Bald Head Island Conservancy


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Animals of Bald Head Island

About Bald Head Island Birds

Bald Head Island is home to a vast variety of shorebirds, songbirds, wading birds, and birds of prey, and provides refuge for many migratory birds in the fall to late-winter. Bald Head Island has been designated as a Global Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and is 1 of only 720 that currently exist.

Who’s flying now? After arriving on Bald Head Island, you may currently spot flocks of Double-crested Cormorants, or “Snake Birds” wading in the marina or greeting you to the island near the rock groin. 

Why they are important: While each of our bird species plays a different part in our island’s health – such as hummingbirds as pollinators or birds of prey as rodent population control – birds all serve as indicator species and with the ability to migrate, the bird presence (or lack thereof) in the area can hint us to how well it is doing.

When can you see them: Bald Head Island is a fantastic place for birding year-round, but both adult and fledgling birds are most active in the spring to late-summer.

What’s the best way to see them: We recommend visiting the Kent Mitchell Trail for the best variety of birds or joining us for Birding BHI to see some of the birds currently on-island!

Conservation status
Body size

Birding Tours on bald head island

Bald Head Island has been designated an “Important Bird Area” by National Audubon Society due to the incredibly rich diversity of birds that can be found here. Join us on this guided tour as we search out many different species of birds among various island ecosystems. No previous birding experience required. Binoculars and birding field guides provided.


man with binoculars looking at birds
Animals of bald head island

Meet the Birds of Bald Head island


(Pandion haliaetus) This is the only raptor that dives feet-first into the water to capture fish with its sharp talons.  You can often see the large nests that ospreys built in the tops of tall trees or on platforms. You can find Osprey along the entire east coast and typically live near rivers and lakes.

Brown Pelican
White Ibis

(Eudocimus albus) Easily distinguished from other marsh birds by a long, curved, red bill and red legs.  Rather than stalking its prey like egrets and herons do, ibis filter through the water and mud eating fish and invertebrates.  White ibis are brown with a white belly and rump when immature, and adults are solid white with black wing tips.  Approximately 7000-9000 ibis nest annually on Battery Island, an Audubon refuge in the Cape Fear River.

bhic ruddyturnstone
Ruddy Turnstone

I really like the name of this one. 🙂

Snowy Egret

(Egretta thula) The Snowy Egret is distinguished from the Great Egret by its black bill, yellow feet and smaller size.  This smaller egret stalks its prey at the waters edge, and then stabs it repeatedly with its sharp beak.

Great Egret

(Casmerodius albus) Similar in size and stature to the Great Blue Heron, this large all-white bird has a long yellow bill.  The legs and feet of a Great Egret are black.  When stalking prey, the Egret stretches out its long neck, but when flying, it folds its neck in.

Great Blue Heron

(Ardea herodias) This majestic blue-gray bird stands approximately 4 feet tall and has a wingspan of 7 feet.  Great Blues have white and black markings on the head and a yellowish bill.  Herons are in the same family as the Egrets, and have a similar appearance and feeding behavior.

Little Blue Heron

(Florida caerulea) The Little Blue Heron is a medium size heron colored slate blue with a maroon-brown neck. The bill is gray and the legs dark yellow. When immature, the Little Blue is white.

Tri-Colored Heron

(Hydranassa tricolor) This species can often be confused with Little Blue Heron – distinguishing features include a white belly and rump and maroon-brown feathers on the lower back.  Called a Tricolored Heron due to the blue, maroon and white colors that make this a beautiful member of the Heron family.

Painted Bunting

(Passerina ciris) This brightly colored songbird migrates to our island each summer to nest.  In the winter, the Painted Bunting migrates to places as far away as Mexico and Cuba.  The males are brightly colored, while the females of this species are an olive-yellow.  Males can often be heard singing from the tops of trees.  There is a study being done on Bald Head Island with Painted Buntings by capturing, banding and then recapturing these birds.  So if you are lucky enough to see a bunting, check the legs for colored bands!

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