11 Amazing Red Birds in South Carolina [Photo and ID Guide]




Red Birds in South Carolina

Red birds are a sight to behold with their vibrant plumage and enchanting melodies. South Carolina is home to some of the most stunning red birds you can see. In this article, I have compiled almost all red birds, both common and rare, that you’ll find in South Carolina

I have provided an identification guide and pictures of each listed bird which will help you to ID them quickly in the field. So, check out the list and find out how many of them you have already seen and how to ID the rest. 

1 – Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal - Male bird is red in bird.
Northern Cardinal

Quick Identification Guide of Northern Cardinal

  • Size: Approximately 8-9 inches long with a wingspan of 10-12 inches.
  • Body color: The male is bright red with a black mask around the eyes and a short crest on his head. The female is mostly pale brown with a crest, wings, and tail tinged with red.
  • Bill: Both sexes have a thick, bright orange bill.
  • Legs and feet: Grayish-brown legs with strong, sharp claws that allow them to perch on branches and twigs. 

Northern Cardinals are birds that you can often see in your backyard or garden if you live in the eastern United States. They like to hang out in open woodlands, shrubs, and areas with lots of bushes near water sources.

Male Northern Cardinals are very protective of their territory during the breeding season. They’ll fight off other males and sometimes even attack their own reflection in mirrors or windows, thinking it’s an intruder.

These birds eat a variety of things, like seeds, fruits, and insects. 

If you live in South Carolina, you can see Northern Cardinals all year round. You might spot them at bird feeders, in parks, or even in suburban areas.

2 – Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager

Quick Identification Guide of Summer Tanager

  • Size: Medium-sized songbird of 7-8 inches in length
  • Body color: Males are bright red; females are yellowish-olive to olive-gray
  • Bill: Short, stout blunt-tipped bills
  • Legs and feet: Grayish-black

The Summer Tanager is a really cool bird that you can find in the southeastern United States. It’s the only bird in North America that’s completely red!

The males are super easy to spot with their bright red feathers. But the females are a little less flashy, with yellowish-olive or olive-gray coloring.

These birds hang out in many different places, like open woodlands, the edges of forests, and parks with big, old trees. They mostly stay up on the tops of the trees.

Summer Tanagers are really good at catching bees and wasps while they’re flying. They mostly eat bugs and fruit.

If you live in South Carolina, you can see Summer Tanagers from April to October. They’re all over the state during that time, especially during the breeding season.

3 – Scarlet  Tanager

Scarlet Tanager - a red headed bird
Scarlet Tanager

Quick Identification Guide of Scarlet Tanager

  • Size: 6-7 inches in length
  • Body color: Males have bright red plumage with black wings and tails during breeding and olive-yellow plumage with black wings and tails during non-breeding. Females look similar to non-breeding males but with dark olive-green wings and tails
  • Bill: Short and stout
  • Legs and feet: Dark gray

The Scarlet Tanager is a really pretty bird that lives in the eastern part of the United States. Males are bright red during the breeding season. So they’re easy to spot, but the females are more yellow-green.

These birds like to hang out in lots of different places, like forests with lots of trees that lose their leaves in the fall. 

They’re hard to see because they stay up high in the trees and don’t like it when their habitats get broken up into smaller pieces (habitat fragmentation).

Scarlet Tanagers mostly eat insects and fruit.

In South Carolina, you might see these birds during the breeding season. They’re most common in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge regions of the state. But you might also spot them near the coast when they’re flying to a new place.

4 – Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill - Male Red Crossbill is red in color overall.
Red Crossbill

Quick Identification Guide of Red Crossbill

  • Size: 7 to 8 inches (16 to 20 cm)
  • Body color: Males are overall red in color with darker wings and tails. But, females have yellowish plumage with dark wings. 
  • Bill: The bill is short and thick, with the upper and lower mandibles crossed at the tip. The size and shape of the bill can vary depending on the type of cone that the bird feeds on, with some individuals having straighter or more curved bills.
  • Legs and feet: gray or brownish-gray.

The Red Crossbill is a special type of finch with a unique, crossed bill that they use to get seeds from inside pine cones. They are found all across North America, with different types that vary in size, bill shape, and sounds they make.

Unlike other birds, Red Crossbills don’t migrate, and they wander around a lot, often showing up suddenly in new places. This makes them exciting for birdwatchers to spot.

You might find them in parks or neighborhoods with pine trees, especially during winter when it’s harder to find food. In South Carolina, you can see them in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions during the non-breeding season.

Their diet mostly consists of pine cone seeds and fruit.

5 – House Finch

House Finch - Male bird has a red head and breast.
House Finch

Quick Identification Guide of House Finch

  • Size: 5-6 inches in length
  • Body color: Males are red on the head, breast, and rump; brown-streaked back and wings; females are grayish-brown with heavy streaking on the breast and belly.
  • Bill: Short and conical
  • Legs and feet: Grayish-brown

House Finches are small birds that look similar to sparrows, and they’re native to North America. They originally came from the western United States and have since spread to the eastern states.

