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Bird Checklists of the United States

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge

small state map showing location

Columbia, South Dakota


The Horned Lark, a year-round resident of open country and a true symbol of the prairie, once graced South Dakota as our State bird. By an act of the South Dakota Legislature in 1943, the Horned Lark was replaced by the Ring-necked Pheasant.

Hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese and other migratory waterfowl rest and feed on Sand Lake during the spring and fall migrations. Sand Lake also hosts the world's largest nesting colony of Franklin's Gulls. From May to September a wide variety of birds and mammals abound in this prairie marsh ecosystem.

Whether you visit to watch the courtship rituals of Western Grebes, feeding rafts of White Pelicans, or listen to the calls of Snow Geese, interesting experiences await you at Sand Lake. Enjoy your visit!

The following bird list contains 263 species that have been recorded on the refuge since 1935. An additional 17 species that have been sighted only once or twice on the refuge are listed in an appendix.


Species nesting on the Refuge are indicated by a "*" .
The relative abundance of each species at each season is coded as follows:

Sp - March-May
S - June-August
F - September-November
W - December-February

a - abundant: occurring in large numbers
c - common: certain to be seen in suitable habitat
s - common: but not easily seen
u - uncommon: regularly occurring, but not in great numbers
o - occasional: seen only a few times during a season
r - rare: seen at intervals of 2 to 5 years


LOONS Sp S F W ___ Common Loon r - r -
GREBES Sp S F W ___ Horned Grebe u r o - ___ Eared Grebe* a a a - ___ Western Grebe* a a a - ___ Pied-billed Grebe* a a a - ___ Clark's Grebe* u u u -
PELICANS AND CORMORANTS Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican c c c - ___ Double-crested Cormorant* c c c -
HERONS & IBIS Sp S F W ___ Great Blue Heron* c c c - ___ Green Heron* o o - - ___ Little Blue Heron* r r r - ___ Cattle Egret* c s c - ___ Great Egret* u u u - ___ Snowy Egret* u u u - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron* a a a - ___ Yellow-crowned Night-Heron r r r - ___ Least Bittern* o o - - ___ American Bittern* c c c - ___ White-faced Ibis* u u u -
SWANS, GEESE, AND DUCKS Sp S F W ___ Tundra Swan (Whistling Swan) u - c - ___ Canada Goose* c c c u ___ Greater White-fronted Goose u - u - ___ Snow Goose a o a r ___ Ross' Goose u - u - ___ Mallard* c c a u ___ American Black Duck* u o u o ___ Gadwall* c c c - ___ Northern Pintail* c c c r ___ Green-winged Teal* u u c r ___ Blue-winged Teal* c c a r ___ Cinnamon Teal r r r - ___ American Wigeon* u u u - ___ Northern Shoveler* c c c - ___ Wood Duck* u c c - ___ Redhead* c c c - ___ Ring-necked Duck u u u - ___ Canvasback* c u c r ___ Lesser Scaup* c u c r ___ Greater Scaup u - u - ___ Common Goldeneye u - u r ___ Bufflehead u r u - ___ Ruddy Duck* c c c - ___ Hooded Merganser u r u r ___ Common Merganser c - u - ___ Red-breasted Merganser o - o -
VULTURES, HAWKS, AND FALCONS Sp S F W ___ Turkey Vulture r r r - ___ Northern Goshawk r - r r ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk* u o u r ___ Cooper's Hawk* u o u - ___ Red-tailed Hawk* a c a o ___ Broad-winged Hawk o - o - ___ Swainson's Hawk* c c c - ___ Rough-legged Hawk u - c u ___ Ferruginous Hawk o o o - ___ Golden Eagle - - o o ___ Bald Eagle u - u u ___ Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk)* c c c o ___ Osprey o o o - ___ Prairie Falcon o - o o ___ Peregrine Falcon o - o r ___ Merlin o - o - ___ American Kestrel* c u c o ___ Gyrfalcon - - - r
GALLINACEOUS BIRDS Sp S F W ___ Greater Prairie-Chicken r - r r ___ Sharp-tailed Grouse* o o o o ___ Ring-necked Pheasant* c c c c ___ Gray Partridge* u u u u
RAILS Sp S F W ___ Virginia Rail* s s s - ___ Sora* s s s - ___ American Coot* a a a -
CRANES Sp S F W ___ Sandhill Crane o r o -
PLOVERS AND TURNSTONES Sp S F W ___ Semipalmated Plover c u - - ___ Killdeer* a a u - ___ American Golden Plover (Lesser Gol-Pl.) u o - - ___ Black-bellied Plover o o r - ___ Ruddy Turnstone u o u -
SANDPIPERS AND STILTS Sp S F W ___ Common Snipe u - u - ___ Long-billed Curlew r - - - ___ Upland Sandpiper* u u o - ___ Spotted Sandpiper* c u u - ___ Solitary Sandpiper u u o - ___ Willet* u c u - ___ Greater Yellowlegs c c o - ___ Lesser Yellowlegs c c o - ___ Red Knot o o - - ___ Pectoral Sandpiper c c u - ___ White-rumped Sandpiper c u r - ___ Baird's Sandpiper c c u - ___ Least Sandpiper u u o - ___ Dunlin u o u - ___ Short-billed Dowitcher u u u - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher c c c - ___ Stilt Sandpiper c c u - ___ Semipalmated Sandpiper c c u - ___ Western Sandpiper o r r - ___ Buff-breasted Sandpiper o - - - ___ Whimbrel o - - - ___ Marbled Godwit* c c u - ___ Hudsonian Godwit o r r - ___ Sanderling u o u - ___ American Avocet* c c o - ___ Wilson's Phalarope* c c c - ___ Red-necked Phalarope u o u -
GULLS AND TERNS Sp S F W ___ Herring Gull u - u - ___ California Gull u - u - ___ Ring-billed Gull* c u c - ___ Franklin's Gull* a a a - ___ Bonaparte's Gull u - o - ___ Forster's Tern* c c c - ___ Common Tern* u u u - ___ Least Tern - r - - ___ Black Tern* c c o - ___ Caspian Tern r - r -
PIGEONS AND CUCKOOS Sp S F W ___ Rock Dove* u u u u ___ Mourning Dove* a a a o ___ Yellow-billed Cuckoo - o o - ___ Black-billed Cuckoo* u u - -
OWLS Sp S F W ___ Eastern Screech-Owl* u u u u ___ Great Horned Owl* c c c c ___ Snowy Owl r - o o ___ Burrowing Owl o o o - ___ Long-eared Owl* o o o o ___ Short-eared Owl* u u u o ___ Northern Saw-whet Owl r r r r
GOATSUCKERS, SWIFTS, AND HUMMINGBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Common Nighthawk* u u o o ___ Chimney Swift* o o - - ___ Ruby-throated Hummingbird o o o -
KINGFISHERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher* u u u o
WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Northern Flicker (Common Flicker)* c c c o ___ Red-headed Woodpecker* u u u - ___ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker o - o - ___ Hairy Woodpecker* o o u u ___ Downy Woodpecker* s s s s ___ Red-bellied Woodpecker u u u u
FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Eastern Kingbird* c c o - ___ Western Kingbird* c c o - ___ Great Crested Flycatcher u o - - ___ Eastern Phoebe* o o - - ___ Yellow-bellied Flycatcher o - o - ___ Willow Flycatcher u o o - ___ Least Flycatcher u u o - ___ Eastern Wood-Pewee* o u - - ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher o - o - ___ Say's Phoebe r - - - ___ Alder Flycatcher o - o -
LARKS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark* u u u c
SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Tree Swallow* u u u - ___ Bank Swallow* c c a - ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow* o o o - ___ Barn Swallow* c c a - ___ Cliff Swallow* c c c - ___ Purple Martin* u u o -
