Have you wondered what those birds are that are visiting your backyard in South Dakota?
Well, this guide will help you to find out how to identify these birds by sight and sound and what time of year you can spot them in South Dakota. Also, get a free ID chart to print with the most common backyard birds in South Dakota.
In South Dakota, Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, Western Meadowlarks, and Eastern Kingbirds are more common in summer and Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers are more common in winter.
Backyard birds in South Dakota all year: American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrow, European Starling, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, House Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwing, Red-bellied Woodpecker
Backyard birds in South Dakota in summer: American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove, Common Grackle, Western Meadowlark, Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Kingbird, Chipping Sparrow, House Wren, Song Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Western Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Gray Catbird
Backyard birds in South Dakota in winter: Dark-eyed Junco
These are the most common backyard birds in South Dakota that may visit your lawn or feeders. They are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists submitted by bird watchers on ebird.
This article gives you identification information and photos to help you identify and attract more of the common backyard birds that you can spot in South Dakota.
If you like backyard birding you will probably enjoy spotting some ducks in South Dakota too.
Facts About Birds in South Dakota
The Ring-Neck Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota. This bird was chosen in 1943 and is an introduced species that is native to Asia.
There are 352 species of bird recorded in South Dakota, according to ebird. Some of the highlight birds in South Dakota include White Pelican, White-faced Ibis, American Avocet, Osprey, Sandhill Crane, Bald Eagle, Long-billed Curlew, Mountain Bluebird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Wild turkey, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, and Orioles.
The biggest bird in South Dakota is the Bald Eagle, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.5 m) for the females. This white-headed national bird symbol of the United States is a powerful bird of prey.
The smallest bird in South Dakota is the Calliope Hummingbird which is only about 3 in long, but they can travel long distances from Canada to southern Mexico. Check out all the hummingbirds in South Dakota.
The most common bird in South Dakota is the American Robin, seen in 36% of recorded checklists for the state on ebird.org throughout the year.
South Dakota has 6 national parks, 2 national forests, 3 National Grasslands, 6 national wildlife refuges, and 56 state parks that offer excellent bird watching opportunities if you want to get out and watch birds in their natural environment.
Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheet for South Dakota
These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in South Dakota at different times of the year. So when you want to do some backyard birding these handy guides have pictures and space to either tick off the types of birds you have seen or keep a tally of the total number of birds.
Top 33 Backyard Birds In South Dakota
1. American Robin
American Robins are usually spotted in South Dakota during the breeding season from March to October, but some remain in the state all year. They are recorded in 49% of summer checklists and 11% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms. They have black heads and backs with red or orange breasts. They tend to roost in trees in winter, so you are more likely to see them in your backyard from spring.
- Turdus migratorius
- Length: 7.9-11.0 in (20-28 cm)
- Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz (77-85 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)
American Robins are residents in the lower 48 and the coast of Western Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and inland Alaska move south for the winter.
American Robins can be found in many habitats, from woodlands, forests, and mountains to fields, parks, and lawns. They eat earthworms, insects, snails, and fruit.
American Robin Song:
American Robin Call:
Attract American Robins to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground. Also, try planting some native plants that produce berries, such as juniper, sumac, hawthorn, and dogwood.
2. Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged blackbirds are frequently spotted in South Dakota during summer, and most migrate south for winter, but a few hang around all year. They appear in 47% of checklists in summer and only 3% of checklists in winter submitted by bird watchers for the state.
Red-winged blackbirds are very common and easy to identify with the all-black coloring except for the reddish-orange wing patches. Females are rather dull in comparison with streaky brown color.
- Agelaius phoeniceus
- Length: 6.7-9.1 in (17-23 cm)
- Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz (32-77 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)
Red-winged Blackbirds remain all year in the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. Those that breed in Canada and some northern US states migrate south for the winter.
They can often be spotted sitting on telephone wires, and the males will fiercely defend their territories in the breeding season, even attacking people that get too close to their nests. In winter, they roost in large numbers into the millions.
Red-winged Blackbird Song:
Red-winged Blackbird Calls:
Attract Red-winged blackbirds to your backyard with mixed grain and seeds spread on the ground. They will also feed from large tube feeders or platform feeders.
Blackbirds are a vast family of birds that have numerous family members, and why don’t you get to know all the blackbirds in South Dakota?
3. Mourning Dove
Mourning Doves are mainly seen in South Dakota during the breeding season and occur in 42% of checklists at this time. They are usually spotted from April to October, but some remain in the east of the state all year.
Mourning Doves are graceful small-headed birds with plump bodies and long tails. They are a soft brown color with black spots on the wings. Males are slightly heavier than females.
- Zenaida macroura
- Length: 9.1-13.4 in (23-34 cm)
- Weight: 3.0 -6.0 oz (96-170 g)
- Wingspan: 17.7 in (45 cm)
Mourning Doves are common over all of the lower 48 all year but may migrate after breeding from the north of the Midwest and southern Canada.
Mourning Doves can be seen perching on telephone wires and foraging for seeds on the ground in grasslands, fields, and backyards. They can also be found in open areas or woodland edges.
Mourning Dove call:
Attract Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or platform feeders. They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.
4. Common Grackle
Although considered near-threatened species, Common Grackles spend the breeding season in South Dakota and appear in 40% of summer checklists. They are most common from March to October, and then they migrate south for the winter.
The Common Grackle is a blackbird taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird with glossy iridescent bodies.
- Quiscalus quiscula
- Length: 11.0-13.4 in (28-34 cm)
- Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz (74-142 g)
- Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in (36-46 cm)
Common Grackles are resident all year in southeastern states, but those that breed in Canada and the Midwest migrate south.
They eat many crops but mostly corn, and they gather in noisy groups high up in trees. Unfortunately, they will also eat garbage and so can be a nuisance. Their habitat is varied and includes open woodlands, marshes, parks, and fields.
They may gather in their millions in winter to forage and roost, mixed in with other species of blackbirds.
Common Grackle Call:
Attract more Common Grackles to your backyard with mixed grain and seed sprinkled on the ground or platform feeders.
5. Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlarks are frequently spotted during the breeding season in South Dakota, but a few remain in the south of the state all year. They are recorded in 32% of summer checklists for the state.
With their bright yellow bellies and melodious song, Western Meadowlarks can brighten up your day. This is probably what makes them so popular, so popular in fact that they are the state bird of 6 US states.
Western Meadowlarks are members of the blackbird family and are about the size of a Robin with shades of brown and white upperparts and a black V-shaped band across the bright yellow chest that turns gray in winter.
- Sturnella neglecta
- Length: 6.3-10.2 in (16-26 cm)
- Weight: 3.1-4.1 oz (89-115 g)
- Wingspan: 16.1 in (41 cm)
Western Meadowlarks breed in northern US states and Canada before moving to more southern states. Those in The West and Midwest remain all year.
You can find Western Meadowlarks foraging for insects and seeds from weeds. Also, they look for seeds on the ground alone or in small flocks in grasslands, meadows, and fields.
Western Meadowlark Song:
Attract Western Meadowlarks to your backyard with hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
There are so many yellow birds in South Dakota that you will spot, especially in spring.
6. Barn Swallow
Barn Swallows spend the breeding season in South Dakota and occur in 32% of summer checklists. They are spotted here from April to October.
Barn Swallows are small birds with a deep-blue back, wings and tail, and reddish-brown underneath and across the face. Their tail has long outer feathers that give a deep fork. The dark color of their back can make them look black-and-white.
- Hirundo rustica
- Length: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
- Weight: 0.6-0.7 oz (17-20 g)
- Wingspan: 11.4-12.6 in (29-32 cm)
Barn Swallows breed in Canada and the US before heading to Central and South America. They can be found flying over meadows, farms, and fields looking for insects and usually build mud nests on man-made structures such as barns.
Barn Swallow call:
Attract Barn Swallows by putting up nest boxes or cups, and they may eat ground-up eggshells on a platform feeder.
7. Brown-headed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbirds are usually spotted in South Dakota during summer from March to October and appear in 29% of checklists at this time. However, a few remain all year.
Males Brown-headed Cowbirds are larger than females, with black bodies, brown heads, and short tails. Female Brown-headed Cowbirds are brown all over with slight streaking.
- Molothrus ater
- Length: 76.3-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
- Weight: 1.3-1.8 oz (42-50 g)
- Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)
Brown-headed Cowbirds remain all year in eastern US states, southern US states, and along the Pacific Coast. However, those that breed in northern and western US states and Canada migrate south for winter.
