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In the U.S. state of South Carolina, 427 species of bird have been recorded. This number includes the bird species that have been sighted in South Carolina and are believed to be of wild origin. In addition, sixteen species are confirmed as being sighted in South Carolina but whose wild origin has been questioned. A further fourteen species are referred to as hypothetical, where the species was reported in North American Birds or The Chat but the record was not submitted to the committee. The South Carolina Bird Records Committee maintains the records for bird sightings in South Carolina and produces the list used by most birders to objectively evaluate species recorded in the state. The committee votes on the validity of new records of bird species in the state. The committee last met in 2008; since then at least five birds with the potential to be first state records were observed in South Carolina. On September 18, 2008, a likely gray flycatcher was reported in South Carolina. Also on September 18, 2008, three potential wandering tattlers were reported along the coast. On November 22, 2008, a bronzed cowbird was reported in Charleston, South Carolina. On February 8, 2009, a tropical kingbird was reported in South Carolina. On January 5, 2010, a California gull was reported in Horry County, South Carolina. These records will be reviewed by the South Carolina Bird Records Committee to determine their validity.
Official bird lists are sorted by taxonomic sequence. The taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families, genera and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) used by the South Carolina Bird Records Committee follows the conventions of the American Ornithologists' Union's (1998) Check-list of North American Birds, the recognized scientific authority on the taxonomy and nomenclature of North American birds. The American Ornithologists' Union's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature, the body responsible for maintaining and updating the Check-list, "strongly and unanimously continues to endorse the biological species concept (BSC), in which species are considered to be genetically cohesive groups of populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups". Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy provides an alternative phylogenetic arrangement based on DNA-DNA hybridization.
Unless otherwise noted, all species listed below are considered to occur regularly in South Carolina as permanent residents, summer or winter visitors, or migrants. The following codes are used to denote certain categories of species:
Note: Birds marked with an asterisk (*) are not identified to species, but are distinct enough to be considered as a separate entry.
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Non-passerines: Ducks, geese, and swans • Pheasants, turkeys, and grouse • New World quail • Loons • Grebes • Fulmers, petrels, and shearwaters • Storm-petrels • Tropicbirds • Boobies and gannets • Pelicans • Cormorants • Darters • Frigatebirds • Bitterns, herons, and egrets • Ibises and spoonbills • Storks • Flamingoes • New World vultures • Osprey • Hawks, kites, and eagles • Caracaras and falcons • Rails, gallinules, and coots • Limpkins • Cranes • Lapwings and plovers • Oystercatchers • Stilts and avocets • Sandpipers, curlews, stints, godwits, snipes, and phalaropes • Gulls, terns, and skimmers • Skuas • Auks, murres, and puffins • Pigeons and doves • Lories, parakeets, macaws, and parrots • Cuckoos, roadrunners, and anis • Barn owls • Typical owls • Nightjars • Swifts • Hummingbirds • Kingfishers • Woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and flickers
Passerines: Tyrant flycatchers • Shrikes • Vireos • Jays, crows, magpies, and ravens • Larks • Swallows and martins • Chickadees and titmice • Bushtits • Nuthatches • Treecreepers • Wrens • Kinglets • Gnatcatchers • Old World flycatchers • Thrushes • Mockingbirds and thrashers • Starlings • Wagtails and pipits • Waxwings • Longspurs and snow buntings • Wood warblers • Tanagers • American sparrows, towhees, and juncos • Cardinals, saltators, and grosbeaks • Blackbirds, meadowlarks, cowbirds, grackles, and orioles • Finches • Old World sparrows • Weavers and allies
The Anatidae family includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These are birds that are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, bills that are flattened to a greater or lesser extent, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to special oils. In South Carolina, forty definitive species have been recorded and two of questionable origin have also been reported.
The Phasianidae is a family of birds which consists of the pheasants and their allies. These are terrestrial species, variable in size but generally plump, with broad relatively-short wings. Many species are game birds or have been domesticated as a food source for humans. Turkeys have a distinctive fleshy wattle that hangs from the underside of the beak, and a fleshy protuberance that hangs from the top of its beak called a snood. As with many galliform species, the female (the hen) is smaller and much less colorful than the male (the tom). With wingspans of 4.9–5.9 feet (1.5–1.8 m), the turkeys are the largest birds in the open forests in which they live and are rarely mistaken for any other species. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. They are game birds and are sometimes hunted for food. In all of South Carolina's species, males are polygamous and have elaborate courtship displays. These heavily built birds have legs feathered to the toes. Most species are year-round residents, and do not migrate. Three species have been recorded in South Carolina.
The New World quails are small, plump terrestrial birds only distantly related to the quails of the Old World, but named for their similar appearance and habits. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Loons are aquatic birds the size of a large duck, to which they are unrelated. Their plumage is largely gray or black, and they have spear-shaped bills. Loons swim well, and fly adequately, but, because their legs are placed towards the rear of the body, are extremely poor at walking. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded.
Grebes are small- to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes, and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. In South Carolina, five species have been recorded.
