Soar through the captivating world of birds of prey in the Carolinas! From the SkyWatch Bird Center to the Avian Conservation Center, we're taking a birds-eye view of the fascinating stories and conservation efforts behind raptors centers — vital organizations in the Carolinas.
Avian Conservation Center
Previously referred to as the Center for Birds of Prey, the recently renamed Avian Conservation Center is a nonprofit whose 152 acres are home to many raptor species including eagles, owls, falcons, and vultures. These aerial wonders serve as vital indicators of environmental health, reflecting the delicate balance of biodiversity.
The Charleston Raptor Center was born from a fervent dedication to avian conservation in South Carolina. Renamed the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, its expansion in 1995 broadened its scope, including the establishment of the Avian Conservation Center in 2004. Within its wings, the Center nurtures wounded avians, treating over 15,000 since inception. Its pioneering Oil Spill Treatment Facility stands as a beacon of hope, safeguarding Eastern seaboard birds.
Through groundbreaking research and citizen-science collaborations, the Center not only protects endangered species like the swallow-tailed kite but also raises awareness about pressing environmental threats, ensuring a harmonious coexistence with our feathered friends.
The Aviation Conservation Center is one of the best raptors centers in the Carolinas, home to 110 resident educational birds representing 50 species from around the world. This makes it one of the largest and most diverse raptors centers in North North America, and includes rare species such as the Brown Wood Owl (native to Asia). Most visitors will travel to the Center for the weekly flight demonstration program, offered in the Center for Birds of Prey outdoor amphitheater.
Currently, the Avian Conservation Center offers flight demonstrations every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings from 10:30-11:30 AM.
Not only can visitors enjoy the thrill of these birds free-flying overhead at the raptors centers, but they also have the opportunity to see the birds up close and learn more about them. Each demonstration includes five different birds which can vary by season or even daily. Staff at the Center say that the flight demonstration is typically the highlight of everyone's visit.
Visitors can also enjoy the observation deck (if you visit in the fall don’t miss your chance to view the hawk migration), the Vulture Restaurant (a large field where leftover food is put out for the vultures to eat), and the gift shop. The site is also home to a medical center which treats injured birds, but the medical clinic is closed to the public.
Techies will be excited to down-load the Center for Birds of Prey app, which is available for both Android and iPhone. This app provides information about the animals living at the site while giving users detailed directions about where to find each bird in the Center. Consider it a thorough map of the raptors centers layout to help you and your family get the best experience possible during your visit.
The Center for Birds of Prey also livestreams from their Facebook page, so families that want to keep tabs on what’s happening with the birds after their visit may want to tune in for more educational opportunities.
Adult tickets are $25
Youth (3-17) tickets are $17
Youth (under 3) tickets are free
Senior (65+) tickets are $23
Up to 75 people can sign up for a virtually guided tour to watch these apex predators in action. Tours are available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m
Address: 4719 Hwy 17 N., Awendaw, SC 29429
Phone: (843) 971-7474
SkyWatch Bird Rescue
If your family is interested in visiting a raptor center in NC, plan a trip to the coast and stop by the SkyWatch Bird Center. This rehabilitation center heals thousands of birds each year on its 10 acres. While SkyWatch is not limited to just birds of prey, there is a heavy emphasis on raptors thanks to a formal partnership formed in 2021 with the Cape Fear Raptor Center.
The Cape Fear Raptor Center is a rehabilitation site that helps injured birds heal and provides informative programs for visitors. Animals that are housed in the Center undergo hospitalization, diagnostic imaging, and even surgical procedures when necessary. After the birds have healed, the Cape Fear Raptor Center provides flight conditioning for them, eventually returning the animals to the wild when they make a complete recovery.
For the current visitation schedule, check out the SkyWatch Facebook Events page. Current operational hours are 9 AM to 9 PM daily for patient and donation drop-off only. As of January 24, 2024, SkyWatch Bird Rescue will be closed to the public — check their Facebook page or website for an announcement about reopening for walkthroughs .
Admission to SkyWatch is just $5, and kids younger than 3 don’t need a ticket. Kids will have a great time feeding the birds on the premises. In fact, SkyWatch encourages them to bring lettuce and grapes so they can feed the animals a delicious, healthy snack during their visit! While the raptors are sure to hold your attention, you’ll also find donkeys, emus, and a goat on site!
Address: 3600 Lynn Ave. Castle Hayne, NC 28429
Phone: (855) 407-3728
Carolina Raptor Center
The Carolina Raptor Center is a bird raptors centers for rehabilitation just north of Charlotte. Here, visitors can walk the Raptor Trail, a path that’s about a mile long and features dozens of raptor species. The tour is self-guided, but you can use their Birds Inspire app to learn more about the birds that live here. Three programs are available, including the Fly By, Keeper Chat, and Meet a Raptor.
In Fly By, visitors experience the rush of a free-flying bird showing off its flight tricks and speed (15 minutes)
Keeper Chat topics vary by day and involve an avian ambassador or hospital team member on site to answer questions (20 minutes)
Meet a Raptor: Discover illuminating raptor insights with raptor encounter; seated and appropriate for all ages (20 minutes)
Admission to the Carolina Raptor Center:
- Ages 23-65: $16
- Ages 13-22: $14
- Ages 3-13: $12
- Under age 3: FREE
- Seniors (65+), Military, Teacher, Student: $14
Free admission for a family of four for individuals participating in SNAP/EBT or WIC.
Raptor Center Hours:
- March to October: 7 days/week
- November to February: Wednesday to Sunday
- Raptor Trail hours: 10 AM to 4 PM
Address: 6000 Sample Rd., Huntersville, NC 28078
Phone: (704) 875-6521
Raptors Centers: Know Before You Go
Ready to set out on your raptor adventure? Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be getting lots of walking in as you glimpse each of the birds. Dress in layers so you can be prepared for both the indoor and outdoor temperatures, as these centers typically feature both indoor and outdoor activities.
Book your family travel plans in advance to ensure you get the time slots you prefer. School groups occasionally visit the centers so you’ll want to secure your spot early when visiting during the school year.