Avian Conservation Center

aka The Center for Birds of Prey   |   Charleston, SC   |  http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/


The mission of the Avian Conservation Center is to identify and address vital environmental issues by providing medical care for injured birds of prey and shorebirds, and through educational, research and conservation initiatives.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Mr. James D. Elliott Jr.

Main address

P.O. Box 1247

Charleston, SC 29402 USA

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Formerly known as

Charleston Raptor Center

South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey



NTEE code info

Bird Sanctuary/Preserve (D32)

Biological, Life Science Research includes Marine Biology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Biotechnology, etc.) (U50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Avian Medicine

Birds of prey populations are globally recognized as indicators of the overall health of the ecosystem, making their preservation a vital part of any conservation efforts. Each year thousands of birds are injured due primarily to some type of human interaction. The professional treatment of injured birds is a source of incomparable insight into critical environmental issues.

The Center’s Avian Medical Clinic currently treats more than 900 injured birds of prey and shorebirds each year, releasing those rehabilitated back into their natural habitat. Refined medical procedures and protocols, and time-proven systems for transporting, receiving, and admitting injured birds are in place.

The medical functions of the Center operate on a 365-day/24-hour basis. Injured birds are admitted from a continually widening geographical area, including beyond South Carolina borders. Current and future medical procedures and standards will always maintain the most advanced and sophisticated levels available to avian medicine. Formal internships and workshops for students, educators, veterinarians, wildlife agencies, and other participants offer unique, hands-on learning opportunities.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The grounds of the Center are designed as a campus. The public portion is dedicated to educational activities and designed as a garden setting in the Charleston tradition. The educational site is pedestrian only, where visitors and students follow natural paths accentuated with subtle interpretive signage and attractive aviaries housing more than 50 species of eagles, falcons, owls, and other birds of prey from all parts of the world. The site includes open flying fields where birds can be observed in free flight, demonstrating the unique adaptations and characteristics of birds of prey. The ability to engage an audience in this dramatic and compelling format represents an unexcelled educational opportunity that fosters a genuine appreciation for birds of prey and concern for the diminishing habitat upon which they depend.

Over 400 indoor and outdoor educational programs are conducted for the visiting public and scheduled specifically for other groups throughout the year. The Center’s educational staff regularly engage individual and group visitors in natural history presentations that stimulate interest and learning. The Center continues to offer off-site programs when requested on a statewide basis.

The Center has placed particular emphasis on the development of educational opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. These students will be exposed to unique experiential courses in addition to formal, multi-disciplinary internships. The rare opportunity to access a significant number of captive birds offers distinctive study possibilities in comparative behavior, morphology, physiology, and other subjects. Student and faculty interaction with captive birds will undoubtedly create avenues and enthusiasm for undertaking independent research projects. The regular observation of captive birds can also be used effectively to augment field studies.

The Center hosts guest researchers, biologists, teachers, and students involved in relevant areas of study. The comprehensive facilities and experience levels inherent in the Center’s work represent a unique and valuable learning and research opportunity in the fields of science and conservation.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

In January 1999 the Star Evviva, a cargo ship of Norwegian registry, spilled nearly 24,000 gallons of fuel oil 30 to 50 miles off the coast of Charleston. It is considered the largest offshore oil spill in South Carolina history. Between January 16, 1999 and February 10, 1999, a total of 194 oiled birds washed ashore from Folly Beach, SC to Topsail Beach, NC. Of the 194 birds retrieved, only six survived. Total bird mortality attributable to the spill was likely substantially greater due to sinking, scavenging, or loss of carcasses to winds and currents.

Restoration funds for injuries to natural resources from the spill were recovered under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and are solely for use as agreed by the Federal and State Trustees to pay costs incurred for restoring, rehabilitating, replacing or acquiring the equivalent of the natural resources injured by the spill.

Through a $1.8M grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the SC Department of Natural Resources, the Avian Conservation Center planned, designed and constructed a state-of-the-art combined use Avian Medical Center/ Oiled Bird Treatment Facility. The only one of its kind on the East Coast, this new 7,000 square foot facility positions South Carolina to serve as a model in creating awareness of and preparation for the impacts of an oil spill.

The capacity to professionally treat oiled birds in the new facility is unique and exemplary. In addition to being the only facility on the East coast available for that purpose, the medical and response facility has a second, equally significant role: that of awareness, education, and training. In this role the Center will serve as a primary source of information and instruction in the proactive approach to addressing the threats and implementing all possible safeguards associated with an oil spill impact in South Carolina. The Center hosts training and informational sessions for nearly 100 participants including representatives from each agency and organization involved in managing an oil spill response. The Center sponsored a team of West coast experts from UC Davis, the International Bird Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network to conduct the first of these groundbreaking instructional sessions.

