If you're a birder, prepare for some South Dakota fun.
From rolling hills and prairie marshes & lakes to sky-piercing granite peaks and lush mountain meadows, South Dakota's diverse terrain is home to a variety of habitats and nearly 400 species of birds. Trails across the state wind through public & protected habitats, including oak-basswood forests, native prairies, wetlands, glacial lakes, and the reservoirs & tail waters of the Missouri River.
Read on to see how you can have the ultimate birding experience in the four regions of South Dakota.
Black Hills & Badlands
The Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Birding Trail covers the western third of South Dakota and includes 38 sites and more than 350 species of birds. While much of the region is open prairie grassland, varying landforms add both beauty and habitat for a variety of birds. Mountain bluebird, red-breasted nuthatch, common poorwill, and spotted towhee are common in the northwestern part of the region. Several rivers attract bald eagles, golden eagles, and ferruginous hawks while wetlands offer a home to green-winged teal and northern pintail. There are three driving loops — the Buttes and Prairies Loop, the Badlands, Lakes and Canyons Loop, and the Black Hills loop — and each offer unique birding opportunities. For more information, check out this comprehensive area birding guide.
The Mighty Mo' bisects South Dakota. It's also home to the Great Lakes Birding Trail, which boasts at least 322 species and covers more than 400 miles. This trail follows the course of both the Missouri River and the Lewis & Clark Trail. Sites such as the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge, Lower Brule Indian Reservation Birding Loop, Farm Island Recreation Area, Oahe Downstream Recreation Area, West Whitlock Recreation Area, and Cheyenne River Indian Reservation Birding Loop are only some of the great birding places in this region. For more on birding in this area, click here.
Glacial Lakes & Prairies
Get a bird's-eye view of northeastern South Dakota by following the Glacial Lakes & Prairies Birding Trail. The trail includes 38 sites ranging from state parks teeming with warblers to waterfowl production areas full of shorebirds. Top sites along the trail include Oakwood Lakes State Park, Waubay National Wildlife Refuge, Sica Hollow State Park, and Sand Lake National Refuge. For a more comprehensive look at birding in this region, please click here.
The Southeast South Dakota Birding Trail provides a detailed look into birding southeastern South Dakota. The trail's 33 sites include woodlands — a magnet for dozens of warbler species — and prairie pothole lakes & wetlands teeming with marsh birds, shore birds, and wetland species. Top sites along the trail include the Outdoor Campus, Lake Herman State Park, Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge, and Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve. For more on birding in this area, please click here.