The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterized by united nostrils with medium septum, and a long outer functional primary. In South Carolina, eight species have been recorded.
The storm-petrels are the smallest of seabirds. They are relatives of the petrels, and feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. Their flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded.
Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their long wings have black markings, as does the head. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
Pelicans are large waterbirds with a distinctive pouch under the beak. Like other birds in the order Pelecaniformes, they have four webbed toes. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
Cormorants are medium-to-large aquatic birds, usually with mainly dark plumage and areas of colored skin on the face. The bill is long, thin, and sharply hooked. Their feet are four-toed and webbed, a distinguishing feature among the Pelecaniformes order. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
Darters are cormorant-like water birds with long necks and long, straight beaks. They are fish eaters and often swim with only their neck above water giving them the appearance of a snake. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black or black-and-white, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have inflatable colored throat pouches. They do not swim or walk, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
The Ardeidae family contains the herons, egrets, and bitterns. Herons and egrets are medium- to large-sized wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter-necked and more secretive. Unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises, and spoonbills, members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted. In South Carolina, twelve species have been recorded.
Threskiornithidae includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings and their bodies tend to be elongated, the neck more so, with rather long legs. The bill is also long, and decurved in the case of the ibises, and straight and distinctively flattened in the spoonbills. In South Carolina, three species have occurred along with one species of questionable origin.
Storks are large, heavy, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills and wide wingspans. They lack the powder down that other wading birds such as herons, spoonbills, and ibises use to clean off fish slime. Storks lack a pharynx and are mute. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Flamingoes are gregarious wading birds, usually 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m) tall, found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume, and are uniquely used upside-down. There are six species worldwide, of which one species of questionable origin and one hypothetical species have been recorded.
The New World vultures are not closely related to Old World vultures, but superficially resemble them because of convergent evolution. Like the Old World vultures, they are scavengers. However, unlike Old World vultures, which find carcasses by sight, New World vultures have a good sense of smell with which they locate carcasses. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
The osprey is a medium-large fish-eating bird of prey or raptor. It is widely distributed because it tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location that is near a body of water and provides an adequate food supply. It is the only member of its family.
The Accipitridae family of birds of prey includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers, and Old World vultures. These birds have large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons, and keen eyesight. In South Carolina, fifteen species have been recorded as well as one hypothetical species.
Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey, notably the falcons and caracaras. They differ from hawks, eagles, and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their feet. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded as well as two of questionable origin.
Rallidae is a large family of small- to medium-sized birds that includes the rails, crakes, coots, and gallinules. Most members of this family occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs, and have long toes that are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and be weak fliers. In South Carolina, nine species have been recorded as well as one hypothetical.
The limpkin is a large bird in a monotypic family. It is similar in appearance to the rails, but skeletally it is closer to the cranes. It is found in marshes and gets its common name from its appearance of limping as it walks. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
The Charadriidae family includes the plovers, dotterels, and lapwings. They are small- to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks, and long, usually pointed, wings. They are usually found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. In South Carolina, nine species have been recorded.
The oystercatchers are large and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prying open molluscs. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds that includes the avocets and the stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
The Scolopacidae are a large diverse family of small- to medium-sized shorebirds, including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers, and phalaropes. The majority of Scolopacidae species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of legs and bills enable multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. In South Carolina, thirty-five species have been recorded in addition to two hypothetical species.
Gulls are typically medium-to-large birds, usually gray or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills, and webbed feet. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. In South Carolina, thirteen species have been recorded. Terns are in general medium-to-large birds, typically with gray or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. They have longish bills and webbed feet. They are lighter bodied and more streamlined than gulls, and look elegant in flight with long tails and long narrow wings. In South Carolina, fourteen species have been recorded. Skimmers are tropical and subtropical species. They have an elongated lower mandible which they use by flying low over the water surface skimming the water for small fish. One species has been recorded in South Carolina.
The skuas are in general medium-to-large birds, typically with gray or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They have longish bills with a hooked tip, and webbed feet with sharp claws. They look like large dark gulls, but have a fleshy cere above the upper mandible. They are strong, acrobatic fliers. Three species have been recorded to species level in South Carolina, while a skua has been seen but its species was not identified. Additionally, there is a hypothetical record of a south polar skua.
Alcids are superficially similar to penguins due to their black-and-white colors, their upright posture, and some of their habits; however, they are not related to the penguins and are able to fly. Auks live on the open sea, only deliberately coming ashore to nest. In South Carolina, six species have been recorded.
Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. In South Carolina, seven species have been recorded, one of which is extinct, in addition to one species of questionable origin.
Parrots are small-to-large birds with a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and they have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two at the back. In South Carolina one extinct species has been recorded as well as three species of questionable origin.
The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners, and anis. These are birds of various sizes with slender bodies, long tails, and strong legs. Unlike the cuckoo species of the Old World, North American cuckoos are not brood parasites. In South Carolina, four species have been recorded.
