Skeeter Hawks – the unofficial South Carolina State Bird

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By Lee Scott

Early last year before we moved to Beaufort, we docked our boat at a South Carolina marina. We went up to the restaurant and sat at the bar where we met a remarkable bartender named Bill. Although I believe he pronounced it Beel as in “Hi, I’m Beel.” We got to talking to Bill and when we were preparing to return to the boat Bill said, “Watch out for them Skeeter Hawks!” I stopped, turned around and asked “Skeeter Hawks”?

“Yup, those Skeeter Hawks are the South Carolina State Bird. They’ll swarm down on you and cover you with bites. Why they can even pick up a little dog and carry him off.”

I looked at the waitress walking by and she said calmly, “I have some complimentary insect repellant right there next to the door.” It was then I recalled a visit with my daughter who was a young freshman at the College of Charleston. From the time I got out of the car to the time I got into her Dorm, I had four welts on my arms. When she saw me she pulled out some Off insect wipes and said that she carried them all the time.

The truth is that most time you don’t have to worry about the Skeeter Hawks. When the wind is blowing, they just keep moving, but when the air is stagnant, that is when they get you. Even my husband will now reach for my Skin so Soft when he is working out in the yard. I used to complain that the insect only liked my soft skin, but they have attacked his leather skin too.

But it turns out that Bill was actually wrong. First of all Skeeter Hawks are non-stinging insects that actually eat mosquitos. So we should like them. Second, in 1948 the Great Carolina Wren became the official South Carolina State Bird and it also eats lots of insects. But the picturesque description of the Skeeter Hawk, as provided by Bill, is now in our nomenclature. When company from the north come we have our cans of Off, Skin so Soft and other insect repellants for them to use. We also caution them when walking their dogs. One never knows when a Skeeter Hawk might fly down and pick up little Toto.