Birds

A robin sitting on nest among green leaves.
The American Robin is another common sight at Jewel Cave and can often be seen around the Visitor Center.

NPS Photo / Bradley Block

Jewel Cave National Monument is home to several species of birds throughout the year. Hiking trails on the surface give birders a wonderful opportunity to view a diverse selection of birds from red-headed woodpeckers along the Canyons Trail, to the white-breasted nuthatch on the Roof Trail. Depending on the time of day and year you chose to visit Jewel Cave, you can always find some feathered friends flying about. The most commonly seen birds are listed below. To see a full list of the species found at Jewel Cave, visit NPSpecies.
 

Year Round Residents

  • Great Horned Owl – These gray-brown owls can be identified by their large size and prominent feathered “horns” on their head. Adults can reach 2 feet in length with a wingspan of nearly 5 feet! Most often these owls are in the woody patches along the Canyons Trail. (NPS Photo / Robbie Hannawacker)
  • Hairy Woodpecker – Seen throughout the continental United States, these woodpeckers have black wings checkered with white and two white stripes on the head. A large white patch runs down the center of the black back. The males can be identified by the flash of red on the back of their head. The Historic Area is a great place to see these woodpeckers. (NPS Photo / Ingrid Arlton)
  • Black-Capped Chickadee – The distinct black cap and bib with white cheeks gave this little songbird its name. The small size, gray back, wings, and tail combined with the white underbelly allow even beginner birders to quickly identify this species. These adaptable birds may be found anywhere that has trees or woody shrubs, making them a common sight throughout the monument. (NPS Photo / Gary Hartley)
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch – With a gray-blue back and white face and underbelly, the black or gray cap and neck can sometimes make it look like the bird is wearing a hood. The lower belly and under the tail are often a chestnut color. A helpful identification tip is that nuthatches often forage and eat upside down on tree trunks and other vertical surfaces, such as the tall pines along the Canyons Trail. (NPS Photo)
  • Red-Breasted Nuthatch – Smaller than the white-breasted nuthatch, this species has blue-gray backs with a black cap and stripe through the eyes, broken up by a white stripe above the eyes. The underbelly is a rusty-cinnamon color, marking one of the most visible differences between the species of nuthatch at the monument. (NPS Photo)
  • Red Crossbill – True to its name, the Red Crossbill has an unusual twisted bill that crosses when closed. These crossed bills are vital for prying the seeds out of unopened pinecones. By using the muscles of its strong bill, this species can open even the most tightly closed cones. Adult males have brick red bodies, while the females are mostly yellowish with dark wings and tail. Keep an eye out among the pines and you may glimpse this unusual bird. (NPS Photo / Larry Putnam)
 

Spring and Summer Residents

  • Turkey Vulture – Commonly seen as a large, soaring bird in the distance, in flight, this species can be identified by its wings raised in a V and flying in wobbly circles. Turkey vultures serve an important purpose in the ecosystem by eating carrion with their sharply hooked bill. Their bald heads help these scavengers stay clean while feasting on their latest meal. (NPS Photo / Larry Putnam)
  • Red-Headed Woodpecker – Boldly patterned with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half black wings, this species stands out in the forest of the Black Hills. Unlike other species of woodpeckers, these birds catch insects in flight and hunt for them on the ground, as well as hammering at wood to eat the insects hidden inside. Look for these distinct birds around the Historic Cabin. (NPS Photo)
  • Tree Swallow – Tree swallows are often seen in open fields but got their name due to their habit of nesting in tree cavities. Their deep-blue iridescent head and back and white front help birders identify this acrobatic bird. Look for their swooping and diving as these swallows hunt insects above the Canyons trail.(NPS Photo)
  • Cliff Swallow – Often found in large groups, the Cliff swallow builds their mud nest on vertical walls, like the cliffs surrounding Hell Canyon. In good light, the dark-blue back and pale, pumpkin colored rump of these swallows is visible. They have brick-red faces and a bright white forehead patch with a white underbelly. (NPS / Jacob W. Frank)
  • Western Tanager – Males of this species can be identified by the orange-red head, bright yellow body, and black wings, back and tail. Females have dimmer coloration, almost yellow-green and blackish. These birds may be found in the pine forest surrounding the monument’s visitor center along the Roof Trail. (NPS Photo)
  • Western Wood-Peewee – Residents of open woodlands, this species makes a clapping sound with its bill while defending its nest from intruders. These grayish brown flycatchers have a peaked crown that gives their head a triangular shape. (NPS Photo / Larry Putnam)
 

Fall and Winter Residents

  • Pine Siskin – These small finches have forked tails and pointed wingtips, making them easier to identify while in flight. With brown and very streaky bodies, the pine siskin can blend into the forest quite well, but a flash of yellow can be seen from the wings as they take flight. (NPS Photo)
  • Townsend’s Solitaire – Juniper trees make up a large portion of this bird’s diet during the nonbreeding season and they may be quite aggressive in defending a patch of junipers against other birds. A medium sized songbird, the Townsend’s solitaire is gray with prominent white eye-rings, but their buffy wing patches and white outer tail feathers are easily seen while in flight. (NPS Photo)

Last updated: August 7, 2020

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11149 U.S. Hwy. 16
Building B12

Custer, SD 57730

Phone:

(605) 673-8300

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