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Do Your "Big Year" in Hilton Head: Birdwatching at Its Best

October 13th 2013

A few years ago a movie titled “The Big Year,” starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, celebrated a phenomenon little-known outside the birding world called a “big year.” A “big year” is when an avid birdwatcher competes against others to see who can spot the most unique bird species within a designated geographic area in one year.

Many birdwatchers choose to limit their big year to one state, one location or even one bird refuge. Why not try your own “big year” right here in Hilton Head? If that’s too daunting or you only visit for short periods of time, you could try a “big week” or even a “big day.” And we don’t think it’s necessary to compete against others. Simply see how many species you can spot on your own.

According to the Hilton Head Audubon Society, it’s possible to see 200+ bird species around Hilton Head in the course of a year. If you’re going to attempt your own “big year,” here are some popular birding spots they recommend around the island:

  • Fish Haul Creek Park, 4 miles east of the island
  • Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, ¼ mile from Hilton Head
  • Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, 22 miles south of Hilton Head

We’d also highly recommend kayaking or canoeing through our 11-mile lagoon, which is home to many different species of birds. It’s so peaceful and quiet on the lagoon that you’re likely to come across birds feeding and wading.

You should also visit Hilton Head golf courses (Palmetto Dunes offers three!), beaches, bike trails, Shelter Cove Harbour and marshes on your quest. Our Robert Trent Jones golf course is a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through Audubon International. The course was recognized for our strong commitment its environmental program. Additionally, the George Fazio golf course is home to a bird rookery, which is a local nesting area for anhingas, egrets, cormorants and ospreys that sits in the middle of a pond.

Read our blog for more tips on birdwatching on Hilton Head Island.

According to Birding, the current record for the most species cited in one “big year” is 745. Think you can beat that? Happy birding!

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