South Dakota’s diversified landscape supports a diversity of habitats and approximately 400 species of birds, ranging from rolling hills and prairie marshes and lakes to sky-piercing granite peaks and lush alpine meadows. In 1943, South Dakota made the Chinese ring-necked pheasant its official state bird.
Birds of South Dakota is a collection of species found in the United States of America’s state of South Dakota and recognized by the South Dakota Ornithologists’ Union (SDOU). As of October 2020, the official list contained 438 species. There are 66 classified as accidental, 20 classified as casual, four classified as hypothetical (see below), and eight classified as introduced to North America.
In this essay, we’ll look at some of the most easily identifiable and well-known birds in South Dakota, with an emphasis on those found close to home.
South Dakota of prey
This secret South Dakota treasure got its name from the hawks, eagles, and other raptors (birds of prey) who frequent the route throughout the winter months.
The 175-mile course passes through sections of open grassland with few trees. That presents no difficulty for birds who prefer to perch on fenceposts, power poles, and the rare tree.
On many days, a keen eye will spot up to 50 raptor sightings. Owls, especially the elusive Snowy Owl, are commonly seen, as is a bald eagle perched feet above fields of white snow.
Other photographs of these birds of prey are available below.
Eagles in South Dakota
An eagle is any bird of prey that is more powerful than a buteo. While an eagle’s structure and flight characteristics are similar to those of a vulture, it has a fully feathered (sometimes crested) head and strong feet armed with enormous curved talons.
For a long period of time, the state of South Dakota was devoid of Eagles. That all changed roughly 30 years ago when reports of the bird along the Missouri River began to circulate.
Learn more about the Eagles in South Dakota by clicking here.
Owls in South Dakota
Typical owls range in size from little to huge nocturnal birds of prey. They feature huge forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak, and a prominent feathered circle called a face disk around each eye. In South Dakota, twelve species have been identified.
South Dakota, dubbed Mount Rushmore State, is recognized for its breathtaking landscapes and fauna. It’s unsurprising that it’s frequently referred to as “the land of limitless variation.”
The north-central state, which is evenly divided into four diverse geographical zones, has a little bit of everything! With all of this diversity, South Dakota is an ideal habitat for a particular species of stealthy raptor: the owl!
Finches of South Dakota
Finches are seed-eating passerine birds that range in size from small to somewhat large. They have a powerful beak that is normally conical in shape but can grow to be quite enormous in some species. Each species has twelve tail feathers and nine primary feathers.
These birds fly with a bounce, alternating between bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and the majority sing beautifully. South Dakota is home to fourteen species.
The following is a list of finches found in South Dakota.
Hummingbirds of South Dakota
South Dakota, dubbed The Mount Rushmore State, is “home” to one of the state’s nine hummingbird species, the Ruby-throated hummingbird.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only species that breed, nest, and raise their young in South Dakota, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
While it’s natural to believe that all hummingbirds are the same when we only see them as a jewel-toned flash of color zipping around our hanging flowers and porches, they have a variety of temperaments, nesting patterns, and colors, and inhabit a variety of geographical regions.
Hummingbirds are known to dwell within specifically established ranges, either as year-round residents or as migratory species.
Backyard birds of South Dakota
Therefore, if you’re ready to go backyard birding in South Dakota, continue reading to learn how to recognize birds and attract additional birds to your yard.
The state of South Dakota is home to a variety of bird species. It is home to around 410 different bird species. Birds of South Dakota range from the more common American Robin to the less common Bell’s Vireo.
Best Birdwatching Spots in South Dakota
South Dakota is home to an abundance of birding possibilities spread over astonishing diversity of landscapes. While the majority of the state is grassland or was once grassland converted to crops and livestock, hills, vast reservoirs, and forested parts provide variety.
South Dakota offers six national parks, two national forests, three national grasslands, six national wildlife refuges, and 56 state parks that all provide good opportunities to observe birds in their native habitats.
- Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
- Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge
- Badlands National Park
- Oahe Downstream Recreation Area
- Oakwood Lakes State Park
Other South Dakota birds
This section describes the common birds found in and around South Dakota.
If you have encountered a bird in South Dakota that is not yet on our list or that you cannot identify yourself, we’ll be happy to identify it for you. Simply take a picture of it and upload your picture, a quick description and the U.S. state where it was found here on our bird identification page.