House Finches are often seen in residential areas and are common in urban and suburban areas, as well as in parks and gardens. They mainly eat seeds and fruits. 

In South Carolina, you can see House Finches all year long throughout the state.

These birds are popular with bird lovers and people who enjoy watching birds in their backyard. They’re fun to watch as they fly around gardens and bird feeders.

6 – Purple Finch

Purple Finch - Male Purple Finch has a red head
Purple Finch

Quick Identification Guide of Purple Finch

  • Size: 5-6 inches in length
  • Body color: Males are raspberry-red on the head, breast, and back; brown wings and tail; females are brownish-gray with heavy streaking on the breast and belly
  • Bill: Short, conical, and powerful bill
  • Legs and feet: Brownish-gray

The Purple Finch is a small bird that looks like a sparrow and lives in North America. They are birds that live in the eastern United States only during the winter. Unfortunately, their numbers are decreasing because House Finches have spread to the eastern part of the country since the 1950s.

You can find Purple Finches living in different places like forests with lots of trees and even suburban areas. But, they can be difficult to spot in the trees because they usually stay up high. 

However, you can attract them to your backyard with seeds. They mostly eat seeds and fruits.

If you’re in South Carolina during the winter, you might see some Purple Finches in different parts of the state.

7 – American Robin

American Robin
American Robin

Quick Identification Guide of American Robin

  • Size: Medium-sized bird with a length of 8-11 inches and a wingspan of 12-16 inches.
  • Body color: Overall grayish-brown with a rusty-red breast and white underbelly.
  • Bill: Straight and pointed.
  • Legs and feet: Thin and black.
  • Both males and females have rusty-red breasts.

The American Robin is a well-known bird throughout North America, with a range that extends from Alaska to Mexico. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, parks, and suburban areas. 

American Robins primarily feed on insects, earthworms, and berries. And they are often seen foraging on lawns or in garden areas. During the breeding season, they build nests in trees or shrubs and lay a clutch of pale blue eggs.

Despite their name, American Robins are not closely related to European robins and are instead a member of the thrush family.

They are a common sight in South Carolina and can be seen year-round throughout the state.

8 – Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting - a brightly colored beautiful bird.
Painted Bunting

Quick Identification Guide of Painted Bunting

  • Size: Small, about 5-6 inches long
  • Body Color: Males are brightly colored, with a blue head, green back, and red belly. Females are duller, with a greenish-yellow head and back, and a yellowish belly. 
  • Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: Males have a distinctive patch of blue around their eyes, and a bright red rump.
  • Bill: Short and conical, with a grayish color.
  • Legs and Feet: Grayish or flesh-colored.

The Painted Bunting is a small, brightly colored bird that is native to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. 

They prefer habitats with dense shrubs, such as brushy areas, hedgerows, and woodland edges. Painted Buntings are primarily seed-eaters, but also feed on insects during the breeding season. 

In South Carolina, they can be seen during the breeding season in the coastal plain region, particularly in the lowcountry areas. They migrate south for the winter, but some may overwinter along the coast in South Carolina. 

The male Painted Bunting is especially striking, with its blue head, green back, and red belly. Females are less colorful, but still have a distinctive appearance with their greenish-yellow head and back. Seeing a Painted Bunting is a treat for any birdwatcher, and they are certainly a species worth seeking out.

Birds with unique red features in South Carolina 

In addition to above mentioned red birds, I have included the following three woodpeckers to this list since they are popular for their red heads and red patches on their heads. 

9 – Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker - Both male and female birds have red heads.
Red-headed Woodpecker

Quick Identification Guide of Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Size: 7.5 to 9 inches long with a wingspan of 16 to 17 inches
  • Body color: Adults (both sexes) have a striking black and white body plumage with a bright red head and neck. Juvenile has similar black and white body plumage, but the head and neck are a duller red.
  • Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Bold, black and white striped back and wings with white underparts. In flight, shows a prominent white patch on the wings.
  • Bill: Stout and pointed bill that is shorter than the head.
  • Legs and feet: Short, strong legs and feet with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized bird native to North America. Its black, white, and bright red feathers make it easy to spot. This bird is common in the eastern parts of the United States.

Red-headed Woodpeckers live in open habitats, such as woodlands, orchards, and farmland. They have a distinctive flight pattern, with a prominent white patch on their wings.

These birds have unique feeding habits and are often seen catching insects mid-air or storing nuts and acorns in tree cavities for later. 

Unfortunately, their numbers have been decreasing in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation. It’s important to protect their habitats and conserve this beautiful bird.

In South Carolina, you can see Red-headed Woodpeckers all year round in all regions of the state.