Brown-headed Cowbird Song:
They are often considered a nuisance because they are parasite birds that destroy the eggs of smaller songbirds so they can lay their eggs in the nest and have the bird foster their chicks.
8. Eastern Kingbirds
Eastern Kingbirds spend the breeding season in South Dakota and are spotted here from mid-April to September. They appear in 22% of summer checklists.
Eastern Kingbirds are medium-sized, large-headed flycatchers that are blackish on the back and white underneath. Their heads are darker black, and they have a white tip on the tail.
They get their name ‘king’ from the aggression they show each other and other birds when defending their nests. They have a concealed crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers, which they raise when defending themselves or their nest.
- Tyrannus tyrannus
- Length: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
- Weight: 1.2-1.9 oz (33-55 g)
- Wingspan: 13.0-15.0 in (33-38 cm)
They breed in the US before heading south into Central and South America for winter. They usually breed in fields, orchards, and along forest edges. They can often be found nesting near water such as rivers or lakes.
Eastern Kingbirds catch insects in midair, including bees, wasps, ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, bugs, and flies. They will often perch up above fields waiting for insects to fly past. They will also eat fruit, including serviceberries, cherries, blackberries, and elderberries.
You can attract more Eastern Kingbirds to your yard with native berry bushes and having lots of native vegetation that attracts insects.
9. American Goldfinch
American Goldfinches can be spotted in South Dakota all year. They are recorded in 26% of summer checklists and 20% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males’ bright yellow and black coloring in spring. The females are duller brown, as are males in winter.
- Spinus tristis
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
American Goldfinches can be found in most of North America and are usually resident all year. However, those that breed in Canada and the Midwest migrate to southern US States for winter.
They can be found in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.
American Goldfinch Song:
Attract American Goldfinches to your backyard by planting thistles and milkweed. They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed.
There are a surprising number of finches in South Dakota that you can get to know.
10. Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Juncos can be spotted in South Dakota during winter, but their numbers increase during spring and fall migration from February to March and October to November. They appear in 32% of winter checklists but up to 41% during the migration.
Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are different colors depending on the state. They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.
- Junco hyemalis
- Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
- Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
- Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in (18-25 cm)
Dark-eyed Juncos remain resident all year in northeastern and western US states and the Appalachian Mountains. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to the United States.
They can be found in open and partially wooded areas, often on the ground, and are common across the continent.
Dark-eyed Junco Song:
Attract Dark-eyed Juncos to backyard feeders with a variety of seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and peanuts. Platform feeders or scattered on the ground are best.
11. Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadees are spotted in South Dakota all year. They are recorded in 20% of summer checklists and 29% of winter checklists for the state.
The Black-capped Chickadee is a cute bird with a big round head and tiny body. These birds will happily feed at backyard feeders and investigate everything, including you!
They have black caps and beaks, white cheeks, and are gray on the back, wings, and tail.
- Poecile atricapillus
- Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in (16-21 cm)
Black-capped Chickadees do not migrate and can be spotted in the northern half of the US and Canada.
You can find them in forests, open woods, and parks. Black-capped Chickadees eat seeds, berries and insects, spiders, and suet.
Black-capped Chickadee Call/Song:
Attract Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard with suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts or peanut butter. They will even feed from your hand and are often one of the first birds to discover new feeders. They will also use nest boxes, especially if you fill them with wood shavings.
You should find out all about the other sociable and inquisitive chickadees in South Dakota.
12. Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpeckers are spotted in South Dakota all year, but their numbers increase during winter. They appear in 13% of summer checklists and 26% of winter checklists.
Downy Woodpeckers are small birds that are common at backyard feeders. They are often mixed in with other birds, such as chickadees and nuthatches.
They have black and white coloring with a red patch at the back of their heads. They look similar to the Hairy Woodpecker but smaller.
- Dryobates pubescens
- Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
- Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz (21-28 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)
Downy Woodpeckers do not migrate and can be spotted in most states and provinces, except the north of Canada.
You can find Downy woodpeckers in woodlots, along streams, city parks, and backyards, and they eat mainly insects and beetle larvae but also berries, acorns, and grains.
Downy Woodpecker Call:
Attract Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard with their favorite treat of suet, but they will also eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts on platform feeders.
Some woodpeckers are more easily recognized than others, but with this guide, you can identify all the woodpeckers in South Dakota.
