Wild birds are among the world’s most illuminating sentinel species. Birds are numerous, conspicuous, diverse, widespread, and particularly sensitive to environmental changes. The status of wild bird populations directly reflects the overall condition of our ecosystem and biodiversity as a whole. Environmental issues that impact wild bird populations often have potential human health implications as well making the study of these populations increasingly relevant and critical to our own sustainability.
Founded out of an acute awareness for the need of an avian conservation center in South Carolina, the Charleston Raptor Center was formally incorporated as a 501(c)3 organization in September 1991. The Center’s name was changed to the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey in 1995 to better reflect an expanded scope of programs and services. With continued growth and reach, the Avian Conservation Center was established in 2004 as an “umbrella” organization to accommodate distinctive educational, medical, scientific and conservation disciplines within the organization. These operating divisions are: the Center for Birds of Prey; the Avian Medical Center; and the South Carolina Oil Spill Treatment Facility.
The Avian Conservation Center’s medical clinic operates 365 days a year with support from more than 60 trained and dedicated Volunteer Staff members. This state-of-the-art medical facility treats more than 600 injured birds of prey and shorebirds each year. Since its founding, the Center has admitted over 7,000 birds for treatment and release.
The SC Oil Spill Treatment Facility is among the most distinctive facilities housed at the Avian Conservation Center. In 2005 U.S. Fish and Wildlife and South Carolina DNR awarded the Center a $1.8 million grant for the construction of the 3,500 square foot facility, which remains the only permanent oil spill treatment center of its kind on the eastern seaboard.
Research and field studies combine with the objectives of the medical and educational programs to support the protection of wild bird populations and their habitat.
The Center has led and participated in groundbreaking scientific research on avian genetics and environmental hazards, including an ongoing study of endangered and threatened species in South Carolina such as the Swallow-tailed kite. The Center’s work is well known in connection with environmental threats like the emergence of avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM) among eagles and other birds, and poisoning from unregulated landfill substances.
A “citizen science” approach to a number of initiatives allows the public to become active contributors to wildlife conservation and to raise public awareness of vital ecological issues. Citizen-science programs carry the additional bonus of raising public awareness about ecological issues, educating the public about species of concern and their associated habitats, and allowing the public to become actively engaged supporters of wildlife conservation.