JAYS AND CROWS Sp S F W ___ Blue Jay* u u u u ___ Black-billed Magpie o o o o ___ American Crow* c u u r
CHICKADEE, NUTHATCHES, AND CREEPER Sp S F W ___ Black-capped Chickadee* c c c c ___ White-breasted Nuthatch* u o u o ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch o - o - ___ Brown Creeper o - o -
WRENS Sp S F W ___ House Wren* s s - - ___ Winter Wren r - r - ___ Marsh Wren* s s s r ___ Sedge Wren* u u u -
THRUSHES AND KINGLETS Sp S F W ___ American Robin* c c c u ___ Hermit Thrush u - o - ___ Swainson's Thrush s - o - ___ Gray-cheeked Thrush u - o - ___ Veery u - o - ___ Eastern Bluebird* u u - - ___ Mountain Bluebird o - - - ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet o - o - ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet u - o -
CATBIRDS, THRASHERS, AND PIPITS Sp S F W ___ Gray Catbird* s s u - ___ Brown Thrasher* c c c - ___ Northern Mockingbird r r r - ___ American Pipit (Water Pipit) u - o -
WAXWINGS Sp S F W ___ Bohemian Waxwing o - o o ___ Cedar Waxwing u u o r
SHRIKES AND STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ Northern Shrike - - o o ___ Loggerhead Shrike* u u - - ___ European Starling* c c c c
VIREOS Sp S F W ___ Red-eyed Vireo u - o - ___ Philadelphia Vireo o - o - ___ Warbling Vireo* u u o - ___ Solitary Vireo o - o - ___ Yellow-throated Vireo o - o -
WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Black-and-white Warbler c - u - ___ Tennessee Warbler c - u - ___ Orange-crowned Warbler c - u - ___ Nashville Warbler o - r - ___ Northern Parula r - - - ___ Yellow Warbler* c c c - ___ Magnolia Warbler o - o - ___ Cape May Warbler o - o - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler c - c - ___ Blue-winged Warbler o - o - ___ Golden-winged Warbler o - o - ___ Blackburnian Warbler s - s - ___ Black-throated Green Warbler o - o - ___ Black-throated Blue Warbler - - r - ___ Chestnut-sided Warbler o - o - ___ Blackpoll Warbler c - u - ___ Palm Warbler u - u - ___ Ovenbird u - u - ___ Northern Waterthrush u - u - ___ Connecticut Warbler o - r - ___ Mourning Warbler o - o - ___ Common Yellowthroat* c u u - ___ Yellow-breasted Chat o - - - ___ Wilson's Warbler u - u - ___ Canada Warbler o - o - ___ Bay-breasted Warbler o - r - ___ American Redstart c - u - ___ Scarlet Tanager r - - - ___ Western Tanager r - - -
CARDINALS, GROSBEAKS, BUNTINGS, AND TOWHEES Sp S F W ___ Northern Cardinal - r - - ___ Rose-breasted Grosbeak u o u - ___ Indigo Bunting o o - - ___ Dickcissel* o u o - ___ Rufous-sided Towhee u - u - ___ Lark Bunting* u o - - ___ Lazuli Bunting r - - -
SPARROWS, JUNCOS, AND LONGSPURS Sp S F W ___ Savannah Sparrow* c c c - ___ Grasshopper Sparrow u o o - ___ Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow* u u o - ___ Vesper Sparrow* u u u - ___ Lark Sparrow* u u - - ___ Dark-eyed Junco c - u o ___ American Tree Sparrow a - a o ___ Chipping Sparrow u - u - ___ Clay-colored Sparrow* u u u - ___ Field Sparrow* u - - - ___ Harris' Sparrow c - c o ___ White-crowned Sparrow u - u - ___ White-throated Sparrow c c r - ___ Fox Sparrow o - o - ___ Lincoln's Sparrow u - u - ___ Swamp Sparrow o - o - ___ Song Sparrow* c c c - ___ Lapland Longspur u - u c ___ Chestnut-collared Longspur* c u u - ___ Snow Bunting - - u c
MEADOWLARKS, BLACKBIRDS AND ORIOLES Sp S F W ___ Bobolink* u o u - ___ Western Meadowlark* c c u o ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird* a a c u ___ Red-winged Blackbird* a a a u ___ Orchard Oriole* c c - - ___ Northern Oriole* c c - - ___ Rusty Blackbird u - u r ___ Brewer's Blackbird* c c u o ___ Common Grackle* c c c o ___ Brown-headed Cowbird* c c u o
FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Purple Finch - - - r ___ Pine Grosbeak - - - r ___ Hoary Redpoll - - - o ___ Common Redpoll - - u c ___ Pine Siskin u - u r ___ American Goldfinch* c c u o ___ Red Crossbill - - - r ___ House Finch* c c c c ___ Evening Grosbeak u - u u ___ White-winged Crossbill u - u u
WEAVER FINCH Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow* c c c c

These additional 17 species have been observed only once or twice on the refuge:

European Wigeon                       Barred Owl
Brant                                 Oldsquaw
Western Wood-Pewee                    Barrow's Goldeneye
Whip-poor-will                        Red-shouldered Hawk
MacGillivray's Warbler                King Rail
Mountain Plover                       Sabine's Gull
Worm-eating Warbler                   Red-necked Grebe
White-winged Scoter                   Baird's Sparrow
Le Conte's Sparrow

For additional information contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
                 RR 1, Box 25
                 Columbia, South Dakota 57433
                 Telephone: 605/885-6320
                 Fax: 605/885-6401

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1995.  Birds of the Sand Lake National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1995.  Birds of the Sand Lake National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govsandlake.htm  
     (Version 22MAY98).

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