south Dakota birds black and white habitats host attention-grabbing black-and-white birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, juncos, nuthatches, loons, and goldeneye. South Dakota is home to striking black and white colored birds like the Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco, White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Loon, and male Common Goldeneye. Their conspicuous plumage stands out across the state’s varied habitats.
Boasting a diverse landscape spanning the Missouri River valley, rolling prairies and Black Hills, South Dakota provides prime habitat for over 400 bird species. From songbirds and waterfowl to birds of prey and shorebirds, vibrant flashes of color dart across skies, fields, and wetlands. Yet among the rainbow, black and white colored birds stand out for their conspicuously contrasting plumage.
In this extensive guide, we cover where to spot various black and white birds in South Dakota and discuss identification tips, behaviors, calls, feeding preferences, and conservation status. Equipping yourself with helpful facts prepares you to recognize these eye-catching species. Supporting habitat conservation helps ensure future generations can appreciate South Dakota’s incredible bird diversity.
BLACK AND WHITE BIRDS IN SOUTH DAKOTA
South Dakota hosts a variety of birds with striking black and white plumage. Some species sport all black and white feathers like Magpies and Loons. While others reveal flashy white patches across black wings during flight such as Pelicans and Goldeneyes.
Songbirds like Chickadees and Juncos display modest black-and-white patterns compared to shorebirds like Avocets and Stilts that flaunt bold contrasting colors. Woodpeckers showcase black and white dotted plumage. Swans and Egrets appear elegantly all white.
This extensive guide discusses key identification features to tell similar-looking black and white birds apart. Discover field marks, calls, behavior hints, and ideal sites across South Dakota to add these showy species to your life list.
South Dakota’s smallest woodpecker displays artful black and white patterns. Downies exhibit white bellies and black wings spotted white. Males sport a red hindcrown patch.
- 5-7 inches tall
- Black back barred white
- White face stripes surround the black crown
- White underparts with black spots
- Outer tail feathers are white
- Male red hind crown patch
Year-round residents across South Dakota frequent forests, parks, and backyard feeders. Climb tree trunks and branches pecking for insects. Fond of suet.
- Whinnying call
- Rapid drumroll knocking
Common and increasing across the range. Provide nest boxes and protect forests.
Tiny and hyperactive, this songbird displays a cute black “cap” and throat bib against soft grey-beige plumage.
- 4-6 inches
- Gray back, wings, and tail
- Blackcap, throat, and “necklace”
- White cheeks and underparts
- Buff colored sides
Gregarious and flocking, active in treetop canopies searching for insects and seeds. Year-round nuthatch mimic.
- “Chick-a-dee-dee” calls
- Whistled “fee-bee” song
Abundant. Provide suitable nesting cavities and urban greenspaces.
A plump sparrow marked with dark gray plumage that flashes white outer tail feathers. Females and juveniles appear pale brown.
- 6-7 inches
- Dark gray hood, back and breast
- White belly
- Pink bill with black eyes
- White outer tail feathers
Forage in flocks on open ground scratching leaf litter and searching for seeds and insects. Ubiquitous winter visitor retreating north by April.
- Short tic calls
- Sweet rising trills
- Buzzing chips
Still common though populations decline in parts of the breeding range out west. Maintain proper habitat.
An agile climber named for its preferred food source of nuts and seeds. It sports a namesake black “bandit’s mask” stripe running across its face over white cheeks and underparts.
- 5-6 inches
- Blue-gray upperparts
- Long black face stripe
- The black cap extends to the nape
- Sturdy dagger-shaped bill
Forages headfirst down tree trunks probing bark crevices for hidden insects and spiders. Also visits feeders.
- Loud raspy calls
- Repeating a tin-horn-like song
Still widespread. Protect mature woods and plant nut and seed-producing trees.
A migratory waterbird sporting snazzy black-and-white checkerboard plumage in summer with iridescent head sheen and striking red eyes. Named for its loud, eerie wailing calls.
