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North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

Birding in North Dakota

Bird watching is one of the most popular forms of nature-related recreation. Bird watching can be as simple as enjoying birds that come to your backyard bird feeder. Or it can be as complex as learning bird songs by ear, or traveling across the country to add birds to a "life list." All you need is a good pair of eyes (though binoculars sure help!) and a field guide. The following information should also help get you started.


Where to look for birds

Some locations attract so many birds or such a variety of interesting birds that they are known as "Hot Spots". Everyone has his or her own hot spot. Sometimes these hot spots are swarming with birds only during the spring or fall migration. Some hot spots are best in the middle of the winter. If you would like to see a lot of birds in just one day, you will have to visit many different habitats. Some of North Dakota’s birding hotspots include a variety of habitats within a relatively small area. How many of these areas in North Dakota have you visited?

Juvenile Pine Grosbeak Icelandic State Park


Site General Information
Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve – Devils Lake, ND The preserve's wooded hills are attractive to birds not normally seen in the open areas of the state. In addition, a wide variety of waterfowl, and shore and marsh birds, may be found around Sweetwater Lake, along the preserve's shore of Devils Lake, and in the marsh of Fort Totten Bay. Peak bird populations are from late April to early June, and from late August to mid-October. The list contains 267 birds that may be observed in this general area
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, ND This list includes 186 species which have been observed in Theodore Roosevelt National Park plus 22 species that have not yet been observed but are suspected of occurring since they have been seen in the immediate area. This list includes 69 species that are known to have nested in the park, 39 species that are probable breeders, and 16 species whose nesting status is uncertain.
Lake Metigoshe State Park – Turtle Mountains – Bottineau, ND The Turtle Mountains is an area of rolling hills covered with aspen, oak, paper birch, elm, and ash trees dotted with a variety of lakes and marshes. It is a summer breeding haven for many species of birds and migrating stopover for others. The red-necked grebe is probably the most popular breeding bird in the park. Red-neck grebes are rare breeders in the lower 48 states but are at home in the sheltered bays of School Section Lake. Other birds of interest are the other four species of grebe, white pelicans, common loons, herons, red-eyed and Philadelphia vireos, hawks and grouse. Over 100 species are known to nest here.
Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge – Kenmare, ND Lostwood was established by presidential order in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. Today it is 26,900 acres of rolling, mixed grass prairie dotted with more than 4,000 wetlands ranging from tiny, ephemeral sloughs and broad, grassy marshes to brackish lakes covering nearly a square mile.
Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Moffit, ND Long Lake is a natural lake of limited depth by reason of its location in a shallow alkaline basin. Grasslands adjoining water areas provide nesting sites for several species of puddle ducks, upland plovers, marbled godwits, willets, and sharp-tailed grouse. The bird list contains 206 species which have been recorded on or near the refuge since 1940.
Turtle River State Park – Arvilla, ND Because of the environmental diversity, many different bird species can be found. Much of the area is wooded with mixed hardwood stands, timbered hills and lush river bottoms. There is also an open prairie area with emerging native grasses, and wetland in the south section of the park. The wetland area is a haven for water birds. Bitterns, terns and blue herons are common along the river. In spring and autumn, thousands of migratory waterfowl pass over and through the park.
Souris Loop National Wildlife Refuges – Kenmare, Upham and Foxholm, ND. The "Souris Loop" National Wildlife Refuges system is made up of Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge (19,554 acres), J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge (58,700 acres) and Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge (32,092 acres). Important habitats found on these refuges include restored marshes, remnant tracts of native grass, lowland meadow, impounded lakes, wooded sandhills, river bottoms and brush covered coulees. While waterfowl, pelicans, tundra swans, grouse and cranes are spectacular, a variety of other species of interest may be found. Birders come from all over the country looking for Sprague's Pipits, and Baird's and Le Conte's sparrows. In addition, as many as five species of grebes may be found. Species found on these refuges since 1935 total 293, of which 23 are accidentals, and one is extirpated. About 150 species are known to nest on these refuges.
Little Missouri National Grasslands – Dickinson, ND.  
Audubon National Wildlife Refuge – Coleharbor, ND Bird checklist includes 239 birds. 95 of these species nest on the Refuge.
Cross Ranch State Park and Cross Ranch Nature Preserve – Center, ND Bird checklist includes 149 birds. 36 of these species nest at the park or on the preserve. This checklist contains names of birds found in and around Cross Ranch State Park and Cross Ranch Nature Preserve, which is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy.
Sheyenne National Grasslands – Lisbon, ND 70,000-acre-plus grassland. Largest population of the greater prairie chicken in North Dakota.
Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge – Cayuga, ND The refuge is on the Wild Rice River in the southeastern corner of North Dakota. It was established in 1945 to serve as a nesting, feeding and resting area for migratory waterfowl in the Central Flyway and contains 8,438 acres. The gently rolling terrain of the refuge is enhanced by the abrupt rise of the Sisseton Hills, a rugged moranic feature which begins a mile to the south.
Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge – Pingree, ND The Refuge also has excellent nesting habitat for ducks, geese, grebes, shorebirds, and numerous upland songbirds. The Refuge attracts thousands of ducks, geese, and swans during spring and fall migrations, Canada geese usually arrive in mid-March. Mallards and northern pintails follow shortly thereafter, while flights of snow geese usually reach their peak in mid-April. Wood ducks and hooded mergansers nest in the many nesting boxes placed along the lakes and wetlands. Western grebes can be observed on lakes doing their mating dance in late May and early June. The bird list includes 266 birds.
Icelandic State Park and Gunlogson Nature Preserve – Cavalier, ND The park and preserve contains a variety of natural communities which include lowland woodlands, oak woodlands, wetland thickets, and native prairie. It is these significant biological that attract an array of birds to the area.
Fort Ransom State Park – Lisbon, ND The park's 891 acres contain a variety of natural communities which include oak woodland, lowland woodland and mixed grass prairie. Natural communities associated with the intermittent streams, springs and the Sheyenne River are composed of wet meadow, emergent and aquatic species. Because of the many habitats, birds are abundant in Fort Ransom State Park.
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site – Stanton, ND Knife River’s floodplains, prairies, cultivated fields, brushy areas and relatively undisturbed Missouri River bottomland provide the habitat for a wide variety of raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds, thrushes, warblers and other songbirds.
The Burning Coal Vein Site, Amidon, ND Only place in the state where the Audubon's warbler nest. View wild turkeys, chickadees, nuthatches and poorwills.
Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Medina, ND Largest white pelican population in North America. Colony of nesting white pelicans numbers between 10,000 and 12,000 birds. Other species of interest are piping plover, Baird's sparrow and Sprague's pipit.
Hawk's Nest Ridge - Carrington, ND Home to many upland birds, including sharp-tailed grouse, gray partridge and pheasants.
Kelly's Slough National Wildlife Refuge - Grand Forks, ND. Premier area for viewing mallards, pintails, Canada geese, wood ducks, great blue herons, American bittern and American avocet.
Pembina Hills - Wallhalla, ND Good habitat for ruffed grouse and wild turkeys. 75 species of breeding birds, including 11 of the state's 14 breeding warblers.