13. House Sparrow
House Sparrows are an introduced species in South Dakota that can be spotted here all year. They do not migrate and occur in 19% of summer checklists and 25% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
The House Sparrow is another introduced species that has done very well and is now one of the most common birds. They have gray and brown heads and white cheeks. Their backs are black and brown, and their bellies are gray.
- Passer domesticus
- Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
- Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz (27-30 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)
House Sparrows live in the US and Southern Canada all year.
You can find them near houses and buildings, and they can be pretty tame, and they may even eat out of your hand.
House Sparrows eat mostly grain and seed as well as discarded food. They can be considered a pest because they are non-native, but they are found in backyards even if you do not feed them.
House Sparrow Song:
Attract House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.
Sparrows are known as LBJs (Little brown jobs) but if you want to know more, check out this guide to sparrows in South Dakota.
14. European Starling
European Starlings are an introduced species in South Dakota that can be seen in the state all year. They appear in 19% of summer and winter checklists.
European Starlings are not native but are now one of the most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with iridescent purple, green, and blue tones.
- Sturnus vulgaris
- Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
- Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz (60-96 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)
European Starlings live in all of North America, except the north of Canada and Alaska.
They are considered a pest by some due to their aggressive behavior. These birds fly in large, noisy flocks and can be seen perched in groups on the top of trees or flying over fields.
European Starling Calls:
Starlings predominantly eat insects, including beetles, flies and caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders. However, they also eat fruit, including cherries, holly berries, mulberries, Virginia Creeper, sumac, blackberries, and grains and seeds.
Attract European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.
15. Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrows spend the breeding season in South Dakota and appear in 25% of summer checklists. They are usually spotted here from April to November.
Chipping Sparrows are slender, long-tailed birds with a grayish belly and brown and black-streaked back, with a rusty crown and black eye line. In winter, the colors are more subdued.
- Spizella passerina
- Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz (11-16 g)
- Wingspan: 8.3 in (21 cm)
Chipping Sparrows spend their summer breeding in the US and Canada before flying to Mexico and Florida for winter. Some remain all year in the southern states.
You can find Chipping Sparrows in small flocks on open ground and will come to backyards for many kinds of birdseed.
Chipping Sparrow Song:
Attract Chipping Sparrows to your backyard with seeds or cracked corn on open feeders such as hoppers or platforms.
Brown birds are often overlooked but once you get to know a few you are hooked so get studying all the brown birds in South Dakota.
16. House Wren
House Wrens spend the breeding season in South Dakota and appear in 21% of summer checklists. They start arriving as early as March and stay until October before they migrate south for the winter.
House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tails and a paler throat.
- Troglodytes aedon
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (10-12 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9 in (15 cm)
House Wrens spend their summer breeding in the US and southern Canada before migrating to southern US states and Mexico for winter.
You can find House Wrens in backyards, parks and open woods foraging for insects and spiders. They can often be found energetically hopping through tangles and low branches with their tails up, stopping to sing their cheerful song.
House Wrens are fierce for their size when it comes to getting the best nest holes. They will often harass larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs or nestlings out of a nest site they want.
House Wren Song:
Attract House Wrens to your backyard by leaving piles of brush or putting up a nest box.
Wrens are often overlooked for more flash birds, but take the time to get to know the sight and sounds of wrens in South Dakota.
17. Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers can be spotted in South Dakota all year, but their numbers increase during the spring and fall migration. They appear in 19% of summer checklists, 10% of winter checklists, and up to 32% of checklists during migration.
Northern Flickers are large brown woodpeckers with black spots and a white patch on their rump in flight, plus a red nape of the neck in the males.
Northern Flickers have red or yellow flashes in the wings and tail depending on where they originate. Red-shafted birds live in the west, and yellow-shafted birds live in the east.
- Colaptes auratus
- Length: 11.0-12.2 in (28-31 cm)
- Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz (110-160 g)
- Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in (42-51 cm)
Northern Flickers can be spotted across the US all year and in Canada during summer. Those that breed in Canada migrate south for the winter.
Northern Flickers mainly eat ants, beetles, fruits, and seeds, and they can often be seen on the ground digging with their curved bill.
Northern flicker Call:
Attract Northern Flickers to your backyard with suet.
18. Song Sparrow
Song Sparrows are mainly spotted in South Dakota in the north of the state, from March to November, and are recorded in 19% of summer checklists. However, some remain in the southeast of the state all year.
Song sparrows are not as remarkable looking as other backyard birds, but these predominantly brown-streaked birds use their almost constant song to attract mates in spring and summer.
- Melospiza melodia
- Length: 4.7-6.7 in (12-17 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz (12-53 g)
- Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in (18-24 cm)
Song Sparrows live all year in the northern US states. Those that breed in Canada migrate to southern US states for winter.
They can be found in open, shrubby, and wet areas, often perched on a low shrub singing. They are often found at backyard feeders.
Song Sparrows eat a wide variety of insects and plants, including beetles, caterpillars, midges, spiders, and earthworms. They will also eat buckwheat, sunflower, raspberries, wild cherries, blackberries, wheat, and rice.
Song Sparrow Song:
Song Sparrow Call:
Attract Song Sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders.
19. Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroats are seen in South Dakota during the breeding season and appear in 16% of summer checklists. They are spotted from May until October.
Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and bright yellow underneath, with long tails. The males have black masks across their faces. The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically, and they may be more olive in parts underneath.
- Geothlypis trichas
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (9-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
Common Yellowthroats spend the summer breeding over most of North America, except Alaska and northern Canada. Some remain all year along the Gulf Coast and Pacific Southwest. Then, they migrate south for winter.
You can find Common Yellowthroats often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation.
Common Yellowthroat Song:
Attract Common Yellowthroats to large backyards with dense vegetation and native plants to attract insects.
20. Western Kingbird
Western Kingbirds are spotted in South Dakota during summer from April to September and occur in 13% of checklists at this time.
Western Kingbirds are large flycatchers with yellow bellies, whitish chests, gray heads, grayish-brown wings, and black tails with white edges.
- Tyrannus verticalis
- Length: 7.9-9.4 in (20-24 cm)
- Weight: 1.3-1.6 oz (37-46 g)
- Wingspan: 15.0-16.1 in (38-41 cm)
Western Kingbirds breed in summer in western US states, the plains area, and into Canada. They migrate to Mexico and Central America, but some may overwinter in the south of Florida.
You can find Western Kingbirds in open habitats, and they are often found perched on fences and utility lines, waiting for insects to fly by before catching them in mid-flight.
Western Kingbird call:
Attract Western Kingbirds to your yard by making it insect-friendly and planting elderberry or hawthorn, from which they will also eat the fruit.
21. Blue Jay
Blue Jays can be found in South Dakota all year. They appear in 16% of summer checklists and 19% of winter checklists for the state.
Blue Jays are common large songbirds with a blue upright crest, blue and black backs, and white undersides.
- Cyanocitta cristata
- Length: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)
- Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)
- Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 in (34-43 cm)
Blue Jays live in eastern US states and Southern Canada all year. Some birds will migrate west for winter but not very frequently.
They are noisy birds that travel in family groups eating acorns when available. They can be found in forests, mainly near oak, as they eat acorns. They can also be found in backyards near feeders. As well as acorns, they eat insects, nuts and seeds, and grain. They may also take eggs from nests or take nestlings.
Blue Jay Call:
Blue Jays are large birds and prefer to fly in, grab a peanut or sunflower seed and take it away to feed. They prefer platform or tray feeders to make it easy to make a quick exit.
Attract Blue Jays to your backyard with peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. They prefer these on open tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post. They will also enjoy a birdbath.
22. American Crow
American Crows are spotted all year in South Dakota. They appear in around 13% of summer checklists and 15% of winter checklists for the state.
American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound.
- Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Length: 15.8-20.9 in (40-53 cm)
- Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz (316-620 g)
- Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in (85-100 cm)
American Crows are residents all year in most of the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast in Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and the northern Midwest migrate south for winter.
They are common birds found in most habitats, including treetops, woods, fields, beaches, or towns.
They eat most things and usually feed on the ground, eating earthworms, insects, seeds, and fruit. They also eat fish, young turtles, mussels, and clams and will even eat eggs and nestlings of many species of birds.
In winter, American Crows gather in large numbers of up to two million crows to sleep in noisy communal roosts.
American Crow Call:
Attract American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts, but they can become a nuisance as they are attracted by garbage or pet food if left out.