- 31-40 inches
- Checkered black-and-white back
- Black head and neck collar
- White underparts
- Red eyes
- Straight black bill
Summers on northern lakes diving underwater to spearfish with dagger-like bills. Winters along Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
- Haunting wails
- Yodeling calls
- Tremolo laughs
South Dakota populations are healthy and stable though mercury contamination poses threats.
A chunky diving duck sporting a bright golden eye against glossy black heads decorating white necks and bodies. Females boast warmer chocolate brown heads.
- 17-21 inches
- Dark green head with golden eyes (male)
- Whitesides and belly
- Black back with white spotting
- Rounded head shape
Winters on lakes and rivers diving for mollusks, aquatic plants, and small fish. Breeds inside tree cavities or nest boxes. Fast erratic flight.
- Male whistling call
- Thrashing wings
South Dakota populations increasing. Protect wetland habitat areas and reduce underwater pollution.
A beautifully marked songbird sporting a bright red triangle across a white breast and underparts. Black wings reveal white patches in flight.
- 8 inches
- Black head, back wings
- White rump patch
- Red triangle breast patch (male)
- Large conical bill
Breeds in woodland edges stop at backyard feeders during migrations. Makes 2,000-mile journeys to and from South America.
- Harmonious warbles
- Sweet whistles
- Robin-like calls
Still common, provides a suitable nesting habitat with mixed native plants. Reduce threats to South American wintering grounds.
true to its name, this tiny songbird shows off bold black and white stripes lending superb camouflage as it nimbly creeps up and down tree trunks behaving more like a nuthatch or woodpecker.
- 4.5-5.5 inches
- Black and white striped back
- Bold white eyebrow stripe
- White belly with black streaks
- Small sharp bill
- Long tail
Probes bark crevices for insects. Flicks wings and wags tail. Breeds in northern forests and migrates to the southern US and Caribbean.
- Emphatic, buzzy “wee-see” song
Populations generally increase, and provide stopover habitat during migration.
A brash relative of crows and jays displaying iridescent black plumage with contrasting white bellies, shoulder patches, and wing stripes. Noted for noisy squawking and its sizable dome-shaped nests.
- White shoulders, belly, and wing patches
- Blue-green glossy feathers
- Long black tail with white tips
- Large black bill
Gregarious and territorial, magpies strut across open country in small groups foraging for carrion, rodents, eggs, insects, and grain. They winter in large flocks.
- Harsh gabbling calls
- Rapid shrieks
Common and increasing in western states. Protect varied habitat mosaics.
A predatory songbird is also known as a “ butcherbird” featuring gray and white plumage with black wings, eye stripes, and hooked bill.
- 8-11 inches
- Gray back and shoulders
- Black wings with white patches
- Black stripe through the eye
- White underparts
- Hooked black bill
Perches in the open country watch for prey such as insects, lizards, and small mammals to impale on thorns or barbed wire. Nests in dense shrubs.
- Harsh scrunch calls
- Chattering trills
Populations declining nationwide. Reduce pesticides, and properly manage grasslands.
A clever mimic famed for imitating calls of other bird species and being able to recognize over 200 songs. Gray-brown upperparts contrast with white undersides revealed in flight.
- 8.5-10.5 inches
- Gray-brown upperparts
- Darker black wings with white patches
- White undersides and outer tail feathers
- Long tail base
Year-round residents of towns, suburbs, and open country with scattered bushes. Sings day and night, especially on moonlit nights.
- Variable songs and calls mimicking other birds
- Harsh chattering
Still widespread, protects varied brush habitats.
An aggressive European import known for elaborate aerial displays during winter and its remarkable ability to mimic calls. In winter its plumage becomes peppered with bright white spots.
- 7-8.5 inches
- Glossy black plumage with iridescent sheen
- Yellow beak coloration
- White spots in winter fade by spring
Gregarious, aggressive, and noisy birds traveling in gigantic flocks zig-zagging in flight. Perch on wires and rooftops.
