Location: 5200 Savannah Hwy, Ravenel, SC 29470
Consistently listed as one of the best places to bird in the state of South Carolina, the Caw Caw Interpretive Center is among the reliable places in the United States to find colorful southern specialties like the Painted Bunting, Prothonotary Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Summer Tanager. It also offers the opportunity to view uncommonly observed birds like the Swainson’s Warbler, Swallow-Tailed Kite, and Wood Stork.
In all, over 250 species have been observed throughout the park – in large part due to the wide array of habitats the Center manages – including: remnants of 18th and 19th century rice fields (which attract high numbers of heron, egret, ibis, and water fowl), Maple-Willow and Cypress-Tupelo swamps (look here for Prothonotary and Swainson’s Warbler), Tidal Marshland (wading bird hotspot), Bottomland Hardwood Forest and Upland Mixed-Oak Forest, and lots of buffer-type habitat zones in between.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center contains 6 miles of self-guided and marked trails. And at Caw Caw you get up close and personal with nature – you don’t just look at swampland from a distance – you walk through it by way of elevated boardwalks. The Center is also home to a wide diversity of non-bird wildlife including: American Alligator and many other species of reptiles, amphibians, and insects.
Birds Found Year-Round or close to Year-Round at Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Some of the birds commonly observed year-round at Caw Caw include: Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Wood Duck, Bald Eagle, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Carolina Wren, Marsh Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Bluebird, Belted Kingfisher, White Ibis, and Brown Thrasher.
Present year-round but less commonly observed are: Black-Crowned Night Heron, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Clapper Rail, Greater Yellowlegs, Barn Owl, Common Gallinule, American Woodcock, Royal Tern, Loggerhead Shrike, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-Breasted Chat, Brown-Headed Nuthatch, Northern Bobwhite, American Bittern, and Double Crested-Cormorant.
Many of the birds seen at Caw Caw are present through spring, summer, and fall but uncommonly to rarely seen in winter, these species include: Painted Bunting (Caw Caw Specialty), Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Swallow-Tailed Kite (Caw Caw specialty), Mississippi Kite, Wood Stork (Caw Caw Specialty), Summer Tanager (Caw Caw Specialty), Prothonotary Warbler (Caw Caw Specialty), Chuck-Will’s Widow, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, White-Eyed Vireo, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Osprey, Cattle Egret, Yellow-Throated Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, and Merlin.
Other species are common in fall, winter, and spring but not summer, these species include: Blue Winged Teal, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Virginia Rail, Sora, Red-Headed Woodpecker, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, White-Throated Sparrow, and Swamp Sparrow.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Spring
In addition to the year-round birds mentioned above, there are many additional visitors in the spring – including migratory birds like warblers, in fact, spring is the best time to look for the elusive Swainson’s Warbler.
Other possible spring warbler sightings include: Northern Waterthrush, Blue Winged Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Prairie Warbler, and even the occasional Black-Throated Blue Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Bay-Breasted Warbler.
Spring is also the time to look for migratory Bobolink, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and the arrival of of the "year-round minus winter" breeding birds like the Prothonotary Warbler and Painted Bunting.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Summer
Summer is the best time at Caw Caw to observe birds during the breeding process. Breeders include: Orchard Oriole, Northern Parula, Hooded Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Purple Martin.
While difficult to find, summer is the most likely time to see: Least Bittern, Black-Necked Stilt, Roseate Spoonbill and American Avocet.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Fall
Fall at Caw Caw is highlighted by migration, which brings many of the warblers and other songbirds that passed through in spring back to the sanctuary – including Kentucky Warbler and Hooded Warbler. Other fall highlights include the occasional Sandhill Crane, Black Tern, Gadwall, and White Pelican. Fall is also the time to look for uncommon sparrows like the Clay-Colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Winter
Winter is the best time to observe wadingbirds/ shorebirds – including: Ring-Neck Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Canvasback, and Black-Bellied Whistling Duck. Uncommon but sometimes present in winter are: Tundra Swan, Snow Geese, Gray Kingbird, Bonaparte’s Gull, and even the rare Golden Eagle.
Migratory birds that spend the winter at Caw Caw include: Yellow-Rumped Warbler, American Goldfinch, Common Yellowthroat, Hermit Thrush, Tree Swallow and Cedar Waxwing.
Irruptive Northern finches like Pine Siskin and Purple Finch are found at Caw Caw over some winters.
Tips for Birding Caw Caw
- Bring a hat, water, sunscreen, and bug spray – especially in summer.
- Use Common Sense and Respect for Nature:
- Do not disturb or risk injury by getting too close to wildlife
- Do not play pre-recorded bird calls
- Do not litter
- Do not feed wildlife
- Early morning is most productive time to bird, the weather is cool and birds are most active.
- The best way to find sought-after birds like the Painted Bunting and Prothonotary Warbler is to learn their habitat preferences and to listen for their song/calls. (Note: Painted Buntings are often at the feeders located near the main building).
- Swallow-Tailed Kite and Wood Stork are most likely to be seen soaring in the sky.
- $10 Early Morning Bird Walks (8:30 am to 11:30 am) are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Caw Caw Accessibility
- Click here for a map of the Caw Caw Interpretive Center
- Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- Closed on Mondays, except for President's Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.
- Admission: $2 per adult
- Pets and bicycles are not permitted.