23. House Finch
House Finches are residents in South Dakota all year. They do not migrate and appear in 12% of summer checklists and 16% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
House Finches males have a red head and breast, and the rest of their bodies are mainly brown-streaked. Females are brown-streaked all over.
- Haemorhous mexicanus
- Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
- Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)
Originally only in western US states, House Finches were introduced to eastern US states and have done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.
They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders in noisy groups that are hard to miss.
House Finch Song:
House Finch Call:
Attract House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.
There are lots of other red birds in South Dakota that you can spot.
24. White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatches can be found in South Dakota all year and are recorded in 10% of summer checklists and 19% of winter checklists for the state.
White-breasted Nuthatches are active little birds that are gray-blue on the back and white on the face and belly, with a black cap. They will often have a chestnut color on the lower belly and under the tail.
- Sitta carolinensis
- Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
- Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in (20-27 cm)
White-breasted Nuthatches live all year in the US and southern Canada.
You can find White-breasted Nuthatches in deciduous forests, woodland edges, parks, and yards with trees or at feeders. They mainly eat insects, including beetles and their larvae, caterpillars, ants, and also spiders.
White-breasted Nuthatches also eat seeds and nuts, including acorns, hawthorns, sunflower seeds, and sometimes corn crops. They jam large nuts and acorns into tree bark and then whack them with their bills to open or ‘hatch’ them to get the seed out.
White-breasted Nutcracker Call:
Attract White-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts on tube feeders or suet feeders.
25. Eurasian Collared-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Doves are residents of South Dakota all year. They are spotted in 10% of summer checklists and 14% of winter checklists.
Eurasian-collared Doves are light brownish-gray, with white patches in the tail, and look very similar to Mourning Doves, but with a black half collar at the nape of the neck. They are also larger and with a square tail rather than pointed.
- Streptopelia decaocto
- Length: 11.4-11.8 in (29-30 cm)
- Weight: 4.9-6.3 oz (140-180 g)
- Wingspan: 13.8 in (35 cm)
Eurasian Collared-Doves are an introduced species that only arrived in the 1980s but now live across most of the United States.
You can find Eurasian Collared-Doves in most areas, including rural and suburban and they eat a wide variety of seeds and grain but also eat some berries and insects.
Eurasian Collared-Dove song:
26. Hairy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpeckers are seen all year in South Dakota, but their numbers increase during winter from September to mid-March. They appear in 8% of summer checklists and 14% of winter checklists.
Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with a black and white pattern and a large white patch on their backs. The males have a flash of red towards the back of their heads.
They are visually similar to Downy Woodpeckers but larger and with longer bills. As they are often found in the same areas, it is hard to tell them apart if they are not near each other.
- Dryobates villosus
- Length: 7.1-10.2 in (18-26 cm)
- Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz (40-95 g)
- Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in (33-41 cm)
Hairy Woodpeckers do not migrate and live in all US states and Canada, except the far north of Canada.
You can find Hairy Woodpeckers in woodlands on trunks or main branches of large trees, but they are also found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlots, parks, and cemeteries. Hairy Woodpeckers’ diet is mostly insects.
Hairy Woodpecker Call/drumming:
Attract Hairy Woodpeckers to your backyard with suet feeders.
27. Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatches are spotted in South Dakota all year but are more common from September to February. They occur in 12% of winter checklists and 9% of summer checklists.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are blue-gray birds with black and white stripes on their heads and a rusty underside.
- Sitta canadensis
- Length: 4.3 in (11 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (8-13 g)
- Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)
Red-breasted Nuthatches remain all year in northeastern and western states, Alaska and Canada but may move south in winter if cone crops are poor.
You can find Red-breasted Nuthatches in coniferous woods foraging for cones, and they also visit backyard feeders.
Red-breasted Nuthatch Call:
Attract Red-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with black oil sunflower seeds, suet feeders, peanuts, and mealworms.
28. Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinals do not migrate and are spotted all year in South Dakota. They occur in 10% of summer and winter checklists for the state.
The bright red male Northern Cardinal with black around their faces is an incredible sight, especially against a white winter background. They also have red crests and beaks.
Females are also a little showy with their brown coloring, sharp brown crest, red highlights, and red beaks.
- Cardinalis cardinalis
- Length: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)
- Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz (42-48 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in (25-31 cm)
Northern Cardinals live in the Eastern half of the US and some states in the south as far west as Arizona.
You can find Northern Cardinals in dense vegetation foraging for seeds, fruit, and insects. Northern Cardinals will sometimes attack their own reflection during the breeding season as they obsessively defend their territories.
Northern Cardinal Song:
Northern Cardinal Call:
Attract Northern Cardinals to your backyard with feeders full of sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo. They will feed from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.
29. Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers are often spotted in South Dakota during the breeding season, from May to October, and occur in 21% of summer checklists.
Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast.
- Setophaga petechia
- Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g)
- Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)
Yellow Warblers migrate a long distance to breed in Canada and the US, except for southeastern states, before heading back into Central and South America for winter. However, they can be seen during migration in southeastern US states.
You can find Yellow Warblers along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.
Yellow Warbler Song:
Attract Yellow Warblers to your backyard with suet, oranges, peanut butter, and plants with berries. Also, plant native plants that attract insects without pesticides or being too tidy! Also, try birdbaths with fountains near secluded thickets to provide protection.
These colorful and melodious migratory birds don’t stick around for long so be sure to check out all the warblers in South Dakota you can spot before it’s too late.
30. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings are more often spotted in South Dakota during the breeding season, but some also remain here all year. They are recorded in 9% of summer checklists and 5% of winter checklists.
Cedar Waxwings are elegant social birds that are pale brown on the head, chest, and crest, which fades to gray on the back, wings, and tail.
Their belly is pale yellow and bright yellow towards the tail. They have a narrow black mask over their eyes and bright red on the wingtips.
- Bombycilla cedrorum
- Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 oz (32 g)
- Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in (22-30 cm)
Cedar Waxwings remain all year in the northern half of the US. Those that breed in Canada migrate to the southern half of the US for winter.
They make a high-pitched call and can be found in berry bushes, woodlands, and streams.
Cedar Waxwing Call:
Attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard by planting native trees and shrubs with small fruit such as serviceberry, dogwood, juniper, winterberry, and hawthorn. You can also try fruit on platform feeders.
31. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers spend the breeding season in South Dakota, but their numbers increase during migration in May and October. They are recorded in 12% of summer checklists and in up to 29% of checklists during migration.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are gray with flashes of yellow on the face, sides, and rump and white in the wings.
Females may be slightly brown, and winter birds are paler brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning bright yellow and gray again in spring.
- Setophaga coronata
- Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-13 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
Yellow-rumped Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and parts of the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains.
During migration, they can be seen in the Midwest before overwintering in southern and southwestern US states and the Pacific Coast and into Mexico and Central America.
You can find Yellow-rumped Warblers in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat mostly insects and on migration, and in winter, they eat mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle.
Yellow-rumped Warbler Song:
Attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.
32. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are residents of South Dakota all year and are mainly spotted in the east of the state. They occur in 5% of summer checklists and 8% of winter checklists.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be mistaken for Red-headed Woodpeckers as they have red caps, but they are much smaller than the Red-headed Woodpecker. Female Red-bellied Woodpeckers lack the red cap and only have red at the back of their heads.
They also have a very pale red belly that can be hard to spot, but they do have the typical woodpecker black and white markings over their backs.
- Melanerpes carolinus
- Length: 9.4 in (24 cm)
- Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz (56-91 g)
- Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in (33-42 cm)
Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be found in eastern US states, and they do not migrate.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat insects, spiders, seeds from grasses, fruit, and nuts. They will also sometimes eat nestlings. They nest in dead trees and may use the same nest year after year. They lay 4-5 white eggs on a bed of wood chips.
The tongue of the Red-bellied Woodpecker sticks out 2 inches past the beak and is barbed at the tip, along with sticky spit. This helps catch prey from deep crevices.
Red-bellied Woodpecker Call:
Red-bellied Woodpeckers can often be seen at bird feeders, especially if you live near wooded areas. They make a distinctive loud rolling call which means you will often hear them before you see them.
33. Gray Catbird
Gray Catbirds spend the breeding season in South Dakota and occur in 11% of summer checklists. They arrive in April and start to migrate in October.
Gray Catbirds are so named because of their distinctive catty mew song that can last for up to 10 minutes. They are medium-sized songbirds with a slate gray coloring, black cap and tail, and a reddish patch under their tails.
