Hey, GVL. Ana here. 👋 My adopted grandparents, a wonderful couple who were my lifelong neighbors until their passing, were avid birders who traveled the country in search of elusive feathered friends. Their love + guidance helped my family create our self-proclaimed bird sanctuary over the years.
S.C. is home to hundreds of year-round + migrating bird species, each with their own characteristics, habits, and songs. The sheer number of birds in our area, plus the start of the springtime breeding season + songbird migration, means that you may recently have been woken up by birds singing at the crack of dawn (a phenomenon known as the Dawn Chorus). And, especially being at home a lot more, you’ve likely seen more of them too — at your feeders, on your fence posts, or swooping overhead.
Since so many birds are active right now, you may be wondering what they all are — and you don’t need a lot of expensive gear to figure it out. The most important things are your own two eyes...and a little curiosity.
Check out some tips + tricks below to get started birdwatching.👇
There’s an app for that
Websites + apps have made birdwatching more accessible than ever. Here are a few we recommend.
○ Merlin: This free identification app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology includes photos, an identification tool, and a database of songs + calls for every bird you’re likely to come across in your area.
○ ebird.org: Also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, ebird is a great website for birders to find birds, keep track of bird lists, explore the latest sightings + contribute to science. The best part of ebird is the hotspots locator. Greenville has many local spots where birders have seen more than 200 species.
○ Audubon South Carolina: State-specific information on species, conservation, resources + tips for birdwatching, bird-friendly gardening and more.
B(u)y the book
Armed with a good field guide, a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are a few of the most popular guides:
○ The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley
○ Peterson Field Guide to Birds by Roger Tory Peterson
○ Peterson Field Guide to Feeder Birds of Eastern North America by Roger Tory Peterson
Feed the birds
The easiest way to view birds is to bring them to you. Retailers like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Wal-mart, Tractor Supply + Lowe’s all have good selections of bird feeders in different shapes and sizes. This link has some ideas on the best types of bird feeders to purchase + what kind of food (seed, suet or nectar) to offer.
The folks at Wild Birds Unlimited (626 Congaree Rd, Greenville) can hook you up with a great bird feeder + locally-sourced seed and suet (a birdseed cake). They’re also extremely knowledgeable about all things birds + are doing curbside pickup right now.
Some tricks of the trade from my family
○ Use a 4:1 water to sugar ratio for your hummingbird nectar. Contrary to popular belief the nectar does not need to be colored red to attract the hummingbirds.
○ Black oil sunflower seed is a tried and true favorite that most birds will love.
○ The Eastern Bluebird is very popular in our area. If you’re feeling extra ambitious (or bored), follow these instructions on how to build your own bluebird nestbox. Pro Tip: These boxes should be placed in an open area at least five feet off the ground. They should also face a tree or bush less than 50 feet away, so the fledglings will have a place to live for several days after leaving the nest.
○ Carolina Wrens are also popular native nesters who make nests in many different places. Ours prefer a clay vase hanging on our front porch, but one year they used the wreath on our door.
Five of my family’s favorite backyard visitors
This guy is new for us this year, but the species’ numbers are on the decline in the east.
A rafter (you’re welcome for that new term) of turkeys has taken up residence in a field close to our house. There is one male + four females in the group.
Eastern Bluebirds can nest up to three times a year (what’s known as a treble-brood). Ours nested twice last season.
These fast flyers beat their wings more than 50 times per second. We spotted our first hummingbirds on March 28 both this year and last.
The Red-tailed is the most widespread + familiar large hawk in North America. I got a chance to see three up close this year at the Carolina Raptor Center outside of Charlotte, N.C.