The weather is finally starting to warm up again and we’re all ready to go out to enjoy our beautiful piece of the Georgia coast. Joining us in that sentiment are our feathered friends!
With our mild climate and variety of habitats, Liberty County lends itself as a popular home for birds all year. If you’ve taken a minute to sit outside, you’ve probably heard the sweet songs of the birds’ choir and seen the bright splashes of color that are their plumage.
The spring migration brings the first visitors to the coast, after their winter vacations in Florida, the Caribbean Islands and Central and South America. Among those first visitors are painted buntings. The brilliantly colored songbirds that literally look like the bird has splashes of paint on it, are the mature males. Younger males and females are more camouflaged. The females like to build their nests in Spanish moss in maritime oak forests found along the coast. Painted buntings are common in coastal Georgia as the habitat suits them. They typically winter in south Florida, Mexico and Cuba.
Redheaded woodpeckers are another common species in Georgia, and year-round residents. These are easy to spot because of their red heads but even easier to hear. Their rhythmic pecking of a tree is often the giveaway one is in the area. Woodpeckers are omnivorous, dining on earthworms and bugs, as well as seeds and berries. These birds prefer open groves or wooded area which may be why they are often seen in our neighborhoods.
Shorebirds such as great egrets, wood storks and white ibis all love the marshes, swamps, rivers and canals of coastal Georgia, making them year-round residents, too. They feed on the little fish swimming in these bodies of water. Mature birds have no predators and can live well into their 20s.
Black-crowned night heron and great blue heron are other species of shorebird that inhabit the low lying areas on the coast. Black-crowned night herons are striking birds that have a black “cap” of feathers on their heads and contrastingly bright eyes while. Great blue herons are a duller blue-grey and are the largest herons in North America. Great blue herons will eat a variety of foods, allowing them to live in all kinds of habitats year-round. You may have seen both species of these feathered friends standing motionless in a ditch or on a dock, hunting food, as they like to dine on fish, frogs, snakes and shellfish.
Georgia is home to multiple species of hummingbirds too, the ruby throated species being the most common. These tiny migrants arrive on the Georgia coast in late February or early March and stay until the fall. We love to see ruby throated hummingbird flitting around backyard feeders and in gardens. Native plants to the Coast like azaleas, honeysuckle and Rose of Sharon are excellent plants to attract hummingbirds.
The roseate spoonbill with its pink feathers, stands out in our coastal marshes. Another wading bird like the herons, egrets and storks these birds also eat a diet of shellfish and other water animals. While their pink feathers and desire to live in warmer climates might suggest they are a relative to the flamingo, they are actually not.
As we venture into spring, head out to Fort Morris, a stop on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail. This historic site on the Liberty County coast is a favorite for those who love the outdoors with a pristine view of the Medway River and St. Catherines Island in addition to the species of birds that frequent the area. Cay Creek Wetlands Interpretive Center in Midway is another stop for birding enthusiasts. The walk across multiple ecosystems will provide a chance to see several different species of birds and other animals.
Johnson is creative and content coordinator for Liberty County Convention and Visitors Bureau.