Montana Birds: The Complete List + Photos for Fast Identification

You spotted a bird in Montana – but what type is it? There are more than 80 species of birds in Montana to enjoy and I’ve included them all in this complete list.

With more than 20 years of experience attracting backyard birds to my yard in Wisconsin, I’ve studied many of the birds in my area, many of which can also be found in Montana, so I have the information you’re looking for. For the remaining species, I rely on my field guides and friends at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology to guide me.

This article includes the species of wild birds you might find in and around a Montana backyard. They could be red, blue, brown or some other color. They could be tiny, small, medium, large, or enormous – all size variations are here!

Some wild birds live in Montana year-round, others are here to breed, and others are just migrating through. The range maps are color-coded so you know if it’s a year-round bird, there to breed, migrating through, or there during a nonbreeding time.

range map color coded key

I also included a beautiful closeup photo to help you identify your new feathered friends along with detail such as:

  • Size + appearance description
  • Diet in the wild and at the feeder
  • Habitat
  • Nest & eggs description
  • Range map

My hope is that this article will help you easily identify the bird you saw or plan to see one day.

American Kestrel

American kestrel perched
American kestrel. Image by Pixamio from Pixabay
AppearanceThe American kestrel is a small raptor at about 10 1/2″ in length. They have blue/gray wings, cinnamon back with black bars, cinnamon tail with a black bar near the tip, and tan underneath with dark spots. The female is the same except she has reddish-brown underparts and a tail with dark bars. And, her underparts have reddish streaks.
DietLarge insects, lizards, rodents, and small birds.
Feeder FoodThey don’t visit feeders.
HabitatOpen areas especially rural and suburban fields.
NestingAmerican kestrels nest in an old woodpecker hole or some other natural cavity. They have 1-2 broods/season and 4-5 eggs/brood. Eggs are white-yellow or light brown with spots. Incubation is for 29-30 days and fledglings leave the nest at 28-31 days.

Range Map

American kestrel range map.
American kestrel range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow. Photo by Lisa Minica.
Appearance7″ long, steel blue glossy on top, chestnut forehead and throat, and rust-orange underparts. Long forked tail with a white base. The female’s coloring is lighter and the tail shorter.
DietInsects, preferably beetles, wasps, and flies. Drinks by skimming the surface of the water.
Feeder FoodNot likely to visit a feeder.
HabitatOpen fields and pastures.
NestingTypically nests in or on a manmade structure such as a barn. Builds nests of mud. 2 broods/season, 4-5 eggs per brood, eggs are white with brown markings, incubation from 13-17 days.

Range Map

barn swallow range map
Barn swallow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted kingfisher on a perch
Belted kingfisher. Image by Katherine Durtnell from Pixabay
AppearanceLarge 13″ long bird with a large head, long bill, and stocky body.  Blue/gray throughout with white ring around neck and white chest. Female is same but with additional chestnut band on chest.
DietMostly fish with some crustaceans, insects, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, small mammals, and berries.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to come to the feeder but often attracted to yards with streams or ponds.
HabitatNear streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and calm marine waters – especially unclouded water with little vegetation.
NestingDig burrows along waters edge. 1-2 broods/season, 5-8 eggs/brood – large white glossy eggs (1.5″ long), 22-24 days incubation.

Range Map

belted kingfisher range map
Belted kingfisher range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Blue Jay

Blue jay on snowy branch
Blue jay. Photo by Cathy Cardone.
AppearanceLarge bird 12″ long, medium blue & white body, blue crest (which he flattens at will), gray belly and white face. White & blue wings with black spots. Female look the same.
DietInsects, fruit, seeds, nuts, other birds’ eggs and nestlings.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn.
HabitatForested areas with mixed trees types. Also common in suburbs and urban areas.
NestingNest: bulky large nest made from twigs, bark, and mud resting on a tree branch about 5-50′ up.
Broods: 1-2 broods/season,
Clutch: 2-7 eggs/brood,
Egg color: Pale blue to a light brown base color, and these eggs usually have brown or gray spots.
Egg size: 1 inch by just under 1 inch
Incubation: Both parents incubate the eggs for 17-18 days and the young fledge between 17-21 days.

Range Map

Blue jay range map
Blue jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Wouldn’t you love to have blue jays in your yard? Check out: 7 Proven Ways to Attract Blue Jays to Your Yard.


Brewer’s Blackbird

Brewer's blackbird staring at the camera
Brewer’s blackbird. Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash
AppearanceBrewer’s blackbird is a large bird about 9″ long. They’re all black with purple and green iridescence on the head and body. The female is dull gray/brown instead.
DietInsects, seeds, and berries.
Feeder FoodAny type of seed offered on a platform feeder or scattered on the ground.
HabitatInhabits a variety of habitats – open woodlands, mountain meadows, city sidewalks, and suburban backyards.
NestingThey nest in a tree 20-40 feet up. The nest is a bulky cup shape comprised of twigs, grasses, and other plant material. They have 1-2 broods/season and 4-6 eggs/brood. The eggs are light gray to greenish/white and often spotted. Incubation is for 12-14 days and fledglings leave the nest at 13-14 days.

Range Map

Brewer's blackbird range map.
Brewer’s blackbird range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Bullock’s Oriole

Male bullock's oriole perched on a branch
Male bullock’s oriole. Image by PublicDomainImages from Pixabay
Female bullock's oriole on an orange feeder
Female bullock’s oriole. Photo by Jeff Krogstad.
AppearanceThe Bullock’s oriole is a medium-sized bird about 8″ long. They’re orange with a black crown, eye stripes, throat, back, and wings (+ white wingbars). During the first spring, a juvenile male is more yellow-orange with a black mask and throat.
The female is yellow with a dark stripe through the middle her eyes, and grayish-black only on her wings. White wingbars accent the black.
DietInsects, spiders, fruits, and nectar.
Feeder FoodCut fruit, jelly, or nectar.
HabitatOpen wooded areas especially along riverbanks.
NestingBullock’s orioles build a hanging pouch style nest about 10-20′ high in a tree or shrub and is suspended from a forked branch. They have 4-5 eggs/brood that are incubated for 11-14 days. The eggs are pale blue/white with purplish-brown spots. Fledglings leave the nest at about 14 days.

Range Map

Bullock's oriole range map.
Bullock’s oriole range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s finch. Image by Steve Crowhurst from Pixabay
AppearanceThe Cassin’s finch is a small bