2024 Wildlife Sightings: Incredible Findings and Photos

Welcome to the Kiawah Island Nature Program’s 2024 wildlife sightings. Here you’ll find postings from our Naturalists and island biologists, showing you what is currently in the field, as well as an archive of observations from throughout the year. We hope this archive will get you excited about the amazing and diverse wildlife found on Kiawah Island. Share your photos and stories with us at Kiawah_Recreation@KiawahResort.com

Feb 22, 2024 ~ More white pelicans!

It’s always a treat seeing these majestic beauties, and on Kiawah we have definitely had a great year for white pelicans! With over a 9 foot wingspan and a weight of ~16 pounds, seeing these birds fly around is draw-dropping. While they will likely be leaving us in the coming months, our white pelican friends are definitely one of the many birds that makes Kiawah so special!

Feb 20, 2024 ~ Swamp sparrow

While I was out by the marsh at Mingo Point I came across an uncommon bird on Kiawah – a swamp sparrow! While not rare, their elusive nature definitely makes them a trickier bird to find. It was hanging out in the saltmarsh with yellow-rumped warblers, wrens, and other small birds. Awesome to see!

~ Naturalist Stephen

Feb 16, 2024 ~ Yellow-throated warblers, lesser scaups, and black scoters galore

Yesterday was an incredible day for birding! The calm winds and amazing visibility gave way to huge hoards of shorebirds, including loons, black scoters, and lesser scaups. It was like you could see birds on the ocean for miles!

None of us were able to capture any of the shorebirds, but there’s also been quite a few yellow-throated warblers around. A lot of our canopy birds were also enjoying the sun and wonderful weather, so it was no surprise our friend here wasn’t too camera shy. Fingers crossed for many days like this as we move into spring!

~ Naturalist Stephen

Feb 15, 2024 ~ Carolina chickadee (with a band on its leg!)

Named by John Audubon himself, the Carolina chickadee was named after the location in which he first found it, but also because he wanted to thank the people of South Carolina for their polite, and welcoming attitude during his travels. This bird, while common on Kiawah, is still telling quite a story here!

Notice the aluminum “band” on its bottom leg. This tells us that, at one point, our chickadee friend was captured and tagged. Birds all over the World experience this, as it teaches scientists much-needed information about different species. If the future, if our friend is recaptured, that unique band will give data as to its lifespan, migration history, and more.

Be on the lookout for these beautiful birds with their gorgeous, varied songs.

Happy spotting!

~ Naturalist Stephen

Feb 13, 2024 ~ brown-headed nuthatch

Have you ever walked around Kiawah and heard a series of high pitched “squeaky toy” sounds coming from the trees? If you have, you might have run across a stunning brown-headed nuthatch! These beautiful birds are known for a unique strategy: they start at the top of a tree and work their way down, remaining upside down the entire time. While there are different ideas of why they do this, one possible theory is that, by searching the tree in this way, nuthatches are able to gain a vantage point that other birds aren’t able to see. Simply put, they are able to find bugs that would hide from the other birds they migrate with.

Be sure to listen for a dog’s squeaky toy when you’re out and about on Kiawah! If you look around, you may just find one of these gorgeous fellas’!

Feb 11, 2024 ~ Little blue heron

While these birds aren’t particularly rare by Kiawah’s standards, that does not make them any less stunning! Spotting a gorgeous blue coat with hints of purple and red around their neck, these are one of the herons that needs to be on your spotting list!

Best of luck and happy spotting! 🙂

~ Naturalist Stephen

Feb 9, 2024 ~ Red-shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered hawks are a gorgeous, medium-sized bird of prey. Similar to other raptors, you can often find them perched along a tree branch or open area, scanning its surroundings for rodents or small birds. Suggested by the name, the red-shouldered hawk spots a beautiful rustic color on the chest and shoulders; this is especially prominent during mating season, although it takes around three years for a juvenile to fully mature.
As nesting season approaches, expect more of these red beauties to appear. They begin nesting in late February, and continue throughout March, so their presence on Kiawah can definitely be felt if you are out spotting yourself!

Jan 26, 2024 ~ Dolphins!

Each dolphin’s dorsal fin is as unique as a human fingerprint. 🐬✨
The tears and other characteristics on their fins help scientists accurately track and identify them. Talk about a cool feature! 😎

Jan 19, 2024 ~ White pelicans!

It might not be the best photo, but seeing white pelicans always warms my heart! With around a nine foot wingspan, the size of this bird is absolutely astounding! During this encounter we counted around 20 white pelicans in this flock. They were moving around the shallow waters, occasionally resting on the mudbanks.

If I’m lucky, I might get to catch them feeding one day – fingers crossed!

~ Naturalist Stephen

Jan 17, 2024 ~ Deer

I accidentally snuck up on this beautiful buck during one of my weekly bird walks through the preserve on Kiawah. While deer are common in this area, they typically seem to notice me before I get a chance to get some good shots!

In this picture you could tell he had figured me out, but they have never seemed too timid of humans. He stared at me for quite a while before continuing his journey through the saltmarsh.

How awesome!

~ Naturalist Stephen

Jan 10, 2024 ~ Hooded mergansers

What an awesome sight! Hooded mergansers grace the ponds around Kiawah during the winter months, showcasing their stunning beauty. Don’t miss the chance to witness these gorgeous birds traveling in groups. Take a leisurely stroll and keep your eyes peeled for these pretty ducks! Talk about a birder’s paradise

~ Naturalist Stephen

Jan 3, 2024 ~ Christmas Bird Count!

Our Nature staff had an incredible time participating in this year’s Christmas Bird Count on January 3rd. From wading birds to songbirds, woodpeckers to white pelicans, we spotted a stunning variety of bird species along the Kiawah river and Ocean Park. With over 735 birds and dozens of different species counted, it was a truly memorable experience! 🐦🌳

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