White Birds in South Carolina! [13 Kinds You Shouldn’t Miss]




White Birds in South Carolina

How many white birds did you see in South Carolina? How many of them were you able to ID correctly? Let me guess. You have some doubts about that! Right? Then, this article will be the resource you need.

In this article, I have listed 13 different white bird species that you can see in South Carolina. Some are common and some are rare. And, please note that you can add a few more to this list if you consider some other primarily white birds such as Terns.

But, I have selected only 13 white birds that every birder in South Carolina should include to their list.

Continue reading to get ID guides and to see photos of 11 all-white birds (having entire white plumage) and 2 primarily white birds that have some grey in their plumage but look white in flight or when seen from far.

White Birds in South Carolina (All-white Birds)

These white birds have pure white plumage in either or both breeding and non-breeding seasons. And most of the listed birds here are common in South Carolina. So, you can insert them at the top of the list of birds to see. In a short period of time, you will tick them off.

1. Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret - Common white bird
Adult Great Egret in America – Photo credit: Judy Gallagher /flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Great Egret (Quickly)

  • Body: Great Egret has an all-white plumage. It is larger in size compared to other egrets (It is twice the size of the Cattle Egret). It looks tall and thin and has an S-shaped long neck
  • Leg color: Black
  • Bill: It has a long dagger-shaped bill that is yellow in color (Great Egrets in the Americas have yellow bills)

Great Egret is one of the most common wading birds in North America. And you can see them wading in shallow water or standing in open fields looking for prey.

Great Egret forages in shallow ponds, lakes, rivers, and wetland habitats in search of small fish. They are often seen alone rather than in flocks. However, it breeds in colonies, mostly mixing with other egrets and herons.

Great Egrets are considered non-migrators or partial migrators when it migrates to their North American range. But, in coastal regions of South Carolina, you can see them year-round. And, they can only be seen during the breeding season in midland and during the migration in upstate.

2. White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

White Ibis - a white bird with long beaks
White Ibis – Photo credit: cuatrok77 /flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify White Ibis (Quickly)

  • Body: Adult White Ibises are white with a little black on the wingtips. It has red facial skin.
  • Bill: Its bill is long and downward-curved. It is orange-red in color (a distinctive feature)
  • Leg color: Its legs are pinkish-red

White Ibis is one of the distinctive white birds you will see here. It has a long, decurved beak and white plumage. White Ibis forages in shallow wetlands and salt marshes. It can be frequently seen flying in groups. And it nests in large colonies.

White Ibises are not shy birds and can often be seen close to humans. Females are similar to males in appearance but smaller in size. And also, their bills are less curved than males. However, immatures are half brown and half white.

You can see them year-round on the coastline of South Carolina and during migration in the midland regions.

3. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Cattle Egret - A common white bird
Cattle Egret – Photo credit: Derek Keats /flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Cattle Egret (Quickly)

  • Body: It is an all-white bird with a comparatively shorter neck and legs. In the breeding season, adults get Oakley yellow feathers on the crown, chest, and back
  • Leg color: Dark (close to black) in the non-breeding season and yellow or reddish in the breeding season
  • Bill: Stout dagger-shaped bill. Color is yellow (non-breeding) or red-orange (breeding)

Cattle Egrets are somewhat different to other herons. They are grassland species that rarely get their feet wet. It is mainly seen in dry habitats. Often it associates with livestock, feeding insects exposed from their feet or following tractors in fields.

You can see them in the breeding season anywhere in South Carolina except the region close to the northwest border where you can only see them during the migration.

4. Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

Snowy Egret - a common white bird
Adult Snowy Egret – Photo credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren /Flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Snowy Egret (Quickly)

  • Body: It is an all-white bird with an S-shaped neck. During the breeding season, it gets long lacy plumes on the head, neck, and back.
  • Leg color: Black legs
  • Feet color: Bright yellow (non-breeding), Orange-red (breeding)
  • Bill: Black color bill with yellow (orange-red in breeding season) patch at the base of the bill

In the late 1800s, Snowy Egrets were hunted near extinction for their feathers. But now, they are fairly common widespread species across the United States. And, you can often see them mixing with other egrets in estuarine and freshwater habitats.