- A variety of harsh, mechanical whistles
- Superb mimic abilities
Overly abundant exotic species displacing many native cavity nesters. Limit feeding and exclude them from nest sites.
A medium-sized heron cloaked in immaculate white plumage that emerges with elegant feathery ornamentation during the breeding season. Bright yellow feet and black bill add bold contrast.
- 22-30 inches
- All white plumage
- Long white breeding plumes
- Black legs with bright yellow feet
- Slim black bill
Wades through wetlands plunging bill into water to stab small fish. Nests in small colonies called heronries.
- Raspy croaking
Stable populations after overcoming historical hunting for plumes. Protect wetlands and shallow foraging areas.
One of North America’s most familiar gulls sporting clean white underparts and wings with bold black wingtips circled by a subtle gray ring around a yellow bill.
- 18-20 inches
- Whitehead, belly, tail, and back
- Gray upper wings
- Yellow bill with black ring
- Black wingtips with white spots
Coastal species expanding inland. Patrols waterways plunging to snatch fish. Scavenges scraps in parking lots and urban areas.
- Noisy cackling calls
Abundant and still expanding its range across the continent.
One of the world’s heaviest flying birds, this elegant waterfowl sports pure snowy white plumage matching its preferred wintering habitat. Black facial skin and immense size aid identification.
- 4-5 feet long
- All white plumage
- Black facial skin with a sloping bill
- Very large with a thick neck
Nests across northern wetlands and ponds. Powerful wingbeats propel these 25+ pound birds capable of reaching 40 mph despite their bulk.
- Loud honking calls
Making an incredible recovery after over-hunting and lead poisoning caused serious declines. Continued habitat protection is vital.
Medium-sized waterfowl sporting pristine white head, neck, and underparts with black wingtips. Some darker plumaged or “Blue Geese” morphs occur.
- 24-31 inches
- All white head, neck, and belly
- Dark gray back wings and rump
- Black wingtips
- Orange legs and bill
Nest in huge colonies across the arctic tundra then migrate in tremendous flocks to wintering grounds across the Great Plains down into Mexico.
- High-pitched yapping calls
Booming populations provoke extensive damage to Arctic breeding habitats.
A miniature all-white goose named after its discoverer. It is easily overlooked hidden among immense flocks of Snow Geese. Around a third the size with a higher-pitched call.
- 23 inches
- All white plumage
- Black wingtips
- Small rounded head
Nests in arctic colonies then migrate in giant flocks mixed among Snow Geese across the Great Plains headed south.
- High-pitched yelping
Increasing exponentially across North America since the 1960s as it expanded range.
One of the most cold-hardy warblers, it migrates vast distances sporting a namesake bright yellow rump patch plainly visible when it flits through bare trees. Confusingly variable plumage between seasons and genders.
- 4.5-5.5 inches
- Blue-gray back with black streaks
- White throat and belly
- Yellow shoulders and rump
- Dark cap and eyeline
- White wing bars
Forages actively eat insects and berries. Migrates astonishing distances wintering down to South America.
- A loud “chip” call
Still, abundant species adapting readily to bird feeders and non-native plants.
A large striking member of the songbird family instantly identifiable thanks to its namesake bright yellow head and breast contrasting sharply against glossy black plumage.
- 8-10 inches
- All black body
- Bright yellow head and breast
- White wing patches visible during flight
- Large cone-shaped bill
Nests in tidy colonies over water. Migrates in huge noisy flocks swirling in flight. Dominant at bird feeders.
- Harsh “church” calls
- Gurgling squeaks
Still common though populations fluctuate based on prairie wetland quality.
An iconic vulture soaring on widespread wings sporting handsome black plumage contrasting stark white flight feathers revealed in flight. Famed for its brilliant sense of smell allowing it to detect dead animals.
- 25-32 inches
- All black plumage with brown sheen
- Bald redhead adults
- White flight feathers only
Soars gracefully on widespread wings using air currents to search for carrion. Roosts communally. Spectacular aerial courtship displays.