The newly constructed facility represents an unprecedented opportunity for the coastal community of South Carolina to initiate a model program to protect and sustain the vital economic, environmental and social assets that define the quality of life for all citizens.

Population(s) Served

The Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) is a conspicuous breeding resident of the South Carolina Coastal plain (SCCP). With striking black and white plumage and astonishing aerial grace, kites are often noted soaring over river edges and agricultural fields. This raptor occupies bottomland hardwood swamps and lowland forests along the South Carolina coastline from mid-March to August each year.

Since the mid-1800’s, kites have suffered extensive breeding range reduction in North America. Historically, they nested throughout Florida, along the South Carolina and Georgia Coastal Plain, and along the Mississippi River valley and its drainages northward to Minnesota. The population experienced a severe decline between 1880 and 1940 due primarily to recreational shooting and habitat alteration such as agricultural development and logging of bottomland forest.

Currently the SCCP represents the northernmost extent of the kite’s breeding range. Swallow-tailed Kites in South Carolina may be vulnerable to factors that threaten small gregarious populations, such as environmental alterations and inbreeding depression.

In 1998 the Center initiated a long-term citizen science survey, which continues today, to monitor the kite’s population, determine status of nests, and monitor breeding pairs in South Carolina. The Center engages the public in a citizen science program each year to report sightings of this species to an online regional database which holds more than 20 years of data. Technology has offered some exciting opportunities in past surveys, both for reduction of labor and exposure to new information. Radio transmitters, coupled with direction finding receivers, have remotely tracked birds. Global positioning systems, and the application of geographic information systems technology, permit even finer resolution of the species’ behavior.

This work is an expansion of individual ongoing studies in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. These regional efforts are instrumental in addressing population-level questions about breeding ecology and post-breeding dispersal of Swallow-tailed Kites. The answers to these questions are fundamental to assessing conservation needs of the North American population.

Population(s) Served

The South Carolina Coastal Raptor Migration Survey began in the fall of 1995 and included 11 sites covering the more than 100 miles of South Carolina coast. Over the next few years the number of sites was narrowed, based on activity levels, to Tibwin (just north of the Center for Birds of Prey). Due to its close proximity the count site shifted to a hacking box on Driftwood Plantation before permanently being moved the campus of the Avian Conservation Center.

The recent addition of the Santee Cooper Observation Platform creates a highly accessible and effective count site. This site is also the only location that utilizes marine radar to assist with raptor migration counts. The survey is conducted seven days a week, 10am-1pm, from September 1st through November 30th. This count focuses on raptor species with notable sightings including large numbers of bald eagles, osprey, and turkey vultures as well as a variety of buteos, accipiters and falcons.

In the fall of 2012 the Avian Conservation Centre began exploring the use of modified marine radar to detect migrating raptors. The radar – called BIRDRAD – was developed by Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux at Clemson University and used in his studies of bird migration. The modification involved replacing the original radar antenna (T-bar design) with a parabolic dish that projected a narrow, conical radar beam (2.5 degrees). The antenna was mounted on the transmitter/receiver and connected by cables to the radar black box (containing the electronics) mounted in a utility trailer. The radar display is viewed with a computer and can be recorded.

Because the radar detects migrating raptors before ground based observers can see them, the radar display will be transmitted to a bright screen video display on the platform and used to cue the observers where to look for approaching raptors. Preliminary results from this technology are promising and offer positive results from its use. The Center is currently the only known site in North America to routinely use radar to assist in an annual raptor migration survey. All survey data is compiled and shared with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) as part of an international migration survey database. HMANA makes this data available to the public and can be viewed online at https://hawkcount.org/siteinfo.php?r=on&rsite=656&go=Go+To+Hawkwatch+Profile.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


Wildlife Conservation Award 1998

South Carolina Wildlife Federation

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Suggestion box/email, Online reviews,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback,


Avian Conservation Center

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Avian Conservation Center

Board of directors
as of 04/02/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mrs. Katie Simmons

Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP

Ivan Anderson

Compass Rose Business Finance and Equity

Carolyn Dietrich

Retired, Wild Dunes

V. McKoy, Jr.

The Prince Company

Susan Sanders

Retired, The Post & Courier Foundation

Katie Simmons

Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP

Audrey Glick

Ohio Wildlife Center

Peter Lehman

Peter McKellar IV

Harbor Contracting, Inc.

John Powell

Southeastern Wildlife Exposition

Christy Taucher

Leigh Wilkes

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/5/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 02/05/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.