History timeline

Founded as Charleston Raptor Center in 1991, the Center's name was changed to South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey in 1995 to better reflect the expanded scope of programs and services. With continued growth and program expansion, the Avian Conservaton Center was established in 2004 as an "umbrella" organization to accommodate distinctive educational, medical, scientific and conservation divisions within the organization. These initiatives are: The Center for Birds of Prey; the Avian Medical Center; and the Oil Spill Treatment Facility. Education, conservation, research and medical/rehabilatitive care remain the primary areas of the Center's work.

In 2002, Charleston attorney Joseph F. Rice became concerned about the increasing pressures imposed upon wildlife and natural habitat areas by rapidly expanding development. In response, the Rice family generously donated 152 acres in Charleston County as the future site of the Avian Conservation Center.

Following this generous gift, a $9.3 million capital campaign was launched to fund the expansion. Thanks to support from individuals, corporate sponsors and foundations, the initial phase of the campaign was completed, representing more than 60% of the total. Phase II design and construction are ongoing. 

Executive Director and Founder Jim Elliott establishes in his home the Charleston Raptor Center; initially solely an avian medical clinic.

Annual caseload of injured birds exceeds 100, necessitating the Center’s first full-time professional staff member. To further aid the growing organization, the Volunteer Staff program is launched.

A full-time educator is added to the staff and begins offering educational programs on the importance of healthy raptor populations in the natural ecosystem.

The annual caseload of injured birds more than triples, reaching more than 350 birds in 2001. A search is launched for a location that will accommodate the expanding Center.

The family of Charleston Attorney Joe Rice donates a 152-acre tract in Awendaw, South Carolina. Work begins on the master plan. Site clearing, road improvements and utilities are installed.

The Avian Conservation Center is established as an umbrella corporate entity to accommodate distinct scientific, educational and conservation initiatives.

Construction on 18 display aviaries is completed.

The Center is awarded a $1.8 million grant from U.S. Fish & Wildlife and S.C. DNR for development and construction of the Oiled Bird Treatment Facility.

The Center is awarded a $500,000 grant from Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation for the construction of The Countess Alicia Paolozzi Owl Wood.

All administrative, medical and educational operations are consolidated on-site.

An internship program is established and hosts its first four education interns and two medical interns.

Center hosts the Vulture Toxicity Study (May – July 2007) in partnership with U.S. Geological Survey/Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge & British Society for the Preservation of Birds.

Center establishes the Animal Care & Use Committee with accompanying policies and procedures to define the Center’s ethical standards and protocols for dealing with live animals in research. 

Construction of the Avian Medical Center and the Oiled Bird Treatment Facility is completed.

Center hosts area-wide oiled-bird response training session for relevant agency representatives with training provided by the University of California Davis/Oiled Wildlife Care Network/International Bird Rescue & Rehabilitation Center.

Construction on The Countess Alicia Paolozzi Owl Wood is completed.

Center opens to the public for educational programs and flight demonstrations three days each week.


  • 2001 recipient of the SouthCarolina Environmental Awareness Award recognizing outstanding contributions toward the protection, conservation and protection of South Carolina's natural resources. 

  • 2005 recipient of the SCANPO
  • "Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management."
  • Provided medical care for more than 6,000 birds of prey. Currently treat more than 500 birds each year, releasing the majority back to their natural habitat. 

  • Established cooperative avian genetics studies. Research published in the
  • Journal of Raptor Research in 1998.
  • Initiated American Swallow-tailed Kite study to monitor kite population, and determine status of nests and breeding pairs in South Carolina. Center plays leadership role in national Swallow-tailed Kite Conservation Alliance.
  • Initiated South Carolina Coastal Hawk Migration Survey (SCCHMS) and established observation points along the South Carolina coastline from Georgetown to Hilton Head Island.
  • Established the Wildlife Toxicity Working Group to investigate secondary barbiturate poisoning of Bald Eagles in public landfills.
  • Partnered with New York City Parks & Recreation and BP Amoco to oversee NYC Bald Eagle Reintroduction Project 2005-2006.
  • 2007: Participated in research article titled
  • "Mercury Concentrations in Tissues of Osprey from the Carolinas, USA," Journal of Wildlife Management (William A. Hopkins, Lara B. Hopkins, Jason M. Unrine, Joel Snodgrass, James D. Elliott, Jr.).
  • 2008: Participated in research article titled
  • "Apparent Tolerance of Turkey Vultures to the Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug Diclofenac," Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry Journal (SETAC), (Barnett A. Rattner, Maria A. Whitehead, Grace Gasper, Carol Meteyer, William A. Link, Mark A. Taggart, Andrew A. Mehang, Oliver H. Pattee, Deborah J. Pain).

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Upcoming Events


Upcoming Closures

  • Thursday, November 26 - Closed for Thanksgiving

  • Thursday & Friday, December 24 & 25 - Closed for Christmas

  • Friday, January 1 - Closed for New Year's Day

  • Thursday, Friday & Saturday, February 11-13 - Closed for Southeastern Wildlife Expo

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Hours & Location

The Center for Birds of Prey
4719 Highway 17N
Awendaw, SC 29429
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We are Open to the Public
Thurs. – Sat.: 10a.m. – 5p.m.
Tour Times: 10:30a.m. & 2:00p.m.

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or call (800) 979-3370

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1247
Charleston, SC 29402

Phone: 843.971.7474
Fax: 843.971.7029