Bird of the Week … Who am I???

As you may know, every Sunday we publish a weekly “Bird of the Week” blog.

This bird is not where you’d expect this type to be as it frequently eats on the ground digging for ants and insects with their unusual, slightly curved bill. When they fly you’ll see a flash of color in the wings – yellow if you’re in the East, red if you’re in the West – and a bright white flash on the rump. Can you guess the name of this bird?

Leave us a comment if you want to make a guess – and watch for the full article on Sunday morning!


Seabrook Island Birders Thanks Its Members

SIB members enjoying the presentation by Jay Cantrell on Wild Turkeys
SIB members enjoying the presentation by Jay Cantrell on Wild Turkeys

We gobbled till we wobbled at the first annual Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) Let’s Talk Turkey & Eat Some Too event on Wednesday November 16, 2016. What a fabulous evening we all had! Over 65 people enjoyed turkey, gravy, ham and wine supplied by the SIB team and also loved the many appetizers, sides and desserts provided by the guests. The tables were beautifully decorated and all glowed with lovely tea lights. After dinner, Jay Cantrell, a game biologist with SC-DNR, provided a presentation concerning the Wild Turkey and its natural history, historical and present day management, population fluctuations and other interesting facts. Who knew there are five sub-species of Wild Turkey in the United States. The evening ended with seven SIB members winning various door prizes, including binoculars, books, framed photograph and a $50 gift card. The SIB Executive Board would like to thank Jay Cantrell and all the SIB members who made this night such a memorable event.

What a fabulous way to enjoy a great meal, meet friends, make new friends and learn about the variety of birds we enjoy here on Seabrook Island all for a $10 annual membership. If you are not one of 185 members and would like to join SIB, visit our website: for more information. You can sign up for our blog, like us on Facebook and check out the activities on our calendar.

Submitted by: Nancy Brown
Photos: Patricia Schaefer & Nancy Brown

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Wood Storks continue remarkable comeback

If you missed the article by Bo Petersen in today’s Post & Courier, be sure to check it out!

As the article states, “The storks set a record this year with 2,512 nests, according to S.C. Department of Natural Resources counts, continuing a recovery success that ranks up with species such as the bald eagle and wild turkey. They have established four colonies, or nesting groups, in Charleston County alone and one in Berkeley County, among 24 throughout the coastal counties.”

We see them frequently on Seabrook Island enjoying our marshes, ponds and flying overhead.  Most recently we saw two Wood Storks near a pond on Ocean Winds hole #9 this past Sunday!

Wood Storks at Bear Island - Flo Foley
Wood Storks at Bear Island – Flo Foley

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Belted Kingfisher – King of the Lagoon

Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Length:  13″; Wingspan: 20″; Weight: 5 oz.

Belted Kingfisher - C Moore
Belted Kingfisher – C Moore

Along any of Seabrook Island’s lagoons, ponds, lakes or other waterways you may hear a very distinctive loud rattling call, a flash of blue and a splash of water as a Belted kingfisher plunges head first into the water catching an un-expecting fish near the surface. Occasionally you may also spot this beautiful medium-sized, brightly colored bird with a very distinct shaggy topknot sitting on an isolated tree branch or dead tree limb over the water’s edge surveying its kingdom.

A very territorial and fearless bird the Belted kingfisher will aggressively protect its territory. I witnessed a female belted kingfisher dive-bomb and chase off a juvenile eagle that dared to sit on a tree branch too close to its lagoon. At the same time these birds are very leery of humans and are difficult to get close to.

Over 90 species of kingfishers occur word-wide but only the Belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, is found throughout much of the United States and Canada. Here they breed and are year-round residents. It is even depicted on the Canadian $5 bill.

In winter they migrate south into Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. They occasionally travel great distances and frequent areas such as Colombia, Venezuela and have been recorded in Greenland, Ireland, Portugal, Hawaii and other Pacific Islands.

The Belted kingfisher is a stocky bird of about a foot in length with a wingspan of between 19 and 23 inches. It has a shaggy multi-pointed crest or topknot, a thick pointed bill and is one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male. Females are also slightly larger than males.

The head and body are slate blue. There is a white collar around its neck and a dark blue breast band on its white belly. Whereas all young birds have an orange or brownish-red band on the upper belly only the female keeps the band and as with all her plumage brightens as she matures.  Have you ever wondered why the female of this bird species has more coloration than the male?  Scientists have yet to answer the question, but here is one suggestion.

The Blue jay with its bright blue plumage is the only Seabrook Island bird somewhat similar in appearance. However, it is smaller, more slender, has a single pointed head crest, a smaller bill and a thin black collar around its neck.

Although primarily a fish eater the Belted kingfisher eats a wide variety of prey including insects, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles., mollusks and even small birds and mammals.

They nest near inland waterbodies in the spring, digging and excavating a long nesting burrow in the mud or sand along the waters’ edge. The tunnel angles up so that should the water rise an air pocket would protect the eggs and young birds. The female lays five to eight oval, pure white eggs and both sexes incubate the eggs.

Keep your eye out for this very unique bird along Seabrook Islands many waterways but you may hear its loud piercing and rattling call as it streaks across its kingdom long before you can spot it.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Charles Moore
Photographs provided by:  Charles Moore

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

Bird of the Week … Who am I???

As you may know, every Sunday we publish a weekly “Bird of the Week” blog.  Today we’d like to test your knowledge by asking if you can guess what bird you can hear on Seabrook Island that sounds like this.

