Yawkey Wildlife Center

  • Nature, Animals & Parks
  • 1976

Almost exactly midway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston in South Carolina is a 24,000-acre beachfront refuge and resting spot considered one of the best in North America—but for transient birds rather than humans. The Yawkey Wildlife Center is a mix of marsh, pine forest, and beach that supports 200 species of birds, rivaling almost any spot in North America for its variety and rarity of migrating and resident species. An unusual number of raptors—hawks, ospreys, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles—frequent the area to nest, feed, or recuperate during migration. The undisturbed beaches provide protected feeding and resting areas for the brown pelican, least terns, the threatened piping plover, and many other sea birds, as well as excellent egg-laying locations for the threatened loggerhead turtle. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker also inhabits the longleaf pine uplands of the preserve.

Considered a major gift to U.S. wildlife conservation, the center was willed to the people of the state of South Carolina in 1976, along with an endowment to support its upkeep and improvement, by the late Tom Yawkey, longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox. He had hunted and fished the land throughout his life, but in the middle of the twentieth century he became concerned that the waterfowl population was declining. Yawkey stopped hunting the birds and started manipulating the marshes on his property to produce more of their main food sources. It worked. Today a quarter of a million birds live on the property every spring.