Important Bird Areas

Beaufort Barrier Islands

South Carolina

The Beaufort Barrier Islands IBA consists of a unique chain of six barrier islands that start at the southern tip of the Saint Helena Sound and extends south to the north entrance of Port Royal Sound. These barrier islands include Harbor, Hunting, Fripp, Pritchard's Capers and Old Islands. These islands are separated from the mainland by extensive pristine salt marsh with miles of tidal creeks and rivers dotted with a large number of small hammock islands. Each of the barrier islands, with the exception of Old Island, has well-developed beach systems with large inlets and extensive sand bars.
The Beaufort Barrier Islands IBA represents some of the richest diversity of habitat on the South Carolina coast. MAny species of birds are permanent residents here as well as many species that winter, breed or migrate through. The beach and inlets provide nesting and foraging grounds for a great number of shorebirds and seabirds. The maritime forest habitats of Harbor, Hunting, Fripp and Pritchard's, with high tree canopy and extensive understory of shrubs and berry producing plants, provide safety and food for woodland birds and migratory neo-tropical songbirds. There are a large number of freshwater lakes and lagoons on the islands, which provide habitat for many species of winter ducks.
This island chain is located on the Atlantic Flyway and is a stopping point for thousands of migrating shorebirds, such as the Red Knot, found in abundance during migration to and from the Arctic.
Harbor Island is home to large wading bird rookeries and has a well-defined lagoon with abundant egrets, herons and ibises.
Fripp Island was recognized in 11974 as a Bird and Animal Sanctuary by the SC State Legislature in recognition for its unique natural habitats and environment. Over 182 species of birds, which frequent these islands, beaches and salt marshes.
With restricted access, Pritchard's Island is maintained by the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Its mission is limited to resea

Ornithological Summary

Beaufort Barrier Island IBA (BBA) is ornithologically significant in three of five categories: (1) Endangered or threatened or species of concern (Wood Stork, Wilson's Plover, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Little Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer and Gull-billed Tern); (2)WatchList Species (Little Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, American Oystercathcher, Black Skimmer, Painted Bunting, Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Seaside Sparrow, Clapper Rail); (3)Concentration of Birds (over 1,00 waterfowl, over 1,000 seabirds, over 1,000 shorebirds, over 500 colonial waterbirds.
Data was supplied by Piping Plover Monitoring through the Fish and Wildlife Service, Osprey Monitoring through FripP Is. Audubon Club, Wilson' Plover and Least Tern nesting study through SCDNR, and personal observations. All data was gathered yearly over 5 years.

Conservation Issues

At the present time there are no threats, other than hurricanes and beach erosion to Pritchards, Capers and Old Islands. Beach erosion has been rampant on Hunting Island but there has been accretion on Fripp Island. The growth expectations for Fripp and Harbor Island are limited.
Advocacy groups for the IBA are The LowCountry Institute, The LowCountry Master Naturalist Assoc., The Friends of Hunting Island.

Ownership

Beaufort Barrier Islands IBA consists of six islands in Beaufort County, SC: Harbor Island, Hunting Island, Fripp Island, Pritchards Island, Capers Island and Old Island. Harbor and Fripp Islands are gated communities. Hunting Island is a State Park. Pritchards Island. Capers and Old Islands are owned by the State of SC.

Habitat

Of the six islands in Beaufort Barrier Islands IBA, Harbor and Fripp are inhabited, gated communities. Hunting Island is a state park with some facilities, cabins and areas open to the public, as well as pristine areas. Pritchards, Capers and Old Islands are all pristine barrier islands. Open beach, dunes, maritime forest, salt marsh, hammock islands, large inlets, tidal creeks with mudflats, lakes, bottomland hardwood forest, coniferous forest, Southern mixed hardwood forest and shrub/scrub are the diverse habitats found.
Harbor Island has active wading bird rookeries.
The Beaufort Barrier Islands IBA offers a rich and diverse plant environment, which supports important habitats for birds year round. The Maritime Forest, with its canopy of Scrub Pine, Live Oak, Cabbage Palmetto, along with seed producing trees, such as Southern Magnolia and American Holly, offer food and shelter for many birds year round. The shrubs and under story, including Saw Palmetto, Wax Myrtle, Yaupon Holly and Red Cedar, provide valuable food and shelter for birds.
The general soil base is xeric.
Populations of White-tailed Deer (subspecies: Odocoileus virginianus venotorius), raccon, river otter and mink thrive utilizing these habitats. Alligators are very common in the freshwater lakes and logoons on Harbor, Hunting nad Fripp Islands. Numerous species of snakes and amphibians share the island habitats. Loggerhead Turtles nest on the beaches and Diamondback Terrapins are fairly common.

Land Use

Fripp and Harbor Islands have residential communities as well as vacation rentals along with natural areas.
Hunting Island is a state park with beach, picnicking areas, lagoons and trails open to the public. There are a few rental cabins and camping areas. Much of the island is left in its natural state. Pritchards, Capers and Old Islands are uninhabited and pristine.

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