Snowy Egrets are common in a variety of wetlands and often mix with other egrets. When searching for food, it uses wing-flicking, foot-stirring, and foot-probing to get its prey moving and actively hunts prey.

You can see them year-round in the coastal region of South Carolina. And, during the breeding season, check for them in midland. But, in other areas, they occur more during migration.

5. Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

Northern Gannet - white bird
Northern Gannet – Photo credit: Andrea S/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Northern Gannet (Quickly)

  • Body: Northern Gannet is a large white bird with black wing tips. The back of the head and neck are tinged with yellow. Wings and tails are pointed and long. It has light blue eyes.
  • Bill: Long heavy dagger-like bill. Grey in color.

Northern Gannet is a large seabird on the coasts of the Atlantic ocean. They are famous for their headfirst spectacular plunge dives for foraging individually or as large flocks. It takes several years for them to get snowy white plumage.

Since Northern Gannets are seabirds, their typical habitat is the ocean. But, due to their larger size and stays not far from the shore, you can see them from shore. They nest in inaccessible cliffs in northeastern marine areas of North America.

In South Carolina, you can see them on the coastline during the non-breeding season.

6. Juvenile Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Juvenile Little Blue Heron - a common white bird
Juvenile Little Blue Heron – Photo credit: Kelly Colgan Azar/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Juvenile Little Blue Heron (Quickly)

  • Body: They are similar to Snowy Egret. All-white plumage, S-shape neck, and small in size. Even though they have black wing tips, it is unnoticeable.
  • Bill: Only tip of the bill is black (Snowy Egret’s entire bill is black), Dagger-shaped bill
  • Leg color: Pale greenish (Snowy Egrets have black legs)

Juvenile Little Blue Herons can be seen in open wetlands in groups. Its preferred foraging habitats include shallow marshes, lagoons, and other shallow fresh or salt water. When nesting, they mix with other wading species groups.

The best region in South Carolina to see Little Blue Herons is the coastal region since you can see them year-round there. But check for them in the midland during the breeding season and in other areas during the migration.

7. Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana)

Wood Stork - a white bird with long bill
Wood Stork – Photo credit: Liam Lysaght and cuatrok77/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Wood Stork (Quickly)

  • Body: Head and upper neck of the Wood Stork are featherless and blackish in color. It has a white body with black flight feathers.
  • Bill: Long downward-curved dark bill
  • Leg color: Blackish gray

Wood Stork is a large white wading bird. And, it is the only stork that breeds in North America. They breed in Florida to North Carolina.

Wood Storks mostly forage in coastal areas, swamps, marshes, and forested freshwater. When feeding, it stirs the water bottom from its feet and feels the movement of fish and prey from the bill.

If you look along the coastline of South Caroline during the breeding season, you can see Wood Storks. And also during the non-breeding season, look for them in midland and coastal areas.

8. Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)

Tundra Swan - large white bird
Wood Stork – Photo credit: Dominic Sherony /flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Tundra Swan (Quickly)

  • Body: Tundra Swan is a large white bird with entirely pure white plumage. It has a long distinctive neck. It has a yellow facial patch next to their eyes. But eyes stands out from the bill (differentiate them from Trumpeter Swan)
  • Bill: Straight heavy black bill (in North American population)
  • Leg color: It has dark legs and feets.

Tundra Swan is the North America’s most widespread swan. Even though it is a large white bird, it is smallest among swans. It has two populations, North American “Whistling” Tundras and Eurasian “Bewick’s”.

The main difference between two is Bewick’s Tundra has a yellow and black bill and Whistling Tundra has a black bill and small yellow patch close to eyes.

Tundras nest near water bodies such as lakes and pools in Artic tundra. And in winter, they mostly occurs near lakes, ponds and coastal bays from New Jersey to South Carolina. So, best place and time to see them in South Carolina is northeast coast in the non-breeding season.

