Amazing herons, ibis and egrets grace the cypress swamp aviary at Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens features the only known aviary built atop an actual cypress swamp. Here you can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk while watching magnificent birds feeding and flying in a natural setting: great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, egrets, hooded merganser, white ibis, redhead and wood ducks. Free with general admission ($12 adults, $10 seniors, $6 children 4-12), which is good for 7 consecutive days.

Great blue herons live along coastlines, in marshes, and near the shores of ponds and streams. They are expert fishers.

The largest Lowcountry bird wading in fresh water marshes

The Great Blue Heron is the black waters king of the South Carolina Lowcountry

Herons stand still for long periods of time waiting for fish to come near their sharp bills. They kill their prey with a quick thrust and then swallow it whole. Some have been known to choke to death attempting to swallow fish too large for their S-shaped necks!

The great blue is the largest heron in North America with an average wingspan of 6 feet. They can cruise at some 20 to 30 miles an hour.

Though great blue herons hunt alone, they typically nest in colonies. Females produce two to seven eggs, which both parents protect and incubate. Chicks can survive on their own at two months of age.

Blue herons are very sensitive to human intrusion and will often abandon the nest if disturbed.

Great egrets are found near water and feed in wetlands, streams, ponds, tidal flats, and other areas. They mainly feeds on fish but can also eat frogs, snakes and small mammals.

Large freshwater marsh birds near Myrtle Beach

The Queen of the Cypress Swamp


Great egrets nest in trees, near water and gather in colonies. They are monogamous, and both parents incubate their three to four eggs. Young egrets are aggressive towards one another in the nest, and stronger siblings often kill the weaker chicks.

Did you know? The great egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society. During much of 19th century they were almost completely wiped out, being hunted for their magnificent white feathers. Today, the great egrets population has recovered significantly while under legal protection for more than a century.

The white ibis has reddish beak and legs. It wades in shallow water feeding on crabs and crustaceans. The white ibis lives in huge colonies, some as large as 50,000 birds! Nests are built by both parents with materials usually stolen from other birds’ nests. The male brings the materials while the female is the one constructing the nest. The young are cared for by both parents until fledged, at about 4 weeks of age.

Bird watching at its best at Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach

What you got there? The heron is stalking the white ibis trying to steal its catch...

The black crowned night heron is one of the most common herons in the world. It can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They are short-legged and stocky birds that inhabit freshwater swamps and marshes. The black crowned night heron is mostly active at night. They feed on small fish, invertebrates, amphibians and mice. Like all herons, they are very social birds and live in colonies.

Social nocturnal heron live well at Brookgreen Gardens

The smaller but feistier black crowned heron

This exhibit opened in 1977 and it was the first aviary habitat built on an actual cypress swamp.

Bird watching in the cypress swamp

This is my house!

The tallest center poll is anchored 70 feet into the grounds and extends 90 feet into the air. The Cypress Aviary exhibit withstood many hurricanes including Hugo.

Swamps are forest wetlands. They act like a sponge, filtering pollutants out of the water.

The water looks black because of tannins that come from decomposing plants and some plant roots. Waccamaw River which supplies water to this swamp is considered a “black water” river.

The plants in swamps have special adaptations that enable them to tolerate high water levels. Some of the swamp trees featured in this exhibit include Tupelo, Gum, Red Maple and Bald Cypress.

Make sure to see the rare farm animals and the daily live wildlife demonstration at the Lowcountry Center.

Here is a list of fun activities kids can enjoy around Myrtle Beach for about $10 or less.

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It’s a Zoo! Come see Brookgreen Gardens’ native wildlife and rare farm breeds

Brookgreen Gardens is most famous for its exquisite collection of American sculptures and lavish gardens. They are also great preservation stewards of native wildlife and rare farm animal breeds. Here foxes, alligators, deer, wild turkeys, river otters and many wading birds live in a natural habitat. At the farm you can enjoy seeing (and sometimes pet) unusual types of horses, cows, sheep and fowls. The breeds were brought to South Carolina from Europe and Africa as early as 1500s!

Highligts from the Lowcountry Zoo and farm (data from the exhibits)
Foxy ladies! The gray fox is the only native fox in North America. The red fox was brought here by Europeans in the 1700s to continue their royal fox hunt tradition. Did you know?

Wild native foxes at Brookgreen Gardens Zoo

The gray fox is the only fox that can climb trees


• Gray foxes can climb trees, which is a great advantage when trying to escape predators such as the coyotes.

• Gray foxes are often mistaken as red foxes. However they are smaller, mostly gray and have a black tip tail. Red foxes are bright red-orange and have a white tip tail.

• Gray foxes are omnivores.

• Red foxes mate for life.

You can always count on the river otters to put a smile on your face. They are playful, funny, cute and may even pose for you! What else can you ask for?

Funny aquatic mammals Brookgreen Gardens

Playful otters are very fun to watch at Brookgreen Gardens

Marsh Tacky horses, Red Devon cows, Tunis sheep and Guinea fowls
Marsh tacky were brought to America by Spanish settlers in the 1500s. They are closely related to the Bankers ponies of the North Carolina Outer Banks and the Cracker horses in Florida.

Marsh tacky Outer Banks ponies Cracker Florida horses

Marsh Tacky horses used by Marion Francis troops in the American Revolution


Marsh tacky horses have narrow shoulders, a sloped rump, a striped down back and a mellow disposition.

Being short and steady on their feet, and with large heart and stamina, they can maneuver swamp terrain without panicking or getting stuck in the mud.

That’s why the “Swamp Fox” General chose them for his soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The Gullah also used them to plow fields and carry heavy loads. Today they are fewer than 250 pure Marsh Tacky horses.

The first Red Devons arrived in America in 1623. The sturdy and docile cattle were used on plantation as food for their meat and milk, and as oxen to plow fields and haul wagons. Both male and female grow horns.

Rare cow breed Brookgreen Gardens animals

The Red Devon, one of the rarest cow breeds in North America

Tunis sheep were brought here from Africa in 1799. They produce very good meat and remarkable long wool. The lambs are reddish at birth and turn white as they grow. Tunis sheep are very tolerant to heat.

Rare breed of sheep at Brookgreen Gardens

African Tunis Sheep brought to America in 1799

The Guinea fowl originated in sub Saharan Africa. They were kept on plantation for meat. As wild birds they were allowed to roam freely and roost over night in trees to escape predators. They forage well for themselves and are tolerant to heat.

There are more fun kids things to do inside the Lowcountry Center and the Children’s Discovery room (free with garden admission).

Brookgreen Gardens admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors and $6 children 4-12 ($1 off coupon in most travel brochures). Tickets are valid for 7 consecutive days. Call (843) 235-6000 for more info. Open daily 9:30AM to 5PM.