Mild winters and a variety of beautiful natural habitats make the Lowcountry an exciting birding destination any time of the year. You’ll find beaches, barrier islands, tidal creeks, saltwater marsh, and freshwater lakes, ponds, and swamps as well as maritime forests and pine plantations to wander through. Whether you’re a beginner birder or an expert, you’ll have a blast birding in Beaufort.
Popular Birding Hotspots
One of the most popular state parks in South Carolina is Hunting Island State Park, where the entire island is set aside for hiking, biking, and birdwatching. This coastal area is home to over 300 species of birds plus hosts several others on their 3 miles of undeveloped beaches. If you are an inexperienced birder, stop by the nature center and sign up for a guided walk with a naturalist who will gladly point out all the different species in the park. If you want to head out on your own, print off he Hunting Island Birding Checklist and see how many you can check off.
You don’t have to venture far from Beaufort to spot some birds. Walk along the scenic Spanish Moss Trail connecting Beaufort to Port Royal. You’ll pass by the tidal marsh, through neighborhoods, and observe wading birds and other waterfowl as well as osprey and hawks. During migratory seasons you’ll spot droves of birds flying overhead and resting in the harbor.
For guaranteed bird sightings, head to ACE Basin Wildlife Refuge near Edisto Island. As the largest undeveloped estuary on the Atlantic coast, this 12,000-acre refuge is home to all sorts of wildlife. Spot alligators, eagles, foxes, and deer in this park plus a large range of diverse birds. You’ll see several large water birds with one of the most exciting being the endangered Wood Storks that have slowly relocated to the area from Florida.
South of Beaufort outside of Hardeeville lies one of the most popular wildlife refuges in the south. Savannah Wildlife Refuge is comprised of over 29,000 acres covering wooded forests and freshwater marshes. Walk along the interweaving pathways, take out some kayaks on the river, or bike around to see all sorts of species year-round.
Birding By Season
Catch the annual migration each spring. Around town, you’ll notice an abundance of songbirds suddenly appear almost out of nowhere as your first sign that spring is officially here. From March-May every body of water around is ‘fully booked’ with migratory waterfowl making their way north for the summer. Keep an eye out for wrens and all sorts of rare ducks. Observe the nuptial dances of some of the larger birds as you explore the Cypress Wetlands Trail and Rookery in Port Royal.
While most of the migratory birds only stopover in Beaufort for a couple of weeks, some make Beaufort their summer home. In forested areas look out for Swallow-tailed Kite and other woodland species. On the coastal areas like Hunting Island keep an ear out for the musical whistle of Wilson’s plover and the colorful, yet elusive, Painted Bunting.
Similar to the spring months, you’ll find all sorts of migratory birds all over town. From September-November you’ll see massive flocks of birds descend upon the town, only to stay for a night before moving on. Most birds leave early in the morning, making it worthwhile to get an early start to the day and head to one of the birding hotspots to watch the sunrise and spot last night’s aviary guests.
While most of South Carolina is absent from birds during the wintertime, the coastal Lowcountry is a different story. The ACE Basin and Savanah Wildlife Refuges come alive during the winter with all of the migratory species. Winter is filled with overwintering ducks, winter finches, large owls, and hummingbirds.
Whether you are a casual or serious birder, you will always find an interesting variety of birds to watch and/or photograph in and around Beaufort. At the Cuthbert House Inn in we often awake to the songs and lively antics of our local Carolina wrens. Guests are thrilled to observe the occasional roseate spoonbill or wood stork from the front porch.
Another great way to enjoy the birds of the Lowcountry is to schedule a photography tour. You will take home wonderful memories of your visit to Beaufort. Your guide will pick you up at the back door and take you out to the best sites to photograph birds in their natural surroundings. Let us help you plan your trip today.
Ready to go birding in Beaufort? Book your stay at The Cuthbert House Inn, an upscale B&B in a pre-Civil War mansion with unique Bay views in the heart of Beaufort, SC.