Birdwatching hotspots in North Dakota

North Dakota is a haven for bird enthusiasts, with its diverse range of wild birds and approximately 400 species to discover. From the charming Chipping Sparrow to the majestic Ring-necked Pheasant, these birds bring life and color to the state’s landscapes. In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive list of 25 common backyard birds in North Dakota, complete with descriptions of their appearance and behavior. Not only that, but you’ll also uncover tips on how to attract these feathered friends to your own backyard, including using different bird feeders and food. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just starting out, this article is your guide to the birdwatching hotspots and organizations in North Dakota. Get ready to embark on an avian adventure like no other!

Bird Species in North Dakota

North Dakota is a haven for bird enthusiasts, with its diverse range of bird species. From vibrant songbirds to majestic raptors, the state offers a multitude of opportunities for birdwatchers to observe and appreciate these magnificent creatures. With approximately 400 different bird species calling North Dakota home, there is always something new to discover in the skies above. In this article, we will explore the common backyard birds found in North Dakota, delve into the description of each species, and provide tips on attracting them to your yard. Additionally, we will highlight some of the most popular birdwatching hotspots and organizations in the state.

Common Backyard Birds in North Dakota

Chipping Sparrow

The Chipping Sparrow is a familiar sight in North Dakota’s backyards. With its rusty cap and clean white underparts, this small songbird adds a splash of color to any birdwatcher’s day. Known for its distinctive chipping call, this sparrow can often be found foraging on the ground for seeds and insects.

Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee is a charming bird that frequents both urban and rural areas throughout North Dakota. With its signature black cap and bib, this small songbird is a delight to observe. Inquisitive and acrobatic, the chickadee is known for its ability to hang upside down while feeding on insects and seeds. Its cheerful “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call is a familiar sound in many backyards.

Blue Jay

With its striking blue plumage and distinct crest, the Blue Jay is a bird that commands attention. Found in woodlands, parks, and even suburban areas, this beautiful bird is known for its bold personality and raucous calls. Known to mimic other bird songs, the Blue Jay adds a touch of drama to any backyard birdwatching session.

Song Sparrow

The Song Sparrow is a common visitor to North Dakota’s backyards and gardens. With its streaked brown plumage and melodic song, this small sparrow adds both beauty and music to the landscape. Often seen foraging for seeds and insects on the ground, the Song Sparrow is a delightful bird to observe.

House Finch

The House Finch is a charming bird that can be found throughout North Dakota. With its vibrant red head and breast, this medium-sized finch is a favorite among bird enthusiasts. The House Finch is known for its delightful song, pleasing many with its melodious tunes.

American Robin

One of the most recognizable birds in North America, the American Robin is a common sight in North Dakota. With its brick-red breast and grayish back, this medium-sized songbird is known for its cheerful and melodious song. Often seen hopping across lawns, the American Robin is a symbol of springtime and renewal.

Mourning Dove

The gentle cooing of the Mourning Dove is a familiar sound in North Dakota. With its slender body and soft gray plumage, this bird is often found perched on telephone wires or foraging on the ground for seeds. Its mournful, yet soothing, song makes it a beloved addition to any backyard birdwatching experience.

European Starling

The European Starling is a bird that elicits strong opinions from birdwatchers. While some appreciate its glossy black plumage and ability to mimic other bird songs, others see it as an invasive species due to its aggressive nature. Nonetheless, the European Starling is a common sight in North Dakota’s backyards and parks.

American Goldfinch

The vibrant yellow plumage of the American Goldfinch is a sight to behold. Found throughout North Dakota, this small finch is known for its delightful song and acrobatic flight patterns. During the breeding season, the male dons a brilliant yellow coat, while the female retains a more subdued appearance.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch is a unique bird known for its ability to climb headfirst down tree trunks. With its distinctive black cap and white underparts, this small songbird adds charm to any backyard. In addition to its acrobatics, the White-breasted Nuthatch is known for its nasal “yank-yank” call.

House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is a familiar sight in urban areas across North Dakota. With its grayish-brown plumage and black bib, this small sparrow is often found nesting in buildings and foraging for seeds and insects in backyards. Although it is not a native bird, the House Sparrow has adapted well to human environments.

Red-winged Blackbird

The male Red-winged Blackbird is a striking sight with its jet-black plumage and bright red shoulder patches, known as epaulets. Found near wetland areas across North Dakota, this bird is known for its distinctive “conk-la-ree” song. The female, with her streaked brown plumage, may be less showy but is equally captivating.

Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a fascinating species known for its unique breeding behavior. Unlike many birds, the female cowbird does not build its own nest or care for its young. Instead, it lays eggs in the nests of other bird species, leaving them to be raised by unwitting foster parents. With its glossy black plumage and brown head, the cowbird is a distinctive presence in North Dakota’s backyards.

