• An aerial view of Old Faithful erupting taken from Observation Point with the Old Faithful Inn to the side.


    National Park ID,MT,WY

Birds of Yellowstone

Two great-horned owlet chicks in their nest.

A pair of great horned owl chicks in a nest near the Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center.

Yellowstone National Park Checklist of Birds(92 KB pdf)
Rare Bird Observation Form (185 KB pdf)
Raptor Observation Form (109 KB pdf)

Records of bird sightings have been kept in Yellowstone since its establishment in 1872; these records document 330 species of birds to date, of which approximately 148 species are known to nest in the park. Yellowstone is surprisingly rich in bird diversity given the harsh environmental conditions that characterize the landscape. The variation in elevation and broad array of habitat types found within the park contributes to the region's relatively high diversity. The Yellowstone Bird Program monitors a small portion of its breeding bird species with the broad goal of gathering information (e.g. reproduction, abundance, habitat use) on multiple species from a wide variety of avian taxonomic groups as well as to maintain long-term datasets (>20 years) for several species. Maintenance of long-term monitoring efforts will help inform us of potential shifts in ecosystem function (e.g. climate change effects) for Yellowstone's bird community and may guide future management decisions with the aim of conserving avian resources in the park. Over 3 million visitors are welcomed by Yellowstone every year, many of them avid bird watchers. It is our goal to share with the public information on Yellowstone's diversity of bird life and the status of Yellowstone birds.
As of January 2011…
Number in Yellowstone
  • 330 bird species have been documented in Yellowstone.
  • Approximately 148 of these species nest in the park.

Current Management
The Yellowstone National Park Bird Program focuses on three broad programs to monitor the park's diversity of bird species. Raptor Monitoring Programs (birds of prey), Wetland Bird Programs, and Passerine and near Passerine Monitoring Program (songbirds & woodpeckers).

Three species, the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and osprey, are monitored under the Raptor Monitoring Program. With the removal of the peregrine falcon and bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants in 1999 and 2007 respectively, there are currently no federally listed bird species in Yellowstone. However, monitoring efforts for these species will continue to contribute to Yellowstone's long-term dataset and to meeting the monitoring obligations outlined in the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) post-delisting monitoring plans.

Trumpeter swans, common loons and colony nesting species, including the double-crested cormorant and American white pelican, are included in the Wetland Bird Monitoring Program.The trumpeter swan is of particular concern in the park due to a locally declining population and low reproductive success during the last several decades and continues to be studied to help establish causal factors for observed declines.The breeding bird survey (BBS), willow-bird survey, and the newly added forest-burn survey established in 2009 are part of the Passerine and Near Passerine Monitoring Program. This program was recently expanded to fill the gap in knowledge regarding the abundance and habitat use by passerines and closely allied species in the park.This program is particularly important since species in this group represent the majority of all species found within Yellowstone.

The Yellowstone Raptor Initiative (YRI) is a new (2011) scientifically based project focused on diurnal and nocturnal raptors within Yellowstone National Park.This effort was developed to compliment the Yellowstone National Park Bird Program and will focus on the role of aerial predators in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.Increased monitoring of diurnal raptors began in 2010 via a nominal, competitive grant from the University of Wyoming Park Cooperative.The initial pilot year field effort was incredibly successful (see the 2010 Annual Report for results of this pilot study), and led to the conception of a five-year project funded in annual increments by the Yellowstone Park Foundation.The initial objectives of the program focus on expanding inventory and monitoring from the bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcon to raptors not traditionally covered under the core Yellowstone Bird Program particularly red-tailed hawks (ostensibly Yellowstone's most common breeding raptor), golden eagles, and Swainson's hawks.


  • States of Wyoming & Montana
  • Wyoming Wetlands Society
  • Draper Museum of Natural History
  • Beringia South
Watching Birds in Yellowstone
Many birds, such as American robins and common ravens, are found throughout the park. Other species live in specific habitats. For example, belted kingfishers are found near rivers and streams while Steller's jays are found in moist coniferous forests. Spring is a good time to look for birds. Migration brings many birds back to the park from their winter journeys south; other birds are passing through to more northern nesting areas. Songbirds are singing to establish and defend their territories; and many ducks are in their colorful breeding plumages, which makes identification easier. Watch for birds on early morning walks from mid-May through early July. At all times, but especially during the nesting season, birds should be viewed from a distance. Getting too close can stress a bird (as it can any animal) and sometimes cause the bird to abandon its nest. Most birds migrate to lower elevations and more southern latitudes beginning in August. At the same time, other birds pass through Yellowstone. Hawkwatching can be especially rewarding in Hayden Valley late August through early October. In early November, look for tundra swans on the water. Birds that stay in Yellowstone year-round include the common raven, Canada goose, trumpeter swan, dusky grouse (formerly blue grouse), gray jay, red-breasted nuthatch, American dipper, and mountain chickadee. A few species, such as rough-legged hawks and bohemian waxwings, migrate here for the winter. CAUTION: Using audio bird calls is illegal in the park.

Did You Know?

Bear Cubs

Even though the animals of Yellowstone seem tame they are still wild. Feeding the animals is not permitted in any way, and all visitors must keep 100 yards away from wolves and bears, and 25 yards from other animals.