Birds at Your Feeder in South Dakota

Last Updated on December 26, 2023 by Greg Gillson

What birds come to feeders in South Dakota?

This article and accompanying videos discuss the most common birds at bird feeders in South Dakota throughout the year. Other feeder birds may be more common seasonally, but these should be present most of the year.

I start with a quick list of South Dakota feeder birds and then provide more information if you are so interested.


Feeding birds in South Dakota can bring much joy!


Here are 10 birds that you are most likely to see at your bird feeder in South Dakota:

  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Grackle
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow
  • European Starling
  • Blue Jay
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

The most common bird at feeders in South Dakota is probably the Red-winged Blackbird. At least, it is the most common bird in South Dakota that comes to feeders. Read more about it below.

Photo of Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson


Red-winged Blackbirds are common birds across North America. 

In summer they are found from Alaska, across Canada, south into Mexico. In winter they abandon much of Canada and the northern Great Plains and Midwest. 

They nest in marshes in summer, where there are cattails and similar plants. In winter they spread out into fields, cattle lots, and residential neighborhoods. These birds are colonial nesters in cattail marshes. 

In fall and winter, they form very large flocks composed of many young-of-the-year, starlings, grackles, cowbirds, and other blackbirds. Such flocks can number in the hundreds of thousands, especially in the East. 

These birds are about the size of American Robins, perhaps a bit smaller. They are stocky with a fairly long tail. They have rather flat foreheads that accentuate the long bill. The bill is fairly stout at the base, long, pointed, and straight on the upper and lower edges. 

Males are glossy black with yellow-edged red shoulders that can be hidden in the scapular feathers when the wings are at rest. 

Females are a bit smaller than males. They are pale with heavy brown streaks on the under parts. Some populations show buff on the face. They may confuse beginners into thinking they are some kind of streaky sparrow. The flat crown and very straight and sharply pointed bill point to their identification as blackbirds. 

 At your feeder they will eat black oil sunflower seeds and suet.


American Goldfinch


Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson


The American Goldfinches are favorite backyard birds across North America. Many people call them “wild canaries.” 

These active birds are year-round residents coast-to-coast across northern and mid-latitudes of the United States. 

In summer birds move into southern Canada. In winter birds are found throughout the United States.

They are found in weedy pastures and brushy clearings. In town, they favor parks and residential areas with lawns and scattered trees. They often feed on thistles or dandelion seeds on the ground. But they also fly over open spaces between trees with a bounding roller-coaster flight and a lilting “potato chip” call. 

These are small birds, smaller than House Finches. They are rather plump birds with small round heads and short tails. The bill is small but it is conical for eating seeds. It is colored pink. 

Summer males are striking with their brilliant yellow and black plumage. The body is yellow and they have a black crown. The wings and tail feathers are black and white. 

Females are duller olive-green without the black crown. They have thin white wing bars. 

Juvenile birds in fall show striking tan wing bars on the black wing. 

In winter both genders are pale gray and tan with brown wings and tail. They may only show a hint of yellow on the head and throat. 

At your feeder, American Goldfinches love black oil sunflower seeds and Niger seed. They are especially common at feeders in summer and fall.


Mourning Dove


Photo of Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson


The mournful summer song of Mourning Doves is familiar to most, even if they don’t know what bird makes the sound. 

They are found across the United States as year-round residents. Birds summer in the northern Great Plains and south central Canada, but withdraw in winter. 

These birds are found in towns and farms, and open country with scattered trees, often along rivers. 

In spring they sing from power lines in residential areas. They may puff out their chests while cooing from the peak of your roof. 

These birds are much larger than European Starlings, but also much smaller than American Crows. These birds have large powerful breasts, a tiny round head on thin neck, and long pointed tail. Their wings are somewhat pointed in flight. The bill is small as typical for all pigeons. Genders are identical. 

These birds are warm tan or brown colored. The breast has a pinkish hue. The wings are gray. They have a few large black spots on the wing coverts. They have a black spot on the side of the neck below the cheek that sometimes shows some iridescent green feathers. The tail has white edges, best seen in flight. 

At your bird feeder Mourning Doves eat all types of seeds. They are also attracted to water for drinking and bathing.


Downy Woodpecker


Photo of Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson


Downy Woodpeckers are tiny and common visitors to backyards across the United States. 

These woodpeckers inhabit nearly all of North America south of the tundra and away from the driest deserts. 

Often found near water, they like small deciduous trees, willows, and brush. Common in backyards. 

Like other woodpeckers, these birds hitch up small trees. However, they often cling to the small outer branches. They even hang on twigs and small bushes such as wild rose and teasel. 

They are bigger than House Finches, smaller than Red-winged Blackbirds, but shaped differently than either. These birds have stocky bodies and big heads. They have short, stiff, pointed tails. The legs are short. The feet are large with strong claws. The bills of these woodpeckers are chisel shaped but especially short and petite. 

The overall pattern of these birds is black-and-white stripes. The wings are black with numerous white spots and bars. The back is white. The underparts are white or tinged with buff. The face is white; the crown and nape is black, the ear covert black, and there is a black malar stripe. The tail is black with white outer tail feathers. Males have a red spot on the nape that females lack. 

Downy Woodpeckers eat suet at your feeder.


House Sparrow


Photo of House Sparrow
House Sparrow. Greg Gillson


House Sparrows were first introduced into the United States in 1851 and quickly became common coast-to-coast. 

These birds are year-round residents from Canada south through Mexico. They originally were birds of Europe and Asia, but have colonized basically every human-occupied city in the world. 

Towns and cities are the primary habitats of these birds. Wherever there are permanent human settlements, these birds are there. They choose to nest in houses, buildings, and other human-made structures, but also in nest boxes provided for other birds. They also thrive in farms and ranches, especially stables and grain storehouses. 

These are social birds, often found in large flocks. They tend to squabble and have a complex hierarchy. Males are dominant in fall and winter, but females dominate in spring and summer. They also tend to be aggressive toward other birds at the feeder. 

These sparrows are not related to New World Sparrows. Thus they are differently shaped. They have a short body and full breast, large head, and short tail. The bill is triangular: short pointed but thick at the base. The bill of female and fall males is dull yellowish. The bill of spring males is black. 

In fresh fall plumage males are dingy brown above, with dark stripes on the back, dusty brown on wings and tail, with a gray rump. They have one large white upper wing bar. They have a bit of black on the chin. As their pale feather tips wear off during winter and spring, the black bib on the male reveals itself. The crown becomes grayer, the face whiter, and chestnut patches on the nape and shoulder become more obvious. 

Females remain in a dull plumage all year. The under parts are dingy gray. Upper parts dull brown with dark lines on the back. They also show a small white upper wing bar. The face shows a brown crown and stripe behind the eye, offset by a wide buffy eyebrow. 

At the feeder House Sparrows eat a wide variety of seeds, but they like cracked corn and red milo (ingredients found in cheaper bird seed) that many native sparrows and finches do not like. They also have rather weak feet. So to reduce the number of House Sparrows at your feeder, switch to black oil sunflower seeds in a tube feeder.


European Starling


Photo of European Starling
European Starling. Greg Gillson


Starlings are often mistaken for blackbirds, but they are in a different bird family and don’t share a lot of similarities, other than a general black coloration. 

These birds are year-round residents from southeast Alaska across southern Canada and all of the lower 48 states into northern Mexico. In addition, birds move northward into northern Canada in summer. 

They are found in urban, suburban, fields, and orchards. In autumn and winter they gather into huge flocks, often with blackbirds. They are frequently aggressive at feeders, driving off other birds. 

These birds have the body size of an American Robin, but a much shorter tail. They are about 8-1/2 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. They have plump bodies, rather large heads, and short tails. Wings are short and pointed in flight, almost triangular. Their bills are long and pointed. 

Dark brown worn birds in late summer get fresh new feathers in fall. Then their iridescent black feathers are tipped with white chevrons. These gradually wear off during the winter and spring. By summer they are mostly black, without many spangles. 

Breeding birds have yellow bills, the bills are brown in the non-breeding season. Both genders are colored the same. 

Because of their aggressive nature, most people do not like starlings at their bird feeders. Starlings have weak feet, so have trouble eating from tube feeders and special upside-down suet feeders.


Blue Jay


Photo of Blue Jay
Blue Jay. skeeze Pixabay


Blue Jays are one of the most well-known birds in the United States. 

Birds are found year-round east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to Texas and eastward. There is a noticeable migration of some of their population in most of their range. Birds move northward into the Great Plains of Canada for the summer. 

Though they are found in woodlands of all type, they are especially attracted to oak trees. They are common in residential areas, too. 

Brash and conspicuous, Blue Jays have a complex social structure. The more the crest is raised, the more excited or agitated the bird is. 

Jays are fairly large backyard birds. They are just a bit larger than American Robins. These are stout birds with large rounded or wedge-shaped tails. They have large legs and feet. They have a bushy crest. The bill is fairly long, strong. 

Genders are similar in plumage. They are blue above, including the crest. They are gray below with a black necklace across the throat. The wings are barred with black, with white wing bars and trailing edges. The blue tail is barred with black and has white tail corners. 

At your feeder, Blue Jays love whole peanuts and sunflower seeds.


Black-capped Chickadee


Photo of Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson


The cute Black-capped Chickadees must be one of the favorite birds at feeders across much of North America. 

They are year-round residents in Alaska and across Canada south across the northern half of the United States. 

