Recreation - By Interest - Wildlife As We See It

LeaRn more. Wildlife: As We See It...

Welcome to the Kiawah Island Nature Program’s wildlife sightings page. 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 site will get you excited about the amazing and diverse wildlife found on Kiawah. Get outside and share your photos and stories with us at


February 21, 2015 ~ White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
buckIsland guest Keith Lowrie took this photo of a buck on one of Kiawah beach boardwalks.  Mr Lowrie asked our Naturalists, why would a buck have antlers this time of year?

The answer is…it's all about testosterone levels. After the breeding season, testosterone levels begin to drop causing antlers start to shed.  Antlers are shed from early December through March. On Kiawah, female fawns that come into estrous their first year often do so in late winter. Consequently, our bucks can still be breeding during February.    

The drop can also depend on the amount of stress on the buck after the rut, heredity and nutrition. Deer that are in the best physical condition will lose their antlers later in the winter.

Photo coming soon.
February 18, 2015 ~ Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
dolphin skullThis morning on Kiawah, 7 year old Evan and Mikah Skye from Ann Arbor MI found this perfect skull from a Bottlenose Dolphin. Very Cool!
February 12, 2015 ~ Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
rosette spoonbillTown Biologist, Jim Jordan, spotted a Roseate Spoonbill today in Blue Heron Pond.  This is a rare sighting for Kiawah.
February 12, 2015 ~ Red Knot (Calidris canutus)
Red knotOn a recent Back Island Birding tour, naturalists Brogin Van Skoik and Jake Zadik spotted a Red Knot on the shore near the Ocean Course that was banded. After reporting this sighting to, we found out that this Red Knot likes to visit Kiawah every winter and visits Avalon, New Jersey in the spring and fall as it migrates toward the North Pole. These birds make one of the longest migrations, over 9,000 miles, from the Artic to South America. This bird was first banded May 17, 2010 along the Delaware Bayshore in New Jersey.

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001
February 13, 2015 ~ Feather Report

Tour: Birding for Beginners
Naturalist: Juliana Smith

Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed grebe, American Coot, Common Gallinule, American Crow, Fish Crow, Black Vulture, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-throated Warbler, Black & White Warbler, Bald Eagle, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, House Finch, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Laughing Gull, Turkey Vulture

Join our Naturalists on a birding tour to learn about Kiawah's native birds. Call the Nature Center for more information and reservations: 843.768.6001

January 21, 2015 ~ Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus)
Bird BandingNaturalists helped Aaron Given, Kiawah Island Town Biologist, with his Winter Marsh Sparrow Banding. Three species of coastal marsh sparrows winter in Kiawah’s saltmarshes: Seaside Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. This group is considered of high conservation due to their loss of habitat from development and sea-level rise. Birds are captured in mist nets and are identified, banded, and measured. Naturalists captured 49 birds, some new and others recaptures!

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001

Photos by Jake Zadik
January 14, 2015 ~ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)
sapsuckerA female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ran into the window of the classroom at the Nature Center, causing her to be disoriented. We took advantage of this close-up opportunity with the bird before we placed her in a secluded spot to recover. As the name indicates, these birds eat mostly sap from trees and the insects that collect in the sap. They are wintertime visitors on Kiawah and can be seen throughout the maritime forest, drilling perfect lines of holes around a tree.

Interested in learning more about the birds of Kiawah? Join our Naturalists for a Back Island Birding or Birding for Beginners Tour! Call the Nature Center for availability and reservations: 843.768.6001
January 5, 2015 ~ 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count
bird bandingFrom December 14th through January 5th, tens of thousands of people participate in one of the largest and longest running Citizen Science surveys in the world. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count was started over a century ago in 1900 when ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed a bird census. Before his proposal, there was a common holiday tradition called the "Side Hunt" where hunters would go out to the field, choose a side, and whoever came back with the highest amount of birds, won. Many observers and scientists were beginning to worry about the decline in bird populations due to hunting and the use of their feathers in hat fashion. So instead of hunting the birds during the holidays, they would count them. The first bird count had a total of 27 participants in 25 different locations around the United States. Around 90 species were counted. Today, there are over 60,000 participants and over 2,300 locations conducted across North America, South America, and other countries. The data collected from these counts is critical in providing long term health and statuses of hundreds of species of birds.

The Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count is hosted by the Town of Kiawah Island and organized by Town Biologist, Aaron Given. The count encompasses 17 territories that include Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island, Wadmalaw Island, John's Island, and Deveaux Bank. Forty-five participants enjoyed pleasant weather as they counted over 40,000 birds and 159 different species. Some species highlights: Northern Bobwhite, Snow Goose, Glossy Ibis, American Woodcock, and Roseate Spoonbills.

Most of the naturalists were observing from the motorboat on the Kiawah River, while others observed different parts of the island. Two of our naturalists, Juliana Smith and Matt Arnold, woke up in the wee hours of the morning to go owling for the count and heard an Eastern Screech Owl.

Join a naturalist for a birding tour to learn more about the different bird species and various habitats on Kiawah.