Contact Info
Missouri River Institute
The University of
South Dakota
414 E. Clark Street
Science Center
Vermillion, SD 57069

Financial support for website development provided by the
Living River Group
of the
Sierra Club




Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus lecocephalus )

By the 1880s Bald Eagles were extirpated in southeastern South Dakota.  In 1992 and 1993 they began nesting again in the region.  They are frequently seen in summer feeding on dead fish and carrion along the river. In winter, from December through February large numbers may be observed at the Lewis and Clark Visitor's Center above Gavins Pont Dam. It is easy to recognize the adult with its white head and tail feathers; it takes about five years for that mature plumage to develop.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Since vultures soar with dihedral wings they can easily be distinguished from other large birds on the river. They are a common summer residents and are occasionally seen in the winter along the winter. 

Red Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

This is one of the most common nesting raptors along the river.  The nest is usually high up in trees. Variable plumages and color morphs can complicate identification but most adults will have a distinctive red tail.

Interior Least Tern (Sterna antillarum)

This endangered bird species is a local summer resident along the Missouri river. There are several tern species on the river.  The Least Tern breeding adult can usually be identified by its small size, yellow legs, dark tipped bill, black cap and white forehead. Immature birds are easy to confuse with other species.


Piping Plover (Charadrius melosus)

This threatened species of plover nest on the islands.  As you float by look for a small pale bird with bright orange legs.