Leave us a comment if you want to make a guess – and watch for the full article on Sunday morning!


Recent SIB Birding Activities

Last week SIB held two fabulous birding activities on Seabrook Island.  One included a walk for several hours and the second was on the marsh near the crab dock and boat launch.  If you are interested to join one of our birding activities, please be sure to check out our website for future events.

Last Thursday, November 10 was a beautiful morning to take a walk and bird!  Thank you to the five SIB members (especially David Gardner) for joining the walk.  We all would agree it was great fun!  During three hours and two miles of walking, we saw a total of 45 species.  At the Lake House and Palmetto Lake, we enjoyed many wading birds like Herons & Egrets, Anhinga and Pied-billed Grebes.  In the woods near the lake including the SINHG nature trail we observed several species of warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a Coopers Hawk.  Then on to the SIPOA/Club Maintenance area and peaking into the Water Treatment pond we counted as many as 29 Hooded Mergansers, 14 White Ibis and as many as 50 Tree Swallows.  Finally we walked through the Equestrian Center and found a number of sparrows including White-throated, Song and Swamp.   Below are the consolidated three bird lists.  You’ll see with the diversity of habitat we ventured through we found a diversity of birds!

A big thank-you goes out to Melanie and Rob Jerome for once again hosting us for an enjoyable birding at the crab dock and marsh tower along with their back deck on Saturday November 12th for our second SIB activity of the week.  Seven members enjoyed a morning that started with a little nip in the air but rapidly became warmer.  The Clapper Rail was heard several times but only one brief glimpse was seen as it flew from one part of the marsh to the other.  The morning focus seemed to be on Tricolor Herons as they continually were flying from one portion of the marsh to another.  Several were seen at various areas of the marsh at one time, hence the final count.  In total, 24 species were seen plus some warblers we couldn’t identify quick enough (palm versus yellow rump) and gulls that were too far away.  See below for the complete list of species.

Bird Walk with David Gardner – November 10, 2016
A = Palmetto Lake 80 min 0.5 m
B = SIPOA/Club Mtc Area 80 min 1.5 m
C = Palmetto Lake 10 min 0.1 m
Species A B C
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Hooded Merganser 29
Wood Stork 2 1 2
Double-crested Cormorant 1 1
Anhinga 2 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 2
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1 3
White Ibis 1 14 2
Black Vulture 10 2
Turkey Vulture 2 2
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1 1
Least Sandpiper  1 12
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 3 3
American Crow 6 5 3
Tree Swallow 25 57
Carolina Chickadee 2 4
House Wren 1 1
Carolina Wren 3 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2 2
Eastern Bluebird 8 23 3
Hermit Thrush 1
Gray Catbird 1 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 2
Palm Warbler 9
Pine Warbler 1 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9 45 3
Yellow-throated Warbler 1
White-throated Sparrow 5
Song Sparrow 1
Swamp Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2 2
House Finch 2 1
Total Species 45


Backyard Birding – November 12, 2016

4 Bufflehead
3 Wood Stork
2 Double-crested Cormorant
1 Brown Pelican
4 Great Blue Heron
12 Great Egret
12 Snowy Egret
2 Little Blue Heron
10 Tricolored Heron
1 Green Heron
3 Turkey Vulture
2 Osprey
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Clapper Rail
6 gull sp.
1 Belted Kingfisher
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 American Crow
8 Tree Swallow
5 Carolina Chickadee
4 Tufted Titmouse
2 Carolina Wren
1 Northern Mockingbird
1 Pine Warbler
3 warbler sp. (Parulidae sp.)
3 Northern Cardinal
24 Species

SIB “Bird of the Week” – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Length:  7.1-8.7″; Wingspan: 13.4-15.7″; Weight: 1.5-1.9 oz.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Ed Konrad
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has a red cap but not the nape. It has a striped face and a prominent white stripe on side. It’s black bib, patterned underparts also distinguish it from the red-bellied woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Ed Konrad

As the name indicates, sapsuckers rely on sap as a main food source. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker makes two kinds of holes in trees to harvest sap. Round holes extend deep in the tree and are not enlarged. The sapsucker inserts its bill into the hole to probe for sap. Rectangular holes are shallower, and must be maintained continually for the sap to flow. The sapsucker licks the sap from these holes, and eats the cambium of the tree too. New holes usually are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old. Then, after the tree leafs out, the sapsucker begins making shallower, rectangular wells in the phloem, the part of the trunk that carries sap down from the leaves. This sap can be more than 10 percent sugar. These phloem wells must be continually maintained with fresh drilling, so the sap will continue to flow. Sapsuckers tend to choose sick or wounded trees for drilling their wells, and they choose tree species with high sugar concentrations in their sap, such as paper birch, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, and hickory. They drill wells for sap throughout the year, on both their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition to sap, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also eat insects (mostly ants) and spiders, gleaning them from beneath a tree’s bark like other woodpeckers. And at times they perch at the edge of a tree branch and launch after flying insects to capture them in midair, like a flycatcher. Sapsuckers are also attracted to orchards, where they drill wells in the trees and eat fruit.

Yellow-belled Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sapwells—neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet elevation. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet.

Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Holes created by Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Sapsuckers are common on Seabrook in winter but are less noisy and may be less obvious than other woodpeckers. They are “common but inconspicuous.” Look for their “wells” – drilled holed lined up around the trunk and marking trees to see where they feed.

Check out this cool YouTube video of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker eating from the already drilled holes in a tree:

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

Article submitted by:  Judy Morr
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.