks a new place to live. Flying through forests and grasslands, she meets common owl species in Central Europe, some she can co-exist with, others she must shun. This documentary is a beautiful display of what owls mean to humans; how they fly and hunt; why they’ve been associated with death. The owl finally finds a new home, as the guest of a barn owl family, in time to see the new clutch of young following their mother on their first majestic flight.

Watch the trailer here.

Ask SIB: How to Keep Ants off the Hummingbird Feeder

Is there any way to keep ants out of my Hummingbird feeders? There is a little cup in the middle that is supposed to keep them out but nonetheless they crawl in through the ports, then get trapped and most of them drown.

Melodie Murphy

To keep ants off of a hummingbird feeder, you need to create a water baffle. If your feeder is a hanging feeder, they sell them wherever you get your feeder supplies. Essentially,  you are placing a small reservoir of water between the hook and the feeder. The ants cannot get passed the water. This needs to be kept full.

Bob Mercer

Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) welcome questions from our community of birding friends! If you have one, just fill out the form on our website or send us an email!

Outdoor Encounters at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center

Early Bird Walks 

  • June 27 August 8 
  • July 11 August 22 
  • July 25 

Rise and Shine! Enjoy an early morning bird walk through the diverse habitats of a hidden treasure on Seabrook Island. Camp in search of warblers, buntings, herons and other waterfowl. Join us and learn bird watching techniques and identification skills as we search for warblers, buntings, herons and anhinga. For the beginner and amateur. Hikes will take you into the maritime forest of live oaks and magnolias, our slough, along the beach and salt marsh. 

  • Fee: $10/person 
  • Time: 8 am – 10 am 
  • Meet: Porch of Susanna’s House 
  • Bring: binoculars; mosquito spray; water bottle; We do have binoculars that you can borrow 

Deveaux Bank Kayak and Birding Tour 

  •  July 31  (Let us know if you want to go on a different date)

Paddle to one of the largest sea bird nesting sanctuaries in the southeast to identify and observe terns, pelican, black skimmers and other shorebirds. Come and explore the island and other marine life together at this amazing place. 

  • Fee: $50/person (kayak, paddle, and life jacket is included in price) 
  • Time: 11:30am – 2:30pm 
  • Meet: Porch of Susanna’s House 
  • Bring: water, lunch or snacks; binoculars (camp has some to borrow) 

Night Hikes & Star-Gazing 

2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month 

  • June 27
  • July 11
  • July 25 
  • August 8 
  • August 22 

Learn to identify constellations. Hear the call of the barred owl or chuck-wills-widow. Heighten your senses through sensory activities. Search for spider eyes. Join us for a nocturnal experience that starts on a forested path in the maritime forest and ends on the beach. 

  • Fee: $20/person 
  • Time: 8 pm – 10 pm 
  • Meet: Porch of Susanna’s House 
  • Bring: mosquito spray; flashlight 

 Pre-registration is Required for all Classes 


St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center 
2810 Seabrook Island Road 
John’s Island, SC 29455 

Vehicle pass is called-in to access Seabrook Island and Camp property 

Birding is Back on the Golf Course

Birding on Ocean Winds Golf Course
Date: Sunday June 28, 2020 8:30 am – 10:30 am
Location: Meet at Island House (Golf Course Parking Lot next to Spinnaker Beach Houses) for ride along the golf course in golf carts
Max: 24 (If all seats in golf carts are used)
Cost: Free for members; $5 donation for guests – Priority will be given to members

SIB birding from Golf Carts – Jackie Brooks

Ocean Winds golf course is closed for major renovations, but Seabrook Island Birders has obtained permission from Seabrook Island Club and the Golf Club Operations to take a group of members out on the front 9 to bird and visit the rookery. We will RIDE in golf carts (1 4-person and 10 2-person carts) which can accommodate 13 – 24 people, based on the number of people who will share carts.

We expect to see a large variety of birds including Double-crested Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. We should also see and hear some of the smaller birds like Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals and some of the many warbler species. Maybe Great Crested Flycatchers, Mississippi Kites, and Eastern Kingbirds.

To keep everyone safe, we will ask people to social distance and wear a face mask. When you register, if you are not joined by a family member, please let us know if you are open to riding with a non-family participant or if you prefer to be in a cart alone.

As always, be sure to bring your binoculars, hats and sunscreen. Water will be provided.

If you are not yet a 2020 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Please register no later than Friday June 26, 2020. All registrants will receive a confirmation letter on Saturday June 27, 2020. If you need to cancel, please let us know so we can invite people on the waitlist to attend.

Seabrook Island has a Least Tern Nest!

Least Tern on nest with partner on guard – Glenn Cox

In 2015, a major effort proceeded where the Captain Sam’s Creek and Kiawah River outflow was redirected creating the much larger North Beach. The necessary permits were provided by US Fish and Wildlife Services and the SC Department of Natural Resources because this wide expanse of beach would provide excellent nesting habitat for a number of rare and endangered species of birds: in particular the Least Tern and Wilson’s Plover. It has been successful. Both species nest on Seabrook Island now!

Least Tern egg in nest – Glenn Cox

Each year as part of the effort to provide a safe zone, the SCDNR designates a nesting area with yellow signs on North Beach between the lagoon and the dike close to Captain Sams inlet, where the birds most likely will nest. These signs direct beach goers to avoid the sensitive area so the birds can raise their young. If a nesting bird leaves its nest because of disturbance, the heat of the sun can boil the eggs or fry the young. The attached photos show how minimalist the nests are.  In fact, they are really just scrapes in the sand.

Friday, at sunrise, Seabrook Island’s resident photographer, Glen Cox, discovered a nest of the Least Tern outside of the designated nesting area. It is obvious the bird cannot read and felt that the area between the ocean and the lagoon would provide a better location. Unfortunately, the bird does not understand humans and their desire to walk the beach. In an effort to protect this bird’s nest, a new area has been cordoned with signs.

Mark Andrews, a Seabrook Island birder, who volunteers with SCDNR, coordinated with SCDNR to create the new nesting area.  SCDNR told him that it has been a bad year for Least Tern nests, so this is likely these bird’s second or third attempt to produce young this year.  While Mark was out on the beach, he saw many Least Tern pairs courting so hopefully more nests will be laid and successfully fledge chicks.  These little birds are very  territorial so if you are walking North Beach and a small tern “dive bombs” you, you have probably inadvertently gotten too close to a nest.

While people are out enjoying Seabrook Island’s North Beach they are asked to respect the boundary established to protect this Least Tern pair’s nest.

Submitted by: Judy Morr

Photo Credits: Glen Cox and Mark Andrews

Virtual Movie Matinee: Dancing with the Birds

Join us to Watch: Dancing with the Birds
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
4:00 – 5:30 pm

Dancing with the Birds is a 2019 documentary film directed by Huw Cordey and narrated by Stephen Fry. The premise revolves around exotic birds doing mating rituals, either by dancing or creating nests with the right decorations.

As we are still limited in conducting in-person group activities, we are offering our third “Virtual Movie Matinee” using Zoom! And the best part is you don’t even have to be on Seabrook Island to join and it is FREE!

Once you register, we will send you a link the day prior to the event to allow you to access our Zoom live video. We will open each event with introductions and a little social time, watch the hour long show together, and finish with a short discussion to get your feedback and answer questions.

Sign up, then plan to get comfy in your favorite chair with snacks and beverages of your choice to enjoy our gathering!

This event is free, but if you are not a SIB member, we invite you to join for only $10/person/year. Visit our website for more information about how to join.