Dark-eyed Junco

The Dark-eyed Junco is a small sparrow with a distinct appearance. With its dark gray plumage and white belly, this bird is often referred to as the “snowbird” due to its tendency to visit during the colder months. Known for its habit of scratching the ground to uncover seeds, the Dark-eyed Junco is a welcome visitor for many North Dakota birdwatchers.

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is a common sight in North Dakota’s woodlands and backyards. With its small size and black-and-white plumage, it may be mistaken for its larger relative, the Hairy Woodpecker. However, the Downy Woodpecker can be distinguished by its shorter bill. Known for its drumming and distinctive “pik” call, this woodpecker is a delight to observe.

Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a large, iridescent blackbird that is often found in North Dakota’s urban areas and countryside. With its yellow eyes and long tail, this bird cuts an impressive figure against the sky. Known for its raucous calls and love of foraging in groups, the Common Grackle adds a touch of drama to any birdwatching experience.

Barn Swallow

The Barn Swallow is a migratory bird that travels to North Dakota during the nesting season. With its deeply forked tail and cinnamon-colored underparts, this agile flyer can often be seen swooping and diving in pursuit of insects. Known for its cheerful chirping, the Barn Swallow brings life and movement to the skies above.

House Wren

The House Wren is a small bird with a big personality. With its plain brown plumage and slightly curved beak, this songbird is known for its bubbly and complex songs. Its energetic nature and tendency to nest in man-made structures make it a common visitor to North Dakota’s backyards.

Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a distinctive woodpecker that can be found throughout North Dakota. With its brown plumage, spotted belly, and prominent white rump patch, this bird is hard to miss. Known for its unique “wick-a-wick-a-wick” call, the Northern Flicker adds both sight and sound to any birdwatching excursion.

Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker is a larger relative of the Downy Woodpecker and can be found in North Dakota’s woodlands. With its black-and-white plumage and sturdy bill, this bird is a skilled excavator, often drumming on trees to communicate and search for insects. Its distinctive “peek” call can be heard echoing through the forest.

Western Meadowlark

The Western Meadowlark is a native bird of the Great Plains and a beloved symbol of North Dakota. With its bright yellow underparts, brown-and-black striped upperparts, and melodious song, this bird is a true delight to observe. Often found perched on fence posts or singing from grassy fields, the Western Meadowlark adds a touch of the prairie to any birdwatching adventure.

American Crow

The American Crow is a large, all-black bird that is known for its intelligence and adaptability. Found throughout North Dakota, this bird is often seen in urban areas, farmland, and woodlands. With its distinctive “caw-caw” call, the American Crow is a familiar presence in the state’s backyard birdwatching experiences.

Yellow Warbler

The Yellow Warbler is a small, vibrant songbird that migrates to North Dakota during the breeding season. With its bright yellow plumage and melodious song, this bird is a delight to behold. Known for its affinity for wetland areas and shrubby habitats, the Yellow Warbler adds a splash of color to the landscape.

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing is a unique and beautiful bird that is often seen in flocks. With its sleek brown plumage, crest, and bright yellow tail tip, this bird is a visual treat. Known for its affinity for berries and its high-pitched whistling call, the Cedar Waxwing brings charm and elegance to any backyard birdwatching session.

Ring-necked Pheasant

The Ring-necked Pheasant is a game bird that can be found in North Dakota’s grasslands and agricultural areas. With its vibrant plumage, long tail, and distinctive white neck ring, this bird is an impressive sight. Known for its explosive takeoffs and melodious crowing, the Ring-necked Pheasant is a prized find for birdwatchers and hunting enthusiasts alike.

Tips for Attracting Birds to Your Yard

If you want to bring the beauty of North Dakota’s bird species to your own backyard, there are several steps you can take to create a bird-friendly environment.

Using Different Types of Bird Feeders

By providing a variety of bird feeders, you can cater to the different feeding habits of various bird species. Tube feeders are perfect for attracting finches and other small birds, while platform feeders attract larger species like jays and cardinals. Hummingbird feeders with nectar solutions are a must for attracting these delicate and swift flyers.

Providing a Variety of Bird Food

To attract a wide range of bird species, it is important to offer a diverse selection of bird food. This can include seeds like sunflower, nyjer, and millet, as well as suet and fruit. Different birds have different dietary preferences, so having a varied menu will ensure that you attract a greater assortment of feathered visitors.

Creating Bird-Friendly Landscaping

Birds are more likely to visit your yard if it provides suitable shelter and nesting sites. Planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers not only beautifies your yard but also provides natural food sources and hiding places for birds. Consider including berry-producing shrubs or installing birdhouses and nesting boxes to further attract and support bird populations.

Offering Fresh Water for Drinking and Bathing

Providing a clean and accessible water source is crucial for attracting birds. Birdbaths or shallow dishes filled with freshwater can attract both drinking and bathing birds. Changing the water regularly will prevent the growth of algae and keep it clean and inviting for your avian visitors.

Avoiding Chemical Pesticides and Herbicides

To create a truly bird-friendly environment, it is important to avoid using chemical pesticides and herbicides. These substances can be harmful or even fatal to birds and their insect prey. Opt for natural methods of pest control, such as introducing native plants that attract beneficial insects or using physical barriers to protect plants from pests.

Avoiding Excessive Outdoor Lighting at Night

Excessive outdoor lighting can disorient migrating birds and disrupt their natural rhythms. Minimize outdoor lighting in your yard, especially during migration seasons. If lighting is necessary, consider using motion sensors or low-intensity bulbs that emit a softer glow.

Maintaining a Clean Feeding Area

Regularly cleaning your bird feeders and birdbaths is essential for the health of visiting birds. Dirty feeders can harbor bacteria or mold that can cause illness. Cleaning them with a mild solution of water and vinegar ensures a safe dining experience for your feathered friends.

Planting Native Plants and Trees

Native plants and trees are crucial for attracting birds because they provide food sources, shelter, and nesting sites that match the natural environment. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and require less maintenance, making them an excellent choice for creating a bird-friendly yard.

Birdwatching Hotspots in North Dakota

North Dakota offers numerous birdwatching hotspots where bird enthusiasts can immerse themselves in nature and observe a wide variety of species. Here are some notable locations worth exploring:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Located in the western part of the state, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a treasure trove for birdwatchers. Its diverse habitats, including badlands, grasslands, and rivers, attract a wide range of bird species.

Lake Sakakawea State Park

Nestled along the shores of Lake Sakakawea, this state park is a haven for water-loving bird species. From waterfowl to shorebirds, birdwatchers can observe an array of avian life along the park’s beaches and wetlands.

Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge

Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge is renowned for its extensive wetlands and grasslands, making it an ideal habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, and grassland birds. It is a must-visit location for birdwatchers looking to spot a variety of species.

Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge is famous for its breeding colony of American White Pelicans, making it a top destination for birdwatchers. These majestic birds can be observed nesting on islands within the refuge.

Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge

Situated along the Des Lacs River, this refuge provides an oasis for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. Birdwatchers can enjoy observing these species amidst the beautiful prairie and wetland landscapes.

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

With its diverse array of habitats, Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a magnet for both resident and migratory bird species. A visit to this refuge offers opportunities to observe waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, and more.

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge

Known for its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge is a paradise for birdwatchers. The refuge is home to a variety of bird species, including the endangered Whooping Crane.

J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge

Located in the upper reaches of the Souris River Basin, J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge boasts a mosaic of wetlands and grasslands that attract a diverse range of bird species, including waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds.

Audubon National Wildlife Refuge

Audubon National Wildlife Refuge offers a diverse mix of wetland, grassland, and woodland habitats that support a wide variety of bird species. Its extensive trail system allows birdwatchers to explore and observe birds in their natural habitats.

White Earth State Game Management Area

Situated in the northeastern corner of the state, White Earth State Game Management Area offers excellent opportunities for birdwatching. Its mix of forested areas, wetlands, and grasslands provides habitats for a wide range of bird species.

Birdwatching Organizations in North Dakota

For bird enthusiasts looking to connect with like-minded individuals and expand their knowledge of avian life, several organizations in North Dakota elevate the birdwatching experience. These organizations provide valuable resources, organize events, and promote conservation efforts. Here are a few noteworthy birdwatching organizations in the state:

North Dakota Birding Society

The North Dakota Birding Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting birdwatching and the conservation of birds and their habitats. The society provides educational resources, hosts field trips and workshops, and advocates for bird conservation initiatives.

Audubon Dakota

Audubon Dakota is the state office of the National Audubon Society in North Dakota. The organization works to protect birds and their habitats through science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation efforts. Audubon Dakota offers volunteer opportunities, educational programs, and birdwatching events for all ages.

Dakota Prairie Audubon Society

The Dakota Prairie Audubon Society is a local chapter of the National Audubon Society based in Bismarck, North Dakota. The society focuses on birdwatching, bird conservation, and environmental education. They organize field trips, monthly meetings, and community outreach programs.

Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society

While not exclusively focused on birdwatching, the Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society plays a significant role in creating and preserving bird-friendly habitats in North Dakota. Through their efforts to establish and maintain botanical gardens, they provide valuable resources for both birds and birdwatchers.

The Roger Peterson Institute of Natural History

The Roger Peterson Institute of Natural History, located in Jamestown, North Dakota, is dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of the natural world. While their focus is not solely on birds, they provide resources and educational programming that includes birdwatching and bird identification.

North Dakota’s rich birdlife and commitment to conservation make it an ideal destination for birdwatching enthusiasts. Whether exploring the diverse range of bird species in backyard habitats or venturing to the state’s renowned birdwatching hotspots, there is no shortage of opportunities to appreciate the marvels of North Dakota’s avian residents. By incorporating bird-friendly practices into our yards and supporting local organizations, we can ensure the continued presence and well-being of these captivating creatures for future generations.

Nature Blog Network is the leading birding research and information website. Serving the birding community since 2010.

Recent Posts