Loading Events

« All Events

Black Hills and Badlands Birding Tour 2022- 1 spot left

June 7 - June 12

Indiana Audubon 2022 Black Hills and Badlands Birding Tour
June 7-12, 2022
The Best of the South Dakota Black Hills and Badlands

Join fellow Indiana Audubon members for an early summer birding adventure into the Black Hills area of South Dakota. This six-day birding tour will provide participants a chance to log an immense number of western species without having to travel too far west. The Black Hills is home to many easternmost outposts for some interesting western specialties, including American Dipper and Virginia’s Warbler.

This tour will be led by Steve Huggins and Matt Igleski. Participants will be responsible for getting to Rapid City, SD on June 7th and departing on June 12th. Transportation from Rapid City, and for the duration of the trip, will be 12-person passenger vans.

As part of Indiana Audubon’s commitment to conservation in areas we visit, a portion of the trip proceeds will be donated towards the Nature Conservancy’s conservation work in the Black Hills in protecting natural resources for sustainable economic growth.

Day 1. Arrive in Rapid City, SD for evening meet and greet
Day 2. Badlands National Park, lodging in Rapid City
Day 3. Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park, lodging in Custer, SD
Day 4. Black Hills National Forest, lodging in Custer, SD
Day 5. Spearfish Canyon and Black Hills National Forest, lodging in Rapid City
Day 6. Departure

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 (June 7): Participants fly into Rapid City, SD and meet at the hotel by evening. Optional birding to nearby locations for early arrivals. Gather for an orientation that evening in the hotel. Stay the night in Rapid City.

Day 2 (June 8): For the first day of birding, we will head east to drive through Badlands National Park. Possible species include Burrowing Owl, Horned Lark, Lark Bunting, Mountain Bluebird, Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Northern Harrier, Loggerhead Shrike, Rock Wren, as well as a few large Bank Swallow colonies. Prairie Falcons are also possible, but uncommon. On the way back to Rapid City we will stop to look for Yellow-headed Blackbird, Eared Grebe, Wilson’s Phalarope, Willet, Marbled Godwit, and other shorebirds and waterfowl. Stay the night in Rapid City.

Day 3 (June 9): After an early checkout, we will head towards Custer State Park. We will make a few stops in the higher elevation Sylvan Lake region, and for brief views of Mt. Rushmore (we don’t intend to enter the actual memorial park). This leg of the trip will include sections of the famed Needles Highway and it’s amazing, scenic views. This sub-alpine area hosts Red Crossbills, Cassin’s Finch, and Red-naped Sapsucker. We will make our way to the Custer State Park Visitor Center and drive the Wildlife Loop in the park. Lunch in Custer.

After lunch, we will travel through Custer State Park to Wind Cave. Wind Cave contains mixed-grass prairie, with scattered pine groves, pine forest, deciduous shrubbery and thickets. Recent sightings will help determine which areas to target. Target species will include Upland Sandpiper, Black-billed Magpie, Western Meadowlark, Burrowing Owl, and Mountain Bluebird. Check into the hotel and dinner in Custer.

Optional: Nocturnal birding for Common Poorwill after dinner.

Day 4 (June 10): An early start will give us plenty of time to visit Hell Canyon. Hell Canyon will provide an immense selection of western specialties in one long, but doable hike. This rugged canyon system is characterized by sedimentary outcroppings of sandstone, dolomite, gypsum, some shale and limestone. A few of the birds being sought will be White-throated Swift, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Clark’s Nutcracker, Canyon Wren, Townsend’s Solitaire, and MacGillivray’s Warbler. After lunch, the group will drive to Elk Mountain to search for the elusive Lewis’s Woodpecker. Additional birds seen may be Western Meadowlark, Rock Wren, and Say’s Phoebe. Afterwards, we will explore the dry pine-juniper-shrub habitat of the black hills—a limited habitat type in South Dakota. This terrain is structurally similar to pinyon-juniper habitats of the southwestern United States and contains an interesting assemblage of birds, including the most northeastern breeding population of Virginia’s Warblers. Other birds we may find include Dusky Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Pinyon Jay, Plumbeous Vireo, Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler, and Western Tanager.

Dinner at the famed State Game Lodge in the state park.

Day 5 (June 11): After an early morning checkout, the group will head north to the spectacular Spearfish Canyon with a few stops along the way. Steep limestone cliffs define the canyon. Ponderosa pine and white spruce line the draws, and riparian shrubs and deciduous trees edge Spearfish Creek. This is the best site for American Dipper, and the trail along the scenic waterfalls can be a great location to find Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Tanager, Dark-eyed Junco (White-winged), Pacific Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Swainson’s Thrush. We will also target Black-backed Woodpecker and American Three-toed Woodpecker based on recent sightings. Lunch will be in Spearfish. We will then take our time heading back towards Rapid City for the night. Stops on this leg will target species we may have missed during the rest of the trip.

Day 6 (June 12): Wake up and fly out.

Included with the Tour:

  • IAS guides coordinating trip logistics before and during the tour
  • Spacious van transportation during the entirety of the trip
  • 5 nights lodging
  • All breakfast and dinners beginning on Day 2, through Day 6 (no dinner on day 6)
  • All entrance fees to reserves, state parks, and national parks
  • Standard meal tips for restaurant wait staff

Not included with the Tour:

  • Airfare to and from Rapid City, SD
  • Tips for hotel staff and guides
  • Medical expenses, prescription drugs and other items of personal use.
  • Alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and anything else not listed on the menus of restaurants
  • Lunch, snacks and dinner on Day 1
  • Health and/or trip insurance
  • Laundry service
  • Souvenirs
  • Any other expense not listed as included above

Trip limit is 10 participants max.  This trip currently has 1 SPOT LEFT.  Prices are based on double occupancy.  $200 deposit due upon registration. To register, contact Brad Bumgardner at [email protected]  All participants must complete terms and conditions upon deposit to hold a spot.

$1,535.00 per person IAS Member.  $1,599.00 per person non-IAS Member.
Single Supplement: $350
$75 surcharge for credit card payments


Indiana Audubon Society
View Organizer Website


Custer, SD
342 Mt Rushmore Road
Custer, SD 57730 United States
+ Google Map

2022 Copyright ©  Indiana Audubon Society, Inc.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?