Tybee Island is on the Colonial Coastal Birding trail and hosts over two hundred and eleven bird species. Located on the Atlantic Flyway we are host to tens of thousands of migratory birds making Tybee and Little Tybee is a must. We are also a safe haven and winter destination for wintering shorebirds like the endangered Piping Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Red Knot, Black bellied Plover, Dunlin and many more. No matter if you are a birder that stays on the veranda, beats the bush, or just strolls on the beach, Tybee island will be a great experience for you.
One of the best and easiest locations to find excellent birding is on the north beach at the foot of the Tybee lighthouse. Park in the north beach parking lot at the far end and use the crossover. From the beach you will see the Northern Gannett, various Terns, Ducks and Gulls flying offshore, or probing in the sand for food. The rock jetty at the edge of the water is the place to find the Purple Sandpiper. Walk further north towards the Savannah River and you will see mixed flocks of shorebirds roosting, that include the American oystercatcher, Black Backed Gulls, Black Skimmers, Red knots and Plovers.
The American Oystercatcher is rare with only approx. ninety breeding pairs in Georgia. However we regularly see them on our beaches and in our tidal creeks, perched on the oyster rakes waiting for the oysters to open up. They use their bills to pry open the oysters for a treat. The Black Skimmer is also often clustered here in numbers of a hundred or more. The Skimmer is named after its feeding method. The bird has a lower beak that is a third longer than the upper beak and skims the surface of the water with their bill snapping shut within a hundredth of a second when they hit a fish.
Look closely at birds on Tybee and see if you spot a band. Many of the Piping Plovers and Oystercatchers will have a color band on them. The place to report all birds with bands or tags is the Bird Banding Laboratory at the Patuxent Wildlife Center. The number is 1-800-327-2263. The lab will take the report and pass it on to the bird’s original bander. Eventually (it can take a while!), you will get a note telling you where and when the bird was originally banded. Local Birders here can actually pinpoint a small group of approx. twelve banded Piping Plovers that spend their winters here and there summers in the Great lakes.
Year round, we often see and hear the American Oystercatcher, Great Blue Heron, Black and Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Louisiana Heron, Black Skimmer, Clapper Rail, Osprey, Brown Pelican, Cormorant, and Willet. In the winter we see a variety of ducks/water fowl including Bufflehead, Merganser (both Hooded and Red Breasted), Loons, and Scoters.
The Sally Pearce Nature trail is a great place to stop for the amateur botanist and birder. Although it is a short walk, it is a good spot for warblers the Painted Bunting and many different local plants. The trail starts back from Route 80 on the right between the first and second light on Tybee.
The south end of the island offers two different piers. The Pier at the strand and the Back River Fishing Pier with a great view of the ocean, one can also see Little Tybee Island from these vantage points.
Little Tybee is a 7,600 acre Natural Heritage Preserve owned by the state of Georgia. The birding is spectacular as it is undisturbed and only accessible by boat. Contact a local captain/naturalist or a kayaking outfit to set up a visit.
When leaving Tybee there is another great birding spot on your right, Fort Pulaski. The marsh that surrounds the fort and near the bridge are a great spot in the winter for Sparrows, both varieties of Sharp-tail; Nelson’s and Salt marsh and Seaside, as well as Marsh Wrens. There are plenty of trails to walk around on and you may spot a flock of Cedar Waxwings. This is another good spot for warblers and the Painted Bunting. On the bridge to the park you will see Forester’s Terns lining the railing in winter. We welcome you and may you have great birding!