Roger Dietrich

With the return of warm weather and longer days to enjoy the sunshine, many people have sought out the pleasures offered by outdoor recreation activities. Roger Dietrich of Yankton, South Dakota, takes full advantage, but usually prefers to explore nature on foot or by kayak, with his trusty iPhone. Roger finds continual inspiration in God’s creations. He captures the beauty of flora and fauna so expertly on digital film that one feels as if they could almost smell or touch them. He shares that although he’s always been fascinated by nature, it was his life-long love of photography, that led him to become a professed “serious bird chaser” thirty years ago. Roger estimates he has taken over 60 thousand pictures of birds during his years of birding. Lots of them are available for anyone to enjoy at his online flicker site:

Roger is well acquainted with the best locations to go bird watching in the Yankton area, but always does his best to fit in some bird watching time whenever he travels. Roger and his wife Donna, have been to every state in the US except Vermont, and he says, “It’s so easy now, especially with the internet, to know where people are seeing birds.” Roger gets daily emails of rare bird sightings all over the country and has been able to find “life birds” from this valuable information. Roger explains that in the birding world, the term: life bird, is used for a bird that a person has just seen for the very first time. When asked what his alltime favorite life bird is, Roger talks about the bee humming bird, which he and Donna went to Cuba for the sole purpose of finding. It is the smallest known species of bird in the world, and is only found in Cuba. Roger saw several and recalled they look like, “A little bug with green on the back and a little red on the tail.” This type of bird is known as an endemic, meaning that they don’t migrate and is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location.

As far as a favorite back yard bird, Roger likes the Baltimore Orioles and has grape jelly feeders out to attract them. He advises, “Any brand of jelly will do, it doesn’t have to be Welch’s. Some people are successful with strawberry jelly, too.” Roger remembers when his house was the first built on the street fifteen years ago, and was surrounded by fields of alfalfa and prairie grassland. Western Meadowlarks, Sandpipers and other field birds were common, with the construction of new homes in the area, they left due to loss of habitat.


Even with the development of the neighborhood, Roger doesn’t need to leave his home to seek out his avian friends because they flock to him! Roger and his wife, Donna, have created a gorgeous bird habitat in their back yard. The sanctuary features a soothing waterfall feature that tumbles over stones and native plants into a sizable koi pond. The Dietrich’s property also hosts numerous bird nests in their trees, and multiple feeders that are always kept full. To date Roger has identified 49 species of birds in his back yard alone. South Dakota has around 400 species. Roger always keeps track of every bird he’s seen on a special free application on his cell phone that was put out by Cornell University Lab of Ornithology called eBird. The app not only has bird field guides, but also includes data from all over the country, bird song examples, and allows for users to record their bird sightings, too.

For beginning birders, Roger suggests starting with observing and learning about the birds in your local area first. His favorite bird book for the United States is any of the Sibley bird guides. He urges new birders to, “Just get out there and see what you can find! Ideally if you know someone who is more experienced to go with you, it can really speed up the learning process.” Originally Roger started out on his own, but as he got into the hobby more deeply, he eventually joined the South Dakota Ornithologist’s Union. Since then, he has made so many friends, and has learned so much about birds over the years. In the past Roger taught a bird watching class to the Yankton community, and hopes to again – possibly next spring – for the Yankton Area Arts.

He also encourages people to feed birds all year long, because there are many species that stay throughout the harsh winter. One winter a Great Blue Heron got stranded during a blizzard, and sheltered in the Dietrich’s back yard spruces for most of the day. He says that this was the most unusual bird to have visited his home.

There’s also an official list of bird etiquette/good manners that is available online from the American Birding Association. They call it the Code of Birding Ethics, and the main purpose is for people to “Practice and promote respectful, enjoyable and thoughtful birding as defined in this code.” The main tenets are:

1. Respect and promote birds and their environment.

2. Respect and promote the birding community and its individual members.

3. Respect and promote the law and the rights of others.

A new addition that pertains specifically to the current challenging times is:

“Keep your eyes to the sky and your butt close to home!”

This is in accordance with the ABA COVID-19 guidelines on birding and social distancing.

The ABA also states that: “Birding should be fun and help build a better future for birds, for birders and for all people. Birds and birding opportunities are shared resources that should be open and accessible to all and birders should always give back more than they take.”

Roger likes to go out at least two to three times a week bird watching, weather permitting. He devotes a minimum of a couple of hours and often hikes through several locations in Yankton, such as the Gavins Point Nature Trail, Canary Bay and around Lake Yankton. He documents all the birds he sees on the eBird app. on his phone. This is organized by date, time, location, type of bird and number of each type of bird seen. Just a sample of some of the types of birds on Roger’s most recent lists includes birds many people aren’t familiar with that such as:

Grasshopper Sparrow, American Redstar, Dickcissel and Ovenbird.

Bird watching is a hobby that is accessible to almost everyone. For those that prefer to enjoy them from the security of home, there are tons of types of bird feeders and seed available. Some people only want to attract specific birds to their feeders, and get irritated by black birds such as Grackles, because they can be aggressive and hog all the food, while chasing off the song birds and smaller species. When asked specifically about how he feels about them, Roger responds, “Have you ever seen them shining in the sun? The iridescence of their feathers…they’re beautiful! When asked if he prefers a particular type of bird species, he quickly enthuses, “I’m interested in ALL birds!”