These birds are found in deciduous and mixed woods, orchards, and backyards. They feed in small flocks acrobatically on the end of twigs, searching for invertebrates and small seeds. 

In winter they make up the core of roaming mix feeding flocks. These flocks include chickadees, kinglets, nuthatches, and often include Brown Creepers, Downy Woodpeckers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and wrens. 

These are small birds, smaller than House Finches. They are about the same length as American Goldfinches. The bodies of chickadees are round and plump. They have big heads and long tails that flit about. They have long legs and big feet. The bills are short and stout. This allows them to eat both seeds and invertebrate foods. 

These birds are gray above and buffy below. They have striking black caps and bibs, offset by their white face. You may also notice the white secondary wing edges of the folded wing. Genders are identical in appearance. 

 At your feeder, Black-capped Chickadees love black oil sunflower seeds. They take these one-at-a-time to a nearby branch. They hold the seed with their feet and pound the shell open with their bill to get the kernel inside. In fall they often take the whole seed away and store it for the winter, in what is called a cache.


Northern Flicker


Photo of Northern Flicker in tree
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.


Northern Flickers are one of the most confusing backyard birds. When these brownish birds take flight, they reveal a bright flash of red or yellow in the wings and a large white rump. When people see them hopping in the lawn and poking in the dirt with their long curved bills, they can’t conceive that these birds are woodpeckers! 

They are summer residents from Alaska and across Canada south into the mountains of Mexico. They are year-round residents from southern Canada south. In winter, large numbers from northern Canada and Alaska move south as far as the southwestern deserts of the United States. 

These birds are found in open woodlands and residential areas with trees. They are as likely to be found on lawns as tree trunks. The reason these woodpeckers are found hopping on lawns is that their primary food is ants found on the ground. Thus, they are often seen pecking at the ground. 

These are large birds, much larger than American Robins but smaller than American Crows. They are the length of Mourning Doves, but shaped much differently. They have a large body with a big head on a short neck. The tail is short and wedge shaped. The bill is longer than the head, rather thin and down curved compared to other woodpeckers. 

They are brown above with black bars on the back and wing coverts. The under parts are rather pinkish with round spots on the underparts. They have a big black crescent across the chest. The rump is white, seen best when they are flying directly away. They have brightly colored bases to the wing feathers that are hidden until they take flight. From below or underneath, the tail is brightly colored with wide black tips to the tail feathers. 

Eastern birds have yellow bases to the wing and tail feathers. They have a brown face and gray crown. Males have a black whisker mark and red nape mark which females lack. 

Western birds have salmon-red wing and tail bases. They have a gray face and brown crown. Males have a red whisker mark that is lacking in females. 

Northern Flickers visit suet feeders. They will also nest in specially built flicker houses.


Common Grackle


Photo of Common Grackle in bird bath
Common Grackle. GeorgiaLens. Pixabay.


Common Grackles are large, lanky blackbirds. 

These birds are summer residents east of the Rocky Mountains from across Canada southward to the Gulf Coast. They are year-round residents in the eastern and southeastern United States. 

They use a wide variety of habitats including open woodlands, fields, and marshes. They are numerous in feedlots and residential areas. 

In winter they often form huge flocks with other blackbirds and starlings. They are noisy. 

They are larger than Red-winged Blackbirds, nearing the size of Mourning Doves. These are long birds, with long keel-shaped tails. The legs are long. The crown is flat. The bill is longer than the head, pointed, but rather stout at the base. 

The black plumage of the males shows iridescent purple or bronze in good light. Females are a bit duller. They eyes are yellow. Juveniles are dull brown with dark eyes. 

Common Grackles sometimes take over bird feeders driving off other species and are disliked because of this.




Recommended Products for feeding birds in South Dakota


Amazon Affiliate Links

If you are looking for feeders and bird food, here are products I use or recommend. If you purchase from these links, I earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.


This hopper feeder is just the right size and durable. The best high quality mixed bird seed for this bird feeder that I highly recommend is Wagner’s Songbird Supreme. This combination attracts the widest variety of feeder birds.

I really like how this iBorn copper tube feeder looks in my yard. It is best for finches and chickadees when filled with black oil sunflower seed.

For attracting woodpeckers and chickadees, and keeping out jays, starlings, and grackles, I love my Nature’s Way Upside-Down Suet Feeder. I also buy St. Albans Bay suet.


For common backyard birds and birds at your feeder, this is a good little book.


I’m using these Celestron Nature DX ED 8x40s almost exclusively now. I am impressed that such a low-priced binocular has such good image quality. Perfect for beginners! Yes, there are better binoculars at $500, $1000, $2000. But why? They’re not that much better.



Links to other articles on this blog

Backyard Birds to Know in South Dakota

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds in South Dakota

Setting up your bird feeder



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