Barn owls are medium- to large-sized owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Typical owls are small-to-large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak, and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. In South Carolina, eight species have been recorded.
Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs, and very short bills. Most have small feet that are of little use for walking and long, pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded.
The swifts are small birds, spending the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or boomerang. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Hummingbirds are small birds capable of hovering in mid-air due to the rapid flapping of their wings. They are the only birds that can fly backwards. In South Carolina, eight species have been recorded in addition to one hypothetical species.
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Woodpeckers are small- to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails, and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. In South Carolina, nine species have been recorded, one of which is presumed extinct.
Tyrant flycatchers are passerine birds which occur throughout North and South America. They superficially resemble the Old World flycatchers, but are more robust with stronger bills. They do not have the sophisticated vocal capabilities of the songbirds. Most, but not all, have rather plain plumage. As the name implies, most are insectivorous. In South Carolina, fifteen species have been recorded as well as three hypothetical species.
Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
The vireos are a group of small- to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World. They are typically greenish and resemble the wood warblers, except for their heavier bills. In South Carolina, seven species have been recorded.
The Corvidae family includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers, and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size for the Passeriformes. Some of the larger species show high levels of learned behavior. In South Carolina, four species have been recorded as well as one species of questionable origin and one hypothetical.
Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. They feed on insects and seeds. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
The Hirundinidae family is a group of passerines characterized by their adaptation to aerial feeding. Their adaptations include a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings, and a short bill with a wide gape. Their feet are designed for perching rather than walking and the front toes are partially joined at the base. In South Carolina, seven species have been recorded.
The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet that includes seeds and insects. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded as well as one hypothetical species.
Long-tailed tits are a group of small passerine birds with medium-to-long tails. They make woven bag nests in trees. Most eat a mixed diet that includes insects. One hypothetical species has been recorded in South Carolina.
Nuthatches are small woodland birds. They have the unusual ability to climb down trees head first, unlike other birds, which can only go upwards. Nuthatches have big heads, short tails, and powerful bills and feet. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded.
Treecreepers are small woodland birds with brown backs and white underparts. They have thin, pointed, down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
Wrens are small and inconspicuous birds, except for their loud songs. They have short wings and a thin down-turned bill. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous. In South Carolina, six species have been recorded.
The kinglets are a family of small insectivorous birds in the genus Regulus. The adults have colored crowns, giving rise to their name. In South Carolina, two species have been recorded.
These dainty birds resemble Old World warblers in their structure and habits, moving restlessly through foliage while seeking insects. The gnatcatchers are mainly a soft bluish gray in color and have the long sharp bill typical of an insectivore. Many species have distinctive black head patterns (especially males) and long, regularly cocked black-and-white tails. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
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The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that are mainly but not exclusively in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small- to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. In South Carolina, nine species have been recorded, in addition to one hypothetical species.[which?]
The mimids are a family of passerine birds that includes thrashers, mockingbirds, tremblers, and the New World catbirds. These birds are notable for their vocalization, especially their remarkable ability to mimic a wide variety of birds and other sounds heard outdoors. The species' appearance tends towards dull grays and browns. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded.
Starlings are small- to medium-sized Old World passerine birds with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct, and most are gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. The plumage of several species is dark with a metallic sheen. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
The Motacillidae are a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws, and pipits. They are slender, ground-feeding insectivores of open country. In South Carolina, three species have been recorded.
The waxwings are a group of passerine birds characterized by soft silky plumage and unique red tips to some of the wing feathers. In the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax, and give the group its name. These are arboreal birds of northern forests. They live on insects in summer and berries in winter. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
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The New World warblers are a group of small, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal but some, such as the ovenbird, are more terrestrial. Most members of this family are insectivores. In South Carolina, forty species have been recorded, including one that may be extinct.
The tanagers are a large group of small- to medium-sized passerine birds that inhabit the New World, mainly in the tropics. Many species are brightly colored. They are seedeaters, but prefer fruit and nectar. Most have short, rounded wings. In South Carolina, one species of questionable origin has been recorded.
The Emberizidae are a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with a distinctively shaped bill. In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows, which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns. In South Carolina, twenty-seven species have been recorded.
The cardinals are a family of robust, seed-eating passerines with strong bills. They typically live in open woodland. The sexes usually have distinct plumage. In South Carolina, eleven species have been recorded.
The icterids are a group of small-to-medium sized, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World and include the grackles, New World blackbirds, and New World orioles. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange, or red. In South Carolina, fourteen species have been recorded, in addition to one species of questionable origin.
Finches are seed-eating passerines that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have 12 tail feathers and 9 primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. In South Carolina, nine definitive species have been recorded along with one species of questionable origin.
Old World sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, these sparrows tend to be small plump brownish or grayish birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed-eaters, and they also consume small insects. In South Carolina, one species has been recorded.
The weavers are small passerine birds related to the finches. They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills. The males of many species are brightly colored, usually in red or yellow and black. Some species show variation in color only in the breeding season. One species of questionable origin has been seen in South Carolina.