Dolphin Strand Feeding on Kiawah Island

(In case video doesn’t open:

By Count on 2 (WCBD-TV Charleston) Meteorologist, Joey Sovine:


It’s becoming a spectator sport along the Kiawah River.

Dolphin strand feeding is a unique tactic used by dolphins exclusively in the Lowcountry of South Carolinaand Georgia. “Along the South Carolina and Georgia coast you have the gentle slope going into the water so it makes it easy on the dolphins coming out of the water, catch that fish and slip back into the water,” explained Captain Jake Feary, the assistant director of outdoor programs on Kiawah Island.

It’s a tactic that involves teamwork between dolphins, who cluster together schools of fish and then attack them along the banks forcing the fish out of the water. The dolphins swim out of the water, beaching themselves so they can catch the fish out of water.

“You tend to see a leader dolphin, kind of rounding everyone up, communicating with the rest of the herd. A couple of what I call worker dolphins, they’re the ones really actively gathering the bait fish up and then you’ve got a lookout dolphin. That’s the one that pops his head out of the water and scans the horizon. Then all the sudden they all go down and then they burst up all at one time on that school of fish,” explainedFeary.

Kiawah Island offers kayak and boat tours to try to catch the dolphins at work. Visit for more information or call (843)768-2121 and ask for the nature center to book a trip. Access to the nature center and all they offer is available to the general public.

By foot, the area shown in the video above is accessible from Beachwalker County Park. It is an approximately one mile walk south, to Captain Sams Inlet. The best time to catch the dolphins in action is around low tide. Sightings of this type of feeding are not guaranteed.


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4 Responses to Dolphin Strand Feeding on Kiawah Island

  1. Newel Tucker says:

    Mine is a question rather than a comment. Recently I was told by one of our customers, we own a small store in Freshfields Village between Kiawah and Seabrook, that the dolphins wear out their fins strand feeding. This wear would cause them to lose their ability to feed and would therefore cause them to die of starvation. This is much like the pelicans and other birds that dive for fish loosing their eyesight. Do the dolphins wear out their fins strand feeding?

    • Mike Vegis says:

      No one within the Nature Program, some of whom have been working here for 10 – 20 years, have never heard of this happening. Nor have we ever heard from other experts of this happening in other areas where strand feeding occurs. Having watched them for many years we do not believe this would be a worry. Although it may be possible for them to accidentally get injured during feeding, they are very skilled hunters and we have been observing the same dolphins for 10+ years continue to strand feed without any apparent difficulty. Although some pelicans may get blindness from constant diving or old age, we have not found any scientific literature stating that going blind from diving is a frequent cause of death. Thank you for your question, and if you have any other questions feel free to ask us on the Nature Program facebook page. Sincerely, Kiawah Naturalists”

  2. Brenda says:

    We visited Seabrook Island the end of March and heard about the dolphin stranding. We would love to see it sometime. Is there a time of the year it is more common?

    • Mike Vegis says:

      You can see it pretty much any time of the year but it’s most common as things warm up. You can see it all summer long and well into the fall quite often. It’s most common just on either side of low tide.

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