Songbirds, Woodpeckers, and Others
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?
Lake trout are an invasive species of fish that is decimating the native cutthroat trout population in Yellowstone Lake.