10 COMMON Birds in Grand Teton National Park (2024)

What kinds of birds can you find in Grand Teton National Park?

common birds in grand teton national park

This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 200 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.

Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting Grand Teton National Park.


#1. Bald Eagle

  • Haliaeetus leucocephalus

birds in Grand Teton National Park

The Bald Eagle is one of the most recognizable birds in Grand Teton National Park!

But did you know that the “Bald” portion of their name has nothing to do with not having feathers on their head? As you can clearly see, these eagles have white feathers covering their entire face with no bald spots anywhere. Their name actually stems from an Old English word “piebald,” which means “white patch” and refers to their bright white heads.

commons eagles in wyoming

While almost everyone knows what a full-grown Bald Eagle looks like, trying to correctly identify juvenile birds is tricky. These eagles don’t get their characteristic white head and dark brown body until they are FIVE YEARS OLD. Until then, these birds have all sorts of different plumages and streaky browns and whites on their bodies. Even their beak changes color! It takes A LOT of practice and experience to identify young Bald Eagles properly!

Bald Eagle Range Map

The reason that Bald Eagles are found around water is that they mostly eat fish!  Look for them around marshes, lakes, and rivers.  The BEST areas are forests near large bodies of water that provide good fishing AND tall trees for nesting sites.

Did you know that Bald Eagles build the largest nests in the world?

Their nests start “small,” but eagles add new layers each year.  The biggest one EVER found was 10 feet wide (3 meters) and 20 feet tall (6 meters) and weighed in at 3 tons! Bald Eagles would keep adding to their nests each year, but what happens is that the structures get so heavy they eventually fall out of the tree, and the birds have to start over.

The Bald Eagle probably doesn’t sound like what you think. If you imagine an intimidating eagle call, then you would be wrong. I think they sound more like a gull, with trills and little whistles. In fact,  movie directors are so unimpressed with the sounds a Bald Eagle makes, it’s common for them to use the call of a Red-tailed Hawk instead for dramatic effect!

YouTube video

Press PLAY above to hear a Bald Eagle!


#2. Black-billed Magpie

  • Pica hudsonia

birds in Grand Teton National Park

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A large black and white bird with a long tail.
  • In the right light, you can see beautiful blue iridescent feathers on the wings and tail.

It’s hard to miss these bold birds in Grand Teton National Park!

Black-billed Magpies demand your attention. They are very social, noisy, and comfortable living amongst people and are commonly seen in smaller towns. Naturally, they live in open grasslands and plains and tend to avoid dense forests.

Black-billed Magpie Range Map

Being part of the Corvid family, Black-billed Magpies are incredibly intelligent. One interesting behavior is that they seem to have funerals when they discover a deceased magpie. Individual birds will begin calling loudly to attract more magpies, eventually having as many as 40 birds gathered for 10-15 minutes before flying away silently.


#3. Common Merganser

birds in Grand Teton National Park

How to identify:

  • A fairly large duck that has a long, slender orange bill with a black tip and dark eyes.
  • Breeding males have a largely white body, a black back, and a mallard-like green head.
  • Females and non-breeding males sport a cinnamon-colored head and a grayish-white body.

Due to their thin bill, Common Mergansers stand out fairly easily from most other water birds in Grand Teton National Park. Their favorite food is fish, which they catch with the help of their serrated bill, but they also indulge in aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and worms.

Common Merganser Range Map

common merganser range map

Common Mergansers are so good at fishing that many other ducks try to steal from them when they surface. In fact, it’s common to see flocks of seagulls following them, hoping to snatch an easy meal. Even Bald Eagles have been known to rob them of their hard-earned fish!

Naturally, these ducks nest in tree cavities that woodpeckers have carved out. Interestingly, newborn ducklings are only about a day old when they leap from the entrance to the ground, at which point the mother will lead them to water, and they catch all their own food immediately.


#4. Osprey

birds in Grand Teton National Park

Even though Ospreys are not hawks, they certainly look similar to one. Many people think they are looking at some species of hawk when they first observe an Osprey in Grand Teton. These raptors have also been given nicknames, such as Sea Hawk, River Hawk, and Fish Hawk, which hint at the association between an Osprey and a hawk.

Osprey Range Map

Osprey Range Map

When you think of an Osprey, you should think of fish because that is what these birds eat 99% of the time. Even an Osprey’s talons are perfectly adapted for catching fish. If you take a close look, you will see they are extremely curved and even intersect when fully closed, which makes them perfectly designed for holding onto slippery fish!

Even more interesting, their outer toe is reversible, which allows them to rotate the toe so they can have two in front and two in back. Only Ospreys and owls have this unique ability, which allows them to be more efficient hunters.

YouTube video

And these guys don’t just skim the surface and grab their prey near the top like an eagle. Ospreys hit the water HARD and plunge right in to assure themselves of a catch. Amazingly, they can then take off while submerged and with a fish in their talons!

YouTube video

Listen for Ospreys next time you are around a large body of water or river in Grand Teton National Park. Their alarm call is a series of short high-pitched whistles that descend in pitch. The noise has been compared to a teapot taken off a stove.


#5. Canada Goose

  • Branta canadensis

birds in Grand Teton National Park

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large goose with a long black neck and a distinctive white cheek patch.
  • Brown body with a pale white chest and underparts.
  • Black feet and legs.

Canada Geese are very common birds in Grand Teton National Park.

I’m sure you probably recognize these birds, as they are very comfortable living around people and human development. Look for them wherever there are grasses or grains to eat, such as lawns and parks.

Canada Goose Range Map

canada goose range map

The Canada Goose is also easy to identify while flying overhead. If you see a flock of large birds in a V-formation, then it’s most likely them. Flying this way helps conserve energy, and different birds take turns leading the way.

Canada Geese are often heard in Grand Teton.

Listen for a wide variety of loud honks and cackles. Listen above!

Interestingly, these geese can live a long time! Their lifespan ranges from 10 to 24 years, but one individual banded in 1969 was found again in 2001, 32 years later!


#6. Mountain Bluebird

  • Sialia currucoides

birds in Grand Teton National Park

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are covered with beautiful sky-blue feathers on their heads, back, and wings.
  • Females are a bit trickier since they are primarily gray-brown, with tinges of blue on their tails and wings.

There are not many things more beautiful than seeing one of these birds while hiking in Grand Teton National Park. 🙂

In Wyoming, look for Mountain Bluebirds in open areas. As their name suggests, Mountain Bluebirds are observed at elevations up to 12,500 feet during the breeding season. However, once winter arrives, they typically fly down to lower elevations.

Mountain Bluebird Range Map

mountain bluebird range map

Mountain Bluebirds feast on insects during warm months and switch their diet to primary berries in winter. But unlike other bluebird species, they are excellent aerial hunters and routinely grab insects out of mid-air!

Finding a suitable nesting location is crucial for female Mountain Bluebirds; they rarely care about anything else. She chooses her mate almost solely based on the quality of his nesting cavity, ignoring things like looks, singing skills, and flying ability!

Next time you are in a mountain valley or meadow, keep your ears open and listen for a Mountain Bluebird! Press PLAY below.


#7. Common Raven

  • Corvus corax

birds in Grand Teton National Park

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
  • The bill is hefty and thick.
  • In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.

Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Grand Teton National Park!

Their intelligence makes them efficient predators, and it’s common for ravens to team up to get food, such as stealing eggs from nests or attacking larger prey.

Common Raven Range Map

Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in many habitats in Grand Teton. Look for them living near the edges of towns. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.

Common Ravens are impressive vocalists that make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound you will hear in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch.

Interestingly, they can mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if raised in captivity.


#8. Trumpeter Swan

birds in Grand Teton National Park

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A giant, white bird with a long neck.
  • Black bill and black facial skin at the base of the bill. It lacks the yellow that appears on the Tundra Swan.
  • Black legs.

Trumpeter Swans are the largest bird that lives in Grand Teton National Park! They have a wingspan of almost 6 feet (1.8 m) and weigh around 25 pounds (11.3 kg), which is about twice the amount of a Tundra Swan. In fact, they are so big, about 100 yards of open water is needed for them to get enough speed to take off!

Trumpeter Swans were once endangered due to overhunting, but luckily their population has recovered, and they are increasing their numbers. Unlike Tundra Swans, this species stays in Grand Teton in summer to nest and breed. Look for them near ponds, lakes, rivers, and marshes, and the farther from people, the better!

YouTube video

 

These large birds typically nest on an existing structure that is surrounded by water, such as beaver dams, muskrat dens, small islands, floating masses of vegetation, and artificial platforms. Trumpeter Swans are very sensitive when breeding and will commonly abandon their nest sites and babies due to human disturbance.

Deep, loud trumpets can be heard when they are alarmed or defending their territory, which is two syllables with the second one emphasized (“oh-OH“).


#9. American White Pelican

white pelican

Identifying Characteristics:

  • GIANT white water bird with a long neck and long bill.
  • Yellow patch at the base of the bill that wraps around their eyes.
  • Breeding adults have an odd plate that sticks up from the end of the bill.

American White Pelicans are hard to miss due to their massive size, and they are one of the largest birds in Grand Teton National Park. They typically weigh between 11 – 20 pounds (5.0 – 9.1 kg), but it’s their wingspan that is most impressive. When fully spread, the wings measure over 9 feet (2.7 m) from tip to tip, which is the second widest in North America, behind the California Condor.

American White Pelican Range Map

white pelican range map

These pelicans don’t dive like many other birds to catch fish but instead use their giant neck pouches to scoop up fish. In fact, individuals commonly work together to herd fish to shallow areas to make them easier to catch.

YouTube video

Interestingly, chicks that are still INSIDE the egg can squawk to convey discomfort if conditions become too hot or too cold! Otherwise, adults are generally silent.


#10. Western Tanager

  • Piranga ludoviciana

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm) long and weigh 0.8-1.3 oz (23-37 g).
  • Males are bright yellow with black wings and an orange-red head.
  • Females are dusty yellow-green with gray wings.

Western Tanagers can be hard to spot because they spend much of their time in the upper canopy of open forests. However, if you see one of these yellow birds in Grand Teton National Park, you can identify a male by its fiery coloring. The orange-red head, yellow body, and black wings bear a striking resemblance to a burning fire.

Females are more understated, with a greenish-yellow body and gray wings.


Which of these birds have you seen before in Grand Teton National Park?

Leave a comment below!


To learn more about other birds that live in Grand Teton National Park, check out these guides!

 

The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

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