• A bull elk bugles in Yellowstone National Park


    National Park ID,MT,WY

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  • Craig Pass Closed for the Season; Mammoth to Norris Closed Sept. 14-30

    The road linking West Thumb and Old Faithful is closed for the season—traffic should detour through West Thumb, Lake, and Canyon. The road from Mammoth to Norris is closed for two weeks—traffic should detour over Dunraven Pass. More »

Songbirds, Woodpeckers, and Others

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

S. Koehler

Passerine and near-passerine species (largely songbirds and woodpeckers) comprise the majority of bird species in the world and in Yellowstone National Park. Unlike raptors, whose talons are designed for capturing, carrying, or tearing prey; or like wetland birds whose webbed feet are designed for paddling and diving; passerine birds have feet designed for perching.

Many birds, such as American robins and common ravens, are found throughout the park. Other species live in specific habitats. For example, American three-toed woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers use trees that burned in low to moderately severe fires, while Steller's jays are found in moist coniferous forests. Several Yellowstone bird species only breed in willow communities including Wilson's warbler, willow flycatcher, and gray catbird.

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.

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. Birds that stay in Yellowstone year-round include the common raven, Clark's nutcracker, gray jay, red-breasted nuthatch, American dipper (North America's only true aquatic songbird), and mountain chickadee. A few species, such as bohemian waxwings or sometimes northern shrikes, migrate here for the winter.

Did You Know?

Dog Hooked to Travois for Transporting Goods.

Some groups of Shoshone Indians, who adapted to a mountain existence, chose not to acquire the horse. These included the Sheep Eaters, or Tukudika, who used dogs to transport food, hides, and other provisions. The Sheep Eaters lived in many locations in Yellowstone.