10 – Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker - Both male and female birds have a red head. Additionally, males have a red stripe on their cheek.
Pileated Woodpecker

Quick Identification Guide of Pileated Woodpecker

  • Size: Large woodpecker. Approximately 16-19 inches in length and 26-30 inches in wingspan.
  • Body color: Mostly black with white stripes on the face and neck, a large red crest on the head, and white underwings. Males and females both have red crests on the head. But only males have a red stripe on the cheek.
  • Bill: Long, chisel-like bill for drilling into wood
  • Legs and feet: black legs, and feet.

The Pileated Woodpecker is a stunning bird that is native to North America and can be found all across the United States and Canada, including South Carolina. They usually inhabit mature forests with large trees for nesting and foraging.

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America and can be easily recognized by their bright red crest on their head, black and white striped face and neck, and their long, chisel-like bill. They feed primarily on insects found in dead or dying trees, as well as fruits and nuts.

Although they are large, Pileated Woodpeckers are often heard before they are seen, thanks to their loud, distinctive call. They play an essential role in the forest ecosystem, controlling insect populations and creating nesting sites for other species of birds and mammals.

If you’re in South Carolina, keep an eye out for these magnificent birds as they can be spotted year-round in all regions.

11- Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Only male birds have red crown and nape both. Females only have red in their napes.
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Quick Identification Guide of Red-bellied Woodpecker

  • Size: Approximately 9-10 inches long, with a wingspan of 13-17 inches.
  • Body color: Mostly black and white, with a red patch on the nape of the neck and a red wash on the belly (more prominent in males). Only males have a red crown.
  • Distinguishable colors or patterns: Black and white striped back and wings, white underparts, and a black and white striped face with a white eye ring.
  • Bill: Strong and chisel-like for drilling into wood, approximately 1-1.5 inches long.
  • Legs and feet: Gray-black, with two toes facing forward and two facing backward for better gripping on trees.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a common species of woodpecker found in the eastern half of North America. 

They can be found in a variety of habitats, including deciduous forests, wooded suburbs, and parks. 

They are omnivorous, feeding on insects, nuts, fruits, and seeds. And they can often be seen foraging on tree trunks and branches. 

The red wash on their bellies can be difficult to see in some lighting conditions, but their distinctive black and white striped back and wings, along with their red nape and eye-ring, make them easy to identify. 

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are also known for their loud, rolling call, which can often be heard before they are seen.

You can see them throughout South Carolina year-round. 

Summary of Information about Red Birds in South Carolina!

The following table summarizes the best times of the year and the best regions in South Carolina to see each above-listed bird.

In addition, you can refer to this table to get information on these birds such as the length, wingspan, and food preferences as well.

Red BirdsPlace and time of the year to see them in South CarolinaLengthWingspanFood
Northern CardinalAll regions – year-roundabout 8-9.5 inchesabout 10-12 inchesOmnivores – Seeds, berries, frutis, leaf buds,  insects
Summer TanagerAll regions – breeding seasonabout 7-8 inchesabout 11-12 inchesOmnivores – Mainly insects (popular as bee and wasp eaters), and at times, berries and fruits
Scarlet TanagerPiedmont and Blue Ridge regions – breeding Coastal regions – migrationabout 6-7 inchesabout 9.5-11.5 inchesOmnivores – Mainly insects, and at times, berries and fruits
Red CrossbillBlue Ridge region – non-breeding seasonabout 8 inchesabout 11-12 inchesHerbivore – Seeds, buds of trees, berries
House FinchAll regions – year-roundabout 5-6 inchesabout 8-10 inchesHerbivore – Seeds, berries, fruits
Purple FinchAll regions – non-breeding seasonabout 4.5-6.5 inchesabout 8-10 inchesOmnivores – Mainly insects, seeds, and berries
American RobinAll regions – year-roundabout 8-11 inchesabout 12-16 inchesOmnivores – Seeds, berries, frutis, leaf buds,  insects
Painted BuntingCoastal region and lowlands – breeding and migration (Range Map)about 5-6 inchesabout 8-10 inchesOmnivores – Mostly eat seeds, when breeding for short period of time, eat insects
Red-headed WoodpeckerAll regions – year-roundabout 7.5-9.5 inchesabout 16.5 inchesOmnivores – Insects, spiders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berries
Pileated WoodpeckerAll regions – year-roundabout 15-19.5 inchesabout 26-29.5 inchesOmnivores – Carpenter ants, termites, flies, nuts and fruits. 
Red-bellied WoodpeckerAll regions – year-roundabout 9.5 inchesabout 13-16.5 inchesOmnivores – Arboreal arthropods, invertebrates, nuts, seeds, berries. 

Let’s explore!

Well, that concludes the list – 11 amazing red birds that you can see in the beautiful state of South Carolina! So, what’s next?

Grab your binoculars, and head out into the great outdoors – South Carolina’s red birds are waiting to be discovered! Happy birding!

Before you leave, have a peek at the following articles to add more amazing birds to your checklist: