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


    National Park ID,MT,WY

Passerine/Near Passerine Species/Other Species

A Wilson's warbler blends into the willows.

Wilson's warbler

Songbirds and Woodpeckers
Songbirds and woodpeckers comprise the majority of bird species in Yellowstone National Park. They are monitored, in part, through the willow-bird study, the breeding bird survey, and the new forest burn survey.

Songbirds and Willows
Willow growth has increased in some parts of the park's northern range, for reasons still being studied. Scientists are studying how this growth might be affecting songbirds that use this habitat. They set up study plots in willow areas that were historically tall, where the willows have "released" (grown much taller recently), and where willows are still suppressed or short and compared bird diversity among these growth conditions. They found that while some species (e.g. common yellowthroats and Lincoln's sparrows) are willow generalists and occupy all three willow growth conditions others specialize on tall dense willows (e.g. willow flycatcher, Wilson's warblers, yellow warblers). The recent growth of the released willows has provided a greater amount of habitat for these species in the northern range which is especially important given the rarity of wetland habitat types in the region.

So far, many bird species are using the willow communities in almost equal abundance. However, a few species-willow flycatcher, Wilson's warbler and MacGillivray's warbler-may be colonizing the newer stands.

Breeding Bird Survey (BBS)
Yellowstone National Park participates in these longterm surveys conducted throughout North America. They are conducted in June, during the height of the songbird breeding season. Yellowstone has three routes: Mammoth area, Northeast Entrance area (Tower Junction to Round Prairie), and the interior (Dunraven Pass through Hayden Valley and Yellowstone Lake). In 2010, surveyors detected 2,079 individuals of 75 different species. The Mammoth route had the highest diversity of species, while the interior route had the highest number of individuals counted. The Northeast route had the lowest diversity of species and lowest number of individuals counted. Initial inspection of the data showed that cliff swallows and vesper sparrows were fewer, for unknown reasons. Identifying such trends is a primary goal of the BBS.

Forest Burn Survey
Birds that nest in cavities depend on forest fires to provide their habitat-and different species depend on different forest fire effects. For example, black-backed woodpeckers use trees that burned in low to moderately severe fires for the first few years after the fire; northern flickers move into severely burned areas three years after a severe burn. The nest cavities by these and other woodpeckers are used later by chickadees, nuthatches, and bluebirds. Because fire frequency is expected to increase with climate change, scientists are studying how the different bird species use different types of post-burn forests and they are developing monitoring methods for the future.

American white pelicans

Other Bird Species in Yellowstone National Park

American white pelicans spend the summer mainly on Yellowstone Lake and the Yellowstone River. These large white birds are often mistaken for trumpeter swans until their huge yellow beak and throat pouch are seen. Their black wing tips separate them from swans, which have pure white wings.

Sandhill cranes nest in Yellowstone each summer. Their guttural calls announce their presence long before most people see them. Their gray feathers blend in well with their grassland habitat.

Ravens frequent parking lots, and have learned to unzip and unsnap packs. Some ravens have learned to follow wolves during hunts. They wait in trees or on the ground, until wolves finish at a carcass. Some studies have shown they actually sometimes lead wolves to kills. Because ravens don't have the sharp bills of raptors they cannot open up a carcass on their own. Alerting wolves to a kill is a way for them to get a meal.

Several raven relatives live in Yellowstone, including the black-billed magpie. Like the raven, they often show up where people are eating. Do not feed them.

The dark gray American dipper bobs beside streams and rivers. Also called the water ouzel, the dipper dives into the water and swims in search of aquatic insects. Thick downy feathers and oil from a preening gland enable this bird to survive cold waters.

Did You Know?

Fire in Yellowstone Pineland in 1988

The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.