Birds of Prey

An adult and several young burrowing owls perch on a burrow.
Every year, burrowing owls make Wind Cave National Park their nesting ground.

NPS photo

A bald eagle perches on a tree branch.
Bald Eagles can be seen with a little luck and patience in the park.

NPS photo

Hawks, Eagles and Falcons

The most common raptor seen in Wind Cave National Park is the red-tailed hawk, seen flying above prairie environments. However, eagles are also seen roving the skies in search of prey. Golden and bald eagles alike hunt in the park, and sometimes nest. Look for them riding the warm updrafts from the ridges in the northern part of the park. While hiking in the park, keep an eye out for prairie falcons and other raptors like the ferruginous hawk hunting for prairie dogs.
A screech owl perches on a branch.
Owls are commonly heard throughout the park.

NPS photo


Several species of owls inhabit the park. Great horned owls are commonly heard on the edge of the ponderosa pine forest and prairie habitats during dusk. Every summer, burrowing owls make their homes in abandoned prairie dog burrows and raise young. Each nest of burrowing owls may produce around 6 offspring. They can be spotted by looking carefully at prairie dog towns; they are a similar color and height to prairie dogs, but have a much different behavior and shape.
A closeup of a turkey vulture's bald head
Vultures are an important part of the park ecosystem.

NPS photo


The turkey vulture's presence is hard to miss in the park. With their six-foot wingspans, these they are seen circling above the prairie throughout the day. The vulture can be differentiated from eagles by their "rocking" flight habit, in which their wingtips rock from side to side as they stabilize on the thermal updrafts which carry them higher. They are also often spotted by visitors perched over carrion in a field, or roosting in a tall tree along the many hiking trails in the park. Vultures are the park's natural cleanup crew, removing carrion from the park.

Last updated: August 6, 2019

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Mailing Address:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747


(605) 745-4600

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