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(Page updated 09/20/21)

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History near York has been officially designated as a South Carolina Important Bird Area (IBA).

Paul Koehler, coordinator of the state's IBA technical committee, stated in a letter to the Center that it "was selected as an IBA on the basis of the valuable and long-standing avian research conducted there. I applaud your education and research efforts."

Since 1982, 74,200-plus birds of 128 species have been banded at Hilton Pond Center, making it the most active bird banding site in the Carolinas. The Center is known internationally for its scientific and outreach efforts that focus on Ruby-throated Hummingbirds--with more than 6,690 banded locally since 1984--and vagrant hummingbird species that occasionally overwinter in the eastern U.S. In addition to the 128 banded bird species, another 47 (173 total) have been seen on or from the property--including 34 of 37 extant warbler species known to occur in South Carolina.

The Center is one of few permanent year-round banding stations in the Piedmont physiographic province, which stretches from southern New York to northeastern Alabama. It is also a nesting locale for Neotropical birds such as Orchard Orioles, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (top photo) , and is a stopover site for Scarlet Tanagers (below left), Swainson's Thrushes, and other Neotropical species as they migrate to and from Central and/or South America.

The Center is among three dozen or so recognized IBAs in South Carolina. Most sites are selected because they are home to threatened or endangered bird species, host bird species with restricted ranges, or serve as wintering or breeeding grounds for high densities of colonial birds. IBAs may be a few acres or more than a thousand--Hilton Pond Center covers only 11 acres--but usually are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape.

In the U.S., the Important Bird Area program is a joint effort of BirdLife International and the National Audubon Society, which has designated more than 2,800 IBA sites. Worldwide, more than 150 countries have IBA programs, and 3,600-plus sites have been designated in Europe alone. In addition to Hilton Pond Center, South Carolina IBAs include such areas as Cape Romain, Carolina Sandhills, and Ace Basin national wildlife refuges, Francis Beidler Forest, Congaree Swamp National Monument, and Caesars Head, Jones Gap, and Table Rock state parks.

Visit Audubon's Web site for details about the Important Bird Area program in the U.S.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.