9. Great Blue Heron (White Morph) (Ardea herodias)

Great Blue Heron (White Morph) - a white bird
Great Blue Heron (White Morph) – Photo credit: Under the same moon…/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Great Blue Heron (White Morph) (Quickly)

  • Body: All white plumage. Large body with an S-shaped long neck.
  • Bill: yellow heavy bill
  • Legs: Grayish yellow in color (This helps to separate them from Great Egrets that have entire black legs)

The white morph of the Greate Blue Heron (also known as the Great White Heron) has entirely white plumage. Its appearance is quite similar to Great Egret.

But, Great White Heron is larger in size and has grayish-yellow color legs whereas the Great Egret has entire black legs with yellow feet. Additionally, Great White Herons have heavy larger bills than Great Egrets.

Great White Herons can be seen in wetlands such as marshes to swamps, but primarily in saltwater habitats. You can see them year-round in South Carolina.

10. Snow Goose (White Morph) (Anser caerulescens)

Snow Goose (White morph) - a common snow goose
Adult White Morph of Snow Goose – Photo credit: Judy Gallagher/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Snow Goose (White Morph) (Quickly)

  • Body: It has a medium size white body with a long neck. The head is white and looks extended. Wing tips are blackThere is a yellowish strain on the face in most of them.
  • Bill: Black patch on the pink long bill
  • Legs: Pink legs

There are two completely different color morphs of Snow Goose; blue and white. Since white morph is more common, you have a greater chance to see them.

Marshes, ponds, bays, and agricultural fields are usual habitats of Snow Goose. When migrating, they fly as flocks in thousands in number. They breed in the arctic tundra, near Hudson Bay. They winter in coastal and inland areas towards the south.

If you are birding in northeast of South Carolina, you can see them during the non-breeding season.

11. Rock Pigeon (White Morph) (Columba livia)

Rock Pigeon - white morph
Rock Pigeon (White Morph) – Photo credit: Jevgenijs Slihto/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Rock Pigeon (White Morph) (Quickly)

  • Body: The size of the Rock Pigeon is a little smaller than the crow. Appeared tubby due to a heavy chest. White plumage in white morphs.
  • Bill: Dark shorter bills
  • Legs: Short reddish legs

Rock Pigeons have widely spread all over the continent. Among the most common blue-gray pigeon with black wing bars, you can spot other varieties with variable plumage in colors such as black, white, rusty-red, and variations of those.

Usually, they can be seen in many urban setups. Flocks of pigeons in public places such as public squares (eating waste food) are not a rare sight in most cities. But, their original habitat is sea cliffs.

Birds in South Carolina That Look Mostly White (Primarily White)

Some birds have plumage mixed with two or more colors. But when they are in flight or sight from far, their primary color is prominent and birders, especially beginners, tend to identify them from it.

Hence, I have provided bird identification guides for birds whose primary color is white and appear to be white but not all-white. These are mostly white birds that can be seen in South Carolina.

12. Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

Ring-billed Gull - a mostly white bird
Adult Ring-billed Gull (Nonbreeding) – Photo credit: David Slater/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Ring-billed Gull (Quickly)

  • Bill: Black band on yellow bill (most distinguishable feature)
  • Body: Medium-size gulls. Breeding adults have pure white heads while nonbreeding adults have brown streaks on white heads. Their belly, breast, and underwing are white. They have a gray back and white spots on black wing tips.
  • Legs: Pale yellow (nonbreeding) or yellowish or greenish (breeding)

Ring-billed Gull is one of the most common birds in North America. You may have probably seen them even in an urban setup.

Ring-billed Gulls can be mostly seen in lakes, ponds, rivers, and beaches. But, it is not rare sight if you see them scavenge in parking lots.

In South Carolina, you can see them in coastal area an midland during the non-breeding season and in upstate during the migration.

13. Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

Herring Gull - a mostly white bird
Herring Gull – Photo credit: John Haslam/flickr/cc by 4.0

How to identify Herring Gull (Quickly)

  • Bill: Large yellow bill with a red spot (distinguishable feature)
  • Body: Large-size gulls. Breeding adults have pure white heads while nonbreeding adults have brown streaks on white heads and necks. Their belly, breast, and underwing are white. They have a gray back and white spots on black wing tips.
  • Legs: Pink in color

Herring Gulls are large size gulls that are also referred to mostly as ‘Seagulls’.

Herring Gulls occur in coastal areas and islands, near water bodies such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. They breed in the northeastern US and Canada and migrate to the southern region in winter. Therefore, the best time to look for them in South Carolina is during migration or along the coastline in the winter.

More Facts about White Birds in South Carolina!

You can check out the best region in South Carolina and the best time of the year to spot each of the 13 white birds listed. And, if you prefer more range data, check in All About Birds.

And also I have mentioned the length (tip of the bill to tip of the tail length) and the wingspan and food of each bird.

White BirdLengthWingspanFoodPlace and time of the year to see them in South Carolina
Great Egretabout 39 inchesabout 6 ft Small fish, aquatic insects, frogs, crayfishCoastal region – year-round
Midland – breeding
Upstate – migration
White Ibisabout 25 inchesabout 38 inchesAquatic insects, crustaceans, fish, frogsCoastal region – year-round
Midland – migration
Cattle Egretabout 20 inchesabout 31 inchesInsects, spiders, frogsNorthwest – migration
Other regions – breeding
Snowy Egretabout 24 inchesabout 42 inchesAquatic insects and small fish, amphibians, and snakesCoastal region – year-round
Midland – breeding
Other regions – migration
Northern Gannet33– 42 inchesabout 5.5 ftMackerel, herring, capelin, and codCoastline – non-breeding
Juvenile Little Blue Heronabout 24 inchesabout 39 inchesCrayfish, crabs, small fish, insects, and amphibiansCoastal region – year-round
Midland – breeding
Other regions – migration
Wood Storkabout 39 inchesabout 5 ftFish, scrab, and insects (aquatic prey)Coastline – breeding
Midland and coastal areas – non-breeding
Tundra Swan4 – 5 ft6.25 – 7.25 ftAquatic vegetation, mollusks, insects and grainNortheast coast – non-breeding
Great Blue Heron (White Morph)33 – 51 inches5.25 – 6.5 ftThey prefer fishAll regions – year-round
Snow Goose (White Morph)27 – 33 inches4.25 – 5.5 ftstems, leaves, seeds, and roots of different grass species in aquatic or terrestrial habitatsNortheast region – non-breeding
Rock Pigeon (White Morph)11 – 14 inches20 – 26 inchesMostly seeds and fruits and discarded human food (in cities)All regions – year-round
Ring-billed gull17 – 21.5 inches4 – 5 ftSmall fish, insects, earthworms, grains, and rodentsCoastal area an midland – non-breeding
Upstate – migration
Herring Gull22 – 26 inches4 – 5 ftSmall fish, crustaceans, mollusks, wormsCoastline – non-breeding
Other regions – migration
More Facts about White Birds in South Carolina

Wrapping Up…

Do you plan on birding in South Carolina? Then, this article will be your best help to ID many white birds that occur during your birding adventures.

In this article, I have listed and given identification guides for 13 white birds in South Carolina. Some of them are common white birds and few are rare.

Three of the listed birds are white morphs of different bird species. Two other listed birds are mostly white birds that are primarily white in color but have a mix of other colors in some areas of the body.

Additionally, I have given the best region and time of the year to see each white bird listed here. So, plan your trips accordingly to see maximum number of birds.

Let me know how many of the listed white birds you have seen and where you saw them.

Additionally, if you are planning your next birding trip, consider traveling to one of these 10 best countries for birding to see many birds in a single trip. And, if you are looking for improving as a professional birder, check out these 11 tips for improving birding skills.