- Dumetella carolinensis
- Length: 8.3-9.4 in (21-24 cm)
- Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz (23.2-56.5 g)
- Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in (22-30 cm)
Gray Catbirds breed in the Midwest, eastern US states, and southern Canada before heading to the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean for winter. Some remain all year along the East Coast.
You can spot Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs, small trees, and along forest edges or hedgerows. They are named after their ‘mew’ sounding call.
Gray Catbird Call:
Attract Gray Catbirds to your backyard with fruit and fruit trees or shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.
Common Birds at Different Times of Year in South Dakota
These are the backyard birds most often seen in South Dakota that may visit your lawn or feeders. In addition, they are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists on ebird. The data combines birds most commonly spotted in South Dakota in summer (June and July) and winter (December and January).
Birds that are not often seen at feeders or backyards were removed to give you the birds in South Dakota you are most likely to see from home.
This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are bird-watching in South Dakota, these are the birds you will most likely spot at feeders or on your lawn.
Notable differences show that Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, Western Meadowlarks, and Eastern Kingbirds are more common in summer and Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers are more common in winter.
Common birds in South Dakota all year
American Robin 36%
Red-winged Blackbird 29%
Mourning Dove 26%
Common Grackle 23%
Black-capped Chickadee 22%
Western Meadowlark 21%
American Goldfinch 21%
European Starling 20%
House Sparrow 19%
Blue Jay 18%
Summer birds South Dakota
American Robin 50%
Red-winged Blackbird 44%
Mourning Dove 43%
Common Grackle 35%
Western Meadowlark 35%
Barn Swallow 33%
Brown-headed Cowbird 27%
Eastern Kingbird 27%
American Goldfinch 25%
Chipping Sparrow 22%
Winter birds South Dakota
Dark-eyed Junco 29%
Black-capped Chickadee 26%
Downy Woodpecker 23%
House Sparrow 21%
European Starling 20%
American Goldfinch 19%
Blue Jay 18%
White-breasted Nuthatch 17%
American Crow 15%
House Finch 14%
Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds in South Dakota
A variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds
- Tube Feeders can be filled with different types of birdseed and depending on the seed different birds will be attracted. Black oil sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins.
- Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
- Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
- Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny fascinating birds but they also attract other birds too.
How to Attract Birds to Your Yard in South Dakota
If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in South Dakota here are some tips:
- Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
- Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream. Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
- Grow native plants that will provide food and shelter. Plants, trees, and shrubs that provide fruit, berries, and nuts. Blackberries, wild grasses, elderberries, serviceberries, Oaks, Beeches, Cherries, sumacs, hemlocks, Purple Coneflowers, Sunflowers, Milkweed, Cardinal Flowers, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, Buttonbush, and Dogwoods.
- Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
- Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds and prevent the natural foraging opportunities for insects and seeds that birds will seek in your yard.
- Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.
How to Identify Birds in South Dakota
Here are some tips to help you identify birds:
- Size – Size is the easiest thing to notice about a bird. Birds are often measured in inches or centimeters in guide books. It’s best to take a note of the bird in terms of small, medium, or large to be able to look for it later. A small bird is about the size of a sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of a pigeon and a large bird is the size of a goose.
- Shape – Take note of the silhouette of the bird and jot it down or draw the outline. Look at tail length, bill shape, wing shape, and overall body shape.
- Color pattern – Take a note of the main color of the head, back, belly, and wings, and tail for the main color and then any secondary colors or patterns. Also take note of any patterns such as banding, spots, or highlights.
- Behavior – Are they on the ground or high up in the trees. Are they in flocks or on their own? Can you spot what they are eating?
- Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
- Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon
Birds to Spot if Out Birding in South Dakota
If you go out Birding in South Dakota these are other birds that you may be able to spot. This guide to Hawks in South Dakota will help.
- Canada Goose
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Turkey Vulture
- Ring-necked pheasant
- Blue-winged Teal
- Northern Shoveler
- Great Blue Heron
- Bald Eagle
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Cliff Swallow
- American White Pelican
- Pied-billed Grebe
- American Kestrel
- Wild Turkey
- Belted Kingfisher
- Northern Harrier
- Snow Goose
- White-faced Ibis
- American Avocet
- Sandhill Crane
- Long-billed Curlew
- Mountain Bluebird
- Golden Eagle
- Prairie Falcon