- Hissing, grunting sounds at roosts
Still common and adapting readily to human areas. Help track migration and reduce lead contamination.
A medium-sized songbird that migrates in gigantic flocks across Great Plains grasslands in summer. Males look black from afar and then reveal colorful plumage up close while females appear mostly white.
- 6-7 inches
- Male black with white wing patches and belly
- Blue head and orange breastband
- Female light brown and white
Breeds in loose colonies on open prairies with ample ground cover. Travels over 5,000 miles to winter in Mexico.
- Harsh “she-shot” flight calls
Populations declining likely due to habitat loss. Protect native shortgrass prairies.
A vibrant songbird flaunting a bold white breast with a black central spot crowned by a chestnut head. Gray-brown wings reveal flashy white corners in flight.
- 5.5-6.5 inches
- Gray-brown upperparts
- Chestnut head with white crown stripes
- White breast with a dark central spot
- White belly and outer tail feathers
Breeds in grasslands are scattered with shrubs and small trees. Winter range concentrated in Mexico. Hops between branches singing a loud musical song.
- Crisp trills and chatters
Decreasing likely due to habitat loss, maintain native shortgrass prairies and scrublands.
Named for its bubbling song, this iconic grassland bird sports a handsome black summer coat that molts to pale brown plumage streaked white in winter. Females and juveniles always appear light brown.
- 5.5-7 inches
- Male black with light nape
- Female light brown-streaked white
- Long pointed wings in flight
- Small conical bill
Male defends nesting territory then migrates south leaving female and young behind to make their 2,000-mile journey.
- Bubbling metallic song
Grassland specialists declining due to habitat loss, and maintaining native prairies.
A slender aggressive songbird earning its name through fiercely defending nesting territories from much larger birds including crows, jays, and raptors. White throat and wing bars stand out across dark gray plumage.
- 7-9 inches
- Gray upperparts
- Blacker flight and tail feathers
- White throat and wing bars
- Pale yellow belly
Waiting on open perches to sally out and catch flying insects, sometimes hovering to glean prey from foliage.
- Harsh stuttering “zeet”
Still widespread across much of eastern North America.
A silky gray songbird named for red waxy secretions on wing feathers. It shows off soft yellow bellies, vivid red tail bands, and striking masks across black faces decorating soft brown plumage.
- 6-7 inches
- Pale silky brown coloring
- Black mask with white border
- Yellow band at end of the tail
- Red wax-like wing tips
Gregarious birds travel in flocks between fruit trees. Will occasionally hawk insects in flight. Unique social courtship ritual when mating.
- High thin whistles and buzzy trills
Abundant species adapted readily to human settlement.
Small South Dakota Birds Black and White
Black-and-White Warbler: True to the name, bold stripes cloak this tiny bird as it nimbly creeps tree trunks.
Black-capped Chickadee: A beloved tiny songbird with a cute namesake black cap and throat patch.
Downy Woodpecker: The smallest woodpecker displays artful black and white dotted plumage.
Dark-eyed Junco: Sparrow species flashing white outer tail feathers readily visible in flight over mostly dark gray body.
Magnolia Warbler: Colorful yellow and black with bold white tail spots.
American Tree Sparrow: Warm reddish-brown cap over gray face with crisp black spot central on its breast.
South Dakota Birds Black And White Identification
Identifying black and white birds starts with noting size, bill shape, wing shape, and behavior clues. Use these identification tips:
- Size: Note total length compared to common birds. Is it sparrow, warbler, goose, or hawk-sized?
- Plumage patterns: Note back/wing colors, facial markings, patches of white, and belly/throat colors.
- Bill shape: Study bill size, shape, and color for clues. Warblers have thin pointed bills for catching insects while waterfowl have thicker bills adapted for grabbing vegetation.
- Wing shape: Long broad wings indicate soaring while short rounded wings suggest songbirds. White markings seen when folded while perched or in flight help distinguish species.
