Hilton Head Island Wonderful Beach Wildlife

ANIMALS YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE ON AND AROUND HILTON HEAD'S BEACHES

What's that? It's a question visiting mothers and fathers are asked constantly by inquisitive children during family beach days. Don't lose cool points by answering, "that's a bird, son." Impress your little one with a name and a quick fact about the critter in question. Here is a look at the 18 most common animals you will see at the beach.

 

bluecrab02BLUE CRAB

Greatly cherished by local seafood chefs. Females have broad abdomens, like the dome of the Capitol. Males have narrow abdomens, like the Washington Monument.

 

 

BOTTLENOSE-DOLPHIN

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN

More than 200 live here year-round, and many more are migratory. Local captains have given several of them names based on their personalities, such as Chopper and Nic.

 

 

brownpelicanBROWN PELICAN

These birds glide gracefully over the water until they spot a fish, then they fold their wings and clumsily smash into the water to grab their prey.

 

 

CANNONBALL-JELLYFISH02CANNONBALL JELLYFISH

Also known as the cabbage head, this is the most common jellyfish encountered in our waters. It is the least venomous native jelly and stings are very mild. You will often see it washed up on the beach.

 


FIDDLER-CRABFIDDLER CRAB

These creatures are abundant in the mud flats at low tide. They are smaller than a dime and live in holes they dig in the mud. They plug the holes as the tide comes in to help stay dry. Males show off their pincer claw to attract females.

 

 

GHOST-CRABGHOST CRAB

They live in holes in the sand above the high tide line and stay inside during the hottest part of the day and throughout the coldest part of the winter. They emerge mostly at night to feed on clams.


 

GREAT-BLUE-HERONGREAT BLUE HERON

These large wading birds come to the beach at dusk and usually remain until nightfall.

 

 


gull02GULL

These scavengers are the most common bird on the beach. They usually eat dead things that wash up on shore, steal other birds’ meals, beg tourists for food or hover around shrimp boats.

 


HORSESHOE-CRABHORSESHOE CRAB

They resemble crustaceans but are actually closely related to spiders and scorpions. They are considered living fossils, originating 450 million years ago.

 


LOGGERHEAD-SEA-TURTLELOGGERHEAD SEA TURTLE

You’ll find their nests on Hilton Head Island beaches between May and August, when they come ashore at night to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch in about 60 days and the small turtles make their way to the ocean using the moon as their beacon.

 


OSPREY02OSPREY

A large bird that circles overhead like an eagle. When it spots a fish, it will dive at high speed and snatch its prey with its razor-sharp talons.


 

 

 

 

 

PIPING-PLOVER

 

PIPING PLOVER

These sparrow-sized shorebirds run so fast along the tide line, their legs are a blur.

 

 

SAND-DOLLAR02SAND DOLLAR

Flat sea urchin with velvet-textured spines covered with very small hairs. Coordinated movements of the spines enable sand dollars to move across the seabed. It’s illegal to remove living sand dollars from the beach.

 

 


 

SANDERLING

SANDERLING

Small shorebirds often seen in groups, chasing waves in and out looking for food in the intertidal sand flats. Among other characteristics, their black legs and longer bills clearly distinguish them from piping plovers.
 

 

SCAUPSCAUP

These ducks like to float together in the ocean by the thousands, forming what looks like an island. It's called a raft of scaup.

 


 

SEA-NETTLESEA NETTLE

Jellyfish armed with up to two dozen tentacles that have rows of thousands of stinging cells. Their sting is fatal for their prey, but usually causes only discomfort for humans. Most stings occur in July and August.

 

seastarSEA STAR

They’re often called starfish, but they're not actually fish. They don’t have gills, scales or fins and move using hundreds of tube feet, which are located on their underside.

 

 

 

 

STINGRAYSTINGRAY

Equipped with sharp, serrated barbs at the base of their tails, they can also release toxins when startled. Hilton Head usually gets more than 150 stings reported each year, usually on the feet and ankles of people who step on them.

 

 

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