10 Red Birds in South Carolina – Picture and ID Guide

Male White-winged Crossbill

Finches and Tanagers are often red birds that you can spot, but there are several different species to learn.

There are 10 species of red birds in South Carolina that have been spotted. Of these, 6 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, and 4 additional species are considered rare or accidental.

This guide will help you identify the species of red birds in South Carolina according to avibase. Some of these birds migrate, and some remain all year.

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You can print out a free bird identification worksheet for South Carolina to help you identify all birds that visit your backyard.

The most common red bird in both summer and winter in South Carolina is the Northern Cardinal. The Painted Bunting and several other species are more commonly seen in summer in South Carolina. Continue reading to find out more about these red birds.

10 Red Birds in South Carolina:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. House Finch
  3. Painted Bunting
  4. Summer Tanager
  5. Purple Finch
  6. Scarlet Tanager
  7. Red Crossbill
  8. Common Redpoll
  9. White-winged Crossbill
  10. Pine Grosbeak

10 Red Birds in South Carolina:

1. Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

Northern Cardinals are very common red birds all year in South Carolina.

The bright red male Northern Cardinal is a bird with a red head, body, and tail, with black around their faces. They are an incredible sight, especially against a white winter background.  The females are also showy with their brown coloring, sharp brown crest, red highlights, and red beaks.

  • Length: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz (42-48 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in (25-31 cm)

Northern Cardinals are found in eastern and southern states and will sometimes attack their reflection during breeding season as they obsessively defend their territories.

You can attract more Northern Cardinals to backyard feeders with sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.

They will feed on large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.

2. House Finch

house finch male

House Finches are residents of South Carolina all year.

House Finches are another bird with a red head and breast in the males and brown-streaked coloring in the females. 

  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)

Originally only in western states, it was introduced to the eastern states and has done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.

They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. They can be found in noisy groups that are hard to miss.

You can attract more House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.

3. Painted Bunting

Painted Buntings can be spotted in South Carolina all year, but they are more commonly seen in the state during summer.

Painted Bunting males are a brightly colored patchwork of color with mostly red coloring underneath and with bright blue heads, green wings, and backs. Females are bright yellow-green.

  • Passerina ciris
  • Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.7 oz (13-19 g)

Painted Bunting breed in a few states, in the south-central and some coastal areas in the Southeast US, before migrating at night to Central America, southern Florida, and some Caribbean islands.

You can find Painted Bunting in semi-open habitats, mainly foraging for seeds and insects in the breeding season.

To attract painted Bunting to your yard, try adding low, dense vegetation, and feeders filled with white millet or black oil sunflower seeds.

4. Summer Tanager

summer tanager

Summer Tanagers can be seen in South Carolina, mainly between April and October.

Summer Tanager males are bright red birds, and females are yellow. 

  • Piranga rubra
  • Length: 6.7 in (17 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1 oz (30 g)

They breed in southern and eastern states before heading to Central and South America for winter.

They are forest songbirds found in open woodlands and feed on bees and wasps in mid-flight. They catch them and kill them by beating them against a branch and rubbing the stinger off before eating them.

You can attract more Summer Tanagers to your backyard with berry bushes and fruit trees.

5. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Purple Finches are fun red birds to spot in South Carolina during winter.

Purple Finches look very similar to House Finch with the reddish-purple head and breast with more brown on the back and wings. 

  • Length: 4.7-6.3 in (12-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-32 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-10.2 in (22-26 cm)

They breed in Canada and overwinter in eastern states but can be found all year in the north-east are Pacific coast.

You can spot them in evergreen forests feeding on seeds and buds, nectar, and berries.

They readily come to feeders for black oil sunflower seeds.

6. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet Tanagers are not very common in South Carolina, but they can be spotted here during summer.

Scarlet Tanagers are bright red birds with black wings and tails. Females are yellow with darker wings and tails.

  • Piranga olivacea
  • Length: 6.3-6.7 in (16-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (23-38 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 in (25-29 cm)

They breed in eastern forests in summer before migrating to South America.

Scarlet Tanagers can be hard to spot as they stay high in the forest canopy. 

You can attract more Scarlet Tanagers by planting berry plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, and chokeberries.

7. Red Crossbill

red crossbill

Red Crossbills are considered an accidental species in South Carolina, but they have been spotted in Kings Mountain National Military Park and Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.

Red Crossbill males are red birds with darker wings and tails. Females are yellow and brown.

They can be found year-round in northern and western states and winter in eastern states.

They feed on conifer seeds and forage in flocks from tree to tree, even breaking unopened cones with their powerful beaks.  As well as coniferous forests, they can be found along roadsides consuming grit in the mornings.

8. Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls are considered an accidental or rare species in South Carolina, but they have been spotted in Horrel Hill and a few others near the West Columbia Riverwalk Park and Amphitheater.

Common Redpolls have red foreheads, pinky breasts, and brown and white over the rest of their bodies.

  • Acanthis flammea
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)

They can be found in winter in northern states and less frequently in central states.

In winter, they will sometimes tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. They can eat up to 42% of their body mass every day and can store up to 2 grams of seeds in a stretchy part of their esophagus.

They can be found in weedy fields or feeding on catkins in trees, but they will also come to feeders for small seeds such as nyjer seeds or thistle.

9. White-winged Crossbill

Male White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbills are an accidental species in South Carolina. They are very rare red birds, and they have only been spotted in Forest Acres. 

White-winged Crossbills are finches with heavy crossed beaks. Males are red birds with black wings and tails and two white wingbars. Females are yellow and brown and with two white wing bars.

  • Loxia leucoptera
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-0.9 oz (24-26 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.2-11.0 in (26-28 cm)

White-winged Crossbills live in forests in Canada, Alaska, and sometimes the northern US states when cone crops are poor further north. They can be found in spruce forests feeding on seeds.

Unusually these birds breed at any time of year as long as there is enough food.

They can often be heard in large flocks. 

10. Pine Grosbeak

pine grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks are considered an accidental species in South Carolina. They are extremely rare, and they have only been spotted once here.

Pine Grosbeaks are a species of finch. The males are red birds with gray on the wings and tail and two white wingbars. Females are gray with dull orange heads and rumps. They are large for finches and relatively slow.

  • Pinicola enucleator
  • Length: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)
  • Wingspan: 13.0 in (33 cm)

Pine Grosbeaks are mostly found in Canada, but some can be spotted along the US border, the mountainous west, and the Sierra Nevada in California.

They live in forests of pine, spruce, and fir, feeding on seeds, fruit, and buds from these trees. They will also eat some insects in the summer.  

You can attract Pine Grosbeaks to black oil sunflower seed feeders or suet feeders.

How Frequently Red birds are Spotted in South Carolina in Summer and Winter

Checklists for the state are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted here. These lists show which red birds are most commonly recorded on checklists for South Carolina on ebird in summer and winter.

Common Red Birds in South Carolina in Summer:

Northern Cardinal 66.6%
House Finch 26.6%
Painted Bunting 15.4%
Summer Tanager 14.6%
Scarlet Tanager 1.9%
Purple Finch <0.1%
Red Crossbill <0.1%
Common Redpoll <0.1%

Common Red Birds in South Carolina in Winter:

Northern Cardinal 58.4%
House Finch 26.3%
Purple Finch 4.5%
Painted Bunting 0.7%
Summer Tanager <0.1%
Red Crossbill <0.1%
White-winged Crossbill <0.1%
Common Redpoll <0.1%