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Birding in South Dakota
South Dakota’s diverse terrain, from rolling hills to sky-piercing granite peaks to lush mountain meadows and prairie marshes and lakes, is home to nearly 400 species of birds.
Our unique combination of landscapes and diversity of bird species is stunning – perfect for the bird watching enthusiast. Our parks and natural areas showcase both rare and common birds. Experience our abundant populations of waterfowl. Spot endangered species like the bald eagle, peregrine falcon or whooping crane. Encounter burrowing owls in their wild, natural habitat.
South Dakota is truly a birder’s paradise.
Glacial Lakes and Prairies Birding Trail
Northeastern South Dakota’s geologic history has created a wonderful habitat for birds. Hundreds of large and small pothole lakes were formed when glaciers receded 10,000 years ago. Here you will find one of the most productive waterfowl breeding areas in North America. There are also deciduous and coniferous woodlands and numerous marshes and wetlands where you can see woodland songbirds, marsh birds, shorebirds and raptors. Situated on the overlapping Central and Mississippi migratory flyways, the area also hosts millions of migrating birds each spring and fall.
Great Lakes Birding Trail
The area around central South Dakota's "great lakes," named for three huge reservoirs created by dams on the Missouri River, is home to at least 322 bird species, 164 of which are breeding species. On the east side of the river, the birding trail runs through gently rolling, glacially-scoured land and passes by small, glacially-formed pothole lakes and isolated woodlands and wetlands. On the west side of the river, mixed grass prairie predominates. On both sides, at the river breaks, you'll find high bluffs, steep draws filled with cedars and deciduous trees and shrubs, cottonwood groves, and miles of cliff faces and shoreline, offering striking vistas and perfect habitat for a wide variety of bird species, from songbirds to raptors. This trail offers an extraordinary opportunity for birders to find several very desirable species.
Southeast South Dakota Birding Trail
Southeastern South Dakota’s landscape is characterized by largely undulating prairie cut by three large rivers and their tributaries. Remnants of the most western-reaching fingers of the nation’s eastern deciduous forests extend to the Big Sioux River. Prairie stands of cottonwood, ash, boxelder and elm dot the James and Missouri river corridors. Glacier-formed pothole lakes are scattered throughout the region. Significant areas of grassland habitat attract prairie species. The Missouri River provides sandbars and miles-long reservoirs with quiet bays where many species of waterfowl, gulls and terns may be found. The region’s woodlands are a magnet for three dozen species of warblers. Prairie pothole lakes and wetlands teem with marsh birds, shorebirds and wetland species. Watch for raptors soaring over the entire region.
Download comprehensive guides, featuring tips, maps and a checklist, for each trail. (These are PDF files and you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them.)
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