Research and field studies work synergistically with the Center’s medical and educational disciplines to support the protection of wild bird populations and their critical habitat areas. The Center has led and participated in groundbreaking scientific research including avian genetics, environmental toxins, and an ongoing study of endangered and threatened species in South Carolina such as the American Swallow-tailed kite.
American Swallow-tailed Kite Study
In 1997 the Avian Conservation Center began recording seasonal sightings of Swallow-tailed kites (Elanoides forficatus) which currently occupy only about 20% of their historic range in North America. This ongoing study utilizes observations, including those of the general public, to document the presence of kites in the crucial habitat areas upon which they now depend. Since its inception, the ACC reporting system has logged more than 30,000 kite sightings from eight southeastern states.
South Carolina Coastal Raptor Migration Survey – Hawk Watch
For more than 20 years the Avian Conservation Center has conducted an annual raptor migration survey, which has now expanded to include the novel and cutting-edge use of modified marine radar to detect migrating raptors. The Center is currently the only known site in North America to routinely use radar to assist in an annual raptor migration survey. The data collected from this survey is submitted to the Hawk Migration Association of North America and contributes to an expansive data pool of raptor migration counts globally. As of 2022 over 50,000 raptors representing 18 different species have been counted during the ACC migration count.
Acetaminophen Toxicity in Birds
In 2022, our Avian Medical Clinic collaborated with Dr. Van den Hurk from Clemson University to collect liver samples from raptors and shore birds to test acetaminophen toxicity in different bird species. The results from this ongoing study will impact how conservationists might use acetaminophen as a tool to control invasive species such as brown tree snakes in Guam without negatively impacting native predatory birds.
Probabilistic Origins of B.j. abieticola and Dark-morph Migrants
In 2021, graduate student Allie Pesano from the University of Minnesota, was studying genetics of dark morph Red-tailed hawks being observed in the north east. Her study was focused on collecting and organizing the genetic background of these hawks. Furthermore, she wanted to determine which subspecies of Red-tailed hawks these individuals may be a part of. Our Avian Medical Clinic participated by sending in blood samples and feather plumage photos of Red-tailed Hawks that were admitted as patients to our avian medical clinic that year.