Christmas Bird Counts In South Dakota Yield New Data Despite The Bitter Cold

Dec 15, 2016

Long tailed ducks documented during the 112th Christmas Bird Count near Yankton.
Credit Roger Dietrich/

The 117th Christmas Bird Count is underway. The nationwide event is sponsored by the National Audubon Society, it gives bird enthusiasts the chance to get outside during the winter months to document avian species in their areas.

Volunteers monitor a fifteen mile radius to record bird species. Sometimes, the findings are unusual.

In South Dakota, around 20 bird counts are set to take place over the next couple of weeks, including one in Pine Ridge.

Officials say the data from the Christmas Bird Counts helps scientists determine changes to bird’s habitats, including how climate change is affecting certain species.

Peter Hill is leading the Christmas Bird Count on Pine Ridge.   Hill is a Lakota Language teacher.  He says the CBC is a prime example of citizen science, but admits the event isn’t for everyone. Hill says being out all day in the cold can be a problem for some.

“I always say I’ll keep doing it even if I’m the only person doing it, it’s fun to compile a count, it’s fun for me to see how we compared to the previous year, you know, just to be out there and in a time of year when it seems like everything is gone or hibernating, last year we over a thousand individual birds,” says Hill.

Hill says Pine Ridge’s bird count last year found six new species of birds not counted from previous years.

“We had some water species even though the lakes are mostly frozen over, birds of prey, hawks, eagles, falcons, if people know where to look, there’s a lot to be seen, and there’s a real reason to get out there, no matter how cold and windy and inhospitable it is,” says Hill.

Last year in eastern South Dakota the count included a tropical species of bird known as the Great Kiskadee that was thousands of miles from its home range.  Officials say surprises like this are also part of what make the bird count so much fun.

Some Christmas Bird Counts have been postponed due to cold weather.  Find the updated locations list & contact info. for CBC leaders below courtesy of the Prairie Hills Audubon Society:


Sunday December 11, 2016.
Contact: Barbara Muenchau (745-1150), Barbara_Muenchau (at), or Dan Roddy, (605) 745-1157, dan_roddy(at) -  Meet at Park Visitor Center 7:30 am.  Approximately 4:15 pm for Pot Luck Supper and sharing of the day's findings.

Wednesday, December 14
Contact: Gene Hess:  gene (at), leave a message at 605-791-0630.

Thursday, December 15, 2016,
. Contact: meghanfdinkins (at),  Meghan's office phones:
Grand River National Grasslands at 605-374-3592, or the Dakota Prairie Grasslands Supervisor's Office at 701-989-7300. Meet at the store 11 miles south of Lemmon, SD along SD 73 in Shadehill (i.e. the Sommerville Store) at 7:30 am.    

Saturday, December 17, 2016
Bad weather alternate date is Saturday, Dec 31st
 May be rescheduled due to weather, they will decide Thursday night
Contact: Ruben D. Mares_(605) 224-5517, rmares (at)
CBC organizational meeting is Thurs. the 15th at 7:30 PM in the Media Center at First United Methodist Church,
Post-count evening meet at Perkins restaurant, Fort Pierre between 5:30 and 6:30 PM to turn in results.    

Sunday, December 18th
Bad weather alternate TBD,
Contact: Gene Hess:  gene(at), leave a message at 605-791-0630.

Wednesday, December 21st., 2016
Bad weather alternate TBD
Contact: petermhill (at)
Meet briefly prior to count at 7 am at Big Bat's gas station (Conoco) in downtown Pine Ridge.
Overnight hosting may be available.

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016
Bad weather alternate date of Thursday, December 22nd has replaced an earlier date of 17th
Contact:  Vic Fondy - (605) 269-2553, vicdonna (at)
Birders meet at McDonalds in Sturgis, at 7:30 AM.
A compilation potluck is at 12067 Crook City Rd, Whitewood, SD after count.    

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
Contact: Jennifer Adams at (307) 290-0457, ravenssong18 (at)
Meet 7:30 am at East Conoco Service Station at the West end of Sundance,

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016
Contact: Nancy Drilling, drillingn (at), 605-791-0459
Meet at Ben Reifel Visitor Center at 7:45 am, for route assignments.    

Monday, January 2nd 2017
 Contact: Daniel Bjerke, 605-381-0493, dan.bjerke (at)
Meet at McDonalds at 7:30 AM for field assignments    

No Hot Springs CBC planned this year, but watch for it next year --
contact: Duane Weber - (605) 673-2032, duane_weber(at), mmcurtin (at)
No Bison CBC this year either - contact meghandinkins (at),


Waubay N.W.R., (Dec.20th  2016), (Bad weather alternate replaces an earlier date)  Contact: Laura Hubers (605) 947-4521 Ext. 116, Laura_Hubers (at)

Madison,  (Dec. 14th, 2016), Contact: Jeffrey S. Palmer, jeff.palmer(at)

Sand Lake N.W.R., (Dec. 15th, 2016), Contact: Allen Olson, 605-885-6284, allen_olson(at),

Sioux Falls, (Dec. 17th, 2016), May be rescheduled due to weather. Contact: Chris Anderson, canderson1(at)

Aberdeen (Dec. 18th, 2016), May be rescheduled due to weather
Contact: Gary Olson, olsonfam(at), 605-885-6284

Yankton, (Dec. 21st, 2016),(Bad weather alternate replaces an earlier date)
 Contact: Roger Dietrich, (605) 660-6247, 1947rogerd(at),

Brookings, (Dec. 23rd),(Bad weather alternate replaces an earlier date) Contact: Nelda Holden,
 (605) 692-8278, neldaholden(at),

Mitchell, (Dec. 27th, 2016) - Contact: Jeff Hansen, hanjd(at),, (605) 996-9417

Canton, (Dec 31st, 2016), Contact: Chris Anderson, canderson1(at)

Lake Andes, (January 5th, 2017) - Contact: Mick Hanan, (605) 487-7603 Ext. 107, mick_hanan(at)