Santee NWR has 296 bird species recorded and is known for its bird life. Hundreds of birders, both avid and novice birderwatchers, visit the refuge throughout the year. Spring and Fall migrations are popular as is the annual Christmas Bird Count. Excellent birding opportunities exist on all four units of the refuge.
During the spring and summer months, a myriad of songbirds, raptors, and wading birds are abundant. Many are nesting and raising young. Look for raptors like Osprey, Mississippi kites, and harrier hawks. Neo-tropical songbirds have returned and Painted and Indigo buntings, Summer tanagers and Prothonotary warblers are sighted. Fall and winter bring Canada geese and many waterfowl species to the refuge. Gadwall, wigeon, blue and green-winged teal, shoveler, bufflehead, merganser and pintail are likely to be sighted as well as several other duck species. Bald eagles, Wood ducks, herons and egrets, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, and several species of woodpeckers may be sighted at any time of year.
The Wrights Bluff Nature Trail and Dingle Pond trail are excellent for birding as is the four-mile loop trail on Pine Island. Bird life on the Cuddo Unit is abundant and, the 7.5 mile auto tour route affords visitors the opportunity to birdwatch from their vehicles.
Binoculars, spotting scopes, and field guides are highly recommended. Didn't bring any equipment? The refuge has a "loaner" backpack with binoculars and field guide for your use, which you can pick up at the Visitor Center. Dress for the weather and bring insect repellent.