- Behavior: How does the mystery bird move? Hopping on the ground like a sparrow or woodpecker climbing a tree trunk and searching for food provides helpful hints.
- Sounds: Learning the common vocalizations aids identification. Listen for chickadees “chick-a-dee-dee”, nuthatch “yank-yank”, gull laughing “ha-ha-ha”.
Once you narrow identification by process of elimination, use a reputable field guide or birding app to match field marks and confirm the identity of black and white birds spotted in South Dakota.
South Dakota provides prime opportunities to spot a remarkable diversity of bird species with conspicuous black and white plumage that stand out against more subtly colored birds in the field. From tiny Downy Woodpeckers and Black-capped Chickadees to Great Egrets stalking marshes and Trumpeter Swans winging overhead, familiarizing yourself with identification tips prepares you to recognize showy black and white birds gracing skies, forests and, wetlands. Providing suitable food sources, nest boxes where needed and protecting essential habitats helps ensure healthy bird populations that we can continue to appreciate for generations.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the name of the bird that is black and white?
Some all black and white birds found in South Dakota include:
- Black-billed Magpie
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Common Loon (in breeding plumage)
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Downy Woodpecker
- White-breasted Nuthatch
The male Common Goldeneye duck also has black and white plumage.
What is the bird of South Dakota?
The Ring-necked Pheasant is the official state bird of South Dakota. Male pheasants exhibit colorful plumage with iridescent copper bodies, red face wattles, green-glossed black heads and distinctive white ringed necks.
What kind of bird is black and white with a red head in South Dakota?
If seen in South Dakota, a black and white bird with red hindcrown patching is likely the male Downy Woodpecker. At just 5-7 inches tall, Downies are small forest woodpeckers with black-and-white barred backs, spotted wing plumage and white tail feathers. Females lack the red coloring.
What are the big white birds in South Dakota?
Some of the large white birds found in South Dakota include:
- Trumpeter Swan: Massive waterbirds over 25 pounds with all white plumage and black facial skin. They have an 8-foot wingspan.
- Snow Goose: Weighing 4-6 pounds with white heads, necks, wings and bellies contrasting black wingtips. Some darker morph individuals occur.
What kind of bird is black and white spots?
Several South Dakota birds display black and white spots or striping:
- Woodpeckers: Downy, Hairy and Red-headed woodpeckers feature black and white barred wings, spotted flight feathers and white tail bands.
- Warblers: Magnolia, Black-and-White, Blackburnian, Blackpoll and others have black streaking or spots over white underparts.
- Sparrows: White-crowned, White-throated and Harris’s sparrows reveal flashy white tail corners over darker wings when flying.
- Shorebirds: Ruddy Turnstones sport zebra-like patterning along necks, wings and backs mixed with white bellies and faces.
What is a large black and white bird?
Some larger birds are black with white patches including:
- American White Pelican: Massive waterbirds 15+ pounds that are mostly white except for black wingtips and hindwings.
- Bald Eagle: Iconic raptors over 6 pounds with brown bodies, white heads and tails and yellow beaks as adults. Immatures are mottled brown and white.
- Sandhill Crane: Graceful birds standing over 4 feet tall with red foreheads and predominantly grey plumage except bright white cheeks.
How rare is a white black bird?
An all-white blackbird is extremely rare. White or “leucistic” birds result from genetic mutations causing a loss of melanin pigment. They are spotted intermittently mixed among regularly colored flocks. Sightings are unusual enough to draw attention from birders when reported. Several white blackbirds have been documented in South Dakota.
What is a large black bird with white wings?
Some large black South Dakota birds with bold white patches include:
- American White Pelican: Weighing up to 20 pounds, pelicans are mostly bright white except for conspicuous black primary wing feathers.
- Great Blue Heron: Standing over 4 feet tall, these elegant waders appear blue-gray except for a bright white head and lengthy plume feathers during breeding season.