Bird Key - Stono Seabird Sanctuary

Property Location

Charleston, SC 29412

Latitude: 32.6334  Longitude:-79.9839
County: Charleston


Property Type: Seabird Sanctuaries

Hours of Operation

March 15 through October 15 the area is closed to all landing including the intertidal zone between low and high tide waterlines.

October 16 through March 14 landing is allowed only in the intertidal zone between low and high tide waterlines; please do not go above the high tide mark.

No dogs allowed

No camping


Activities / Facilities

Important Bird Area Nature Viewing

Property Description

Photograph of Bird Key - Stono Seabird Sanctuary

Bird Key-Stono Seabird Sanctuary is located in the Stono Inlet which is the outlet for the Stono, Kiawah, and Folly Rivers in Charleston County. Bird Key-Stono was established to protect significant nesting habitat for seabirds and shorebirds.

Bird Key-Stono is a dynamic sand island formed by deposits from the associated rivers into the Stono Inlet. Bird Key supports colonies of nesting seabirds and solitary shorebirds because of its isolated nature and lack of mammalian predators. Although all species may not nest on the island each year, examples of species that have used the island include: brown pelican, least tern, royal tern, black skimmer, gull-billed tern, sandwich tern, common tern, laughing gull, Wilson's plover, American oystercatcher, willet, great egret, snowy egret, tricolored heron and ibis. In addition to nesting habitat, the sanctuary provides winter loafing and feeding areas for numerous species including dunlin, black-bellied plovers, and sanderlings.

The colonial nesting behavior of seabirds such as pelicans and terns makes them very susceptible to disturbance. Nesting seabirds are tightly packed into breeding sites and when disturbed, they fly off their nests leaving eggs and chicks exposed to high summer temperatures and/or predators. An entire colony may be destroyed from one disturbance event. Therefore, the sanctuary is closed to public use from March 15 thru October 15. Bird Key-Stono may be viewed from boats during these months, and please remain far enough away to avoid making birds fly. From October 16 thru March 14, Bird Key-Stono is accessible to the public below the high water tidal mark. Dogs are prohibited year round, and camping is not allowed.

Also, Bird Key - Stono is designated an "Important Bird Area" in South Carolina by Birdlife International and the National Audubon Society. Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identify sites which provide vital habitat to at risk bird species.