Many people know it as the land of Mount Rushmore, the iconic stone sculpture of revered US presidents.
It’s situated in the western end of the state in the Black Hills National Forest, one of many great places to enjoy South Dakota wildlife.
South Dakota sits at the middle of the east-west divide usually associated with native United States birds. So some places in eastern South Dakota are at the end of the range for traditionally classified eastern birds. Places in the west are at the end of the range for traditionally classified western birds.
That short geography lesson explains the state’s fairly good bird diversity. Close to 450 species have been documented on the South Dakota birds checklist. Interestingly enough, it’s also the only state whose state bird is not a native North American species.
A look at the chart provides an explanation for the anomaly. It shows the number of pheasants present in the state prior to the hunting season and the number of pheasants hunted per season between 1919 and 2014.
The Ring-necked Pheasant was imported into the state during the nineteenth century. Ever since then its been a prime game bird for local hunters and the tourist hunting crowd.
Birding areas closer to the center of the state tend to get a mixture of eastern and western birds. Farm Island Recreation Center, for example, a few short miles from Pierre in the center of the state, has recorded twenty six different warbler species. The picture shows a Golden-cheeked Warbler.
Multiple ecoregions including prairies, forests and riparian areas also makes it amenable to a variety of birds. Say’s Phoebe, a member of the Flycatcher family that is often included in the Western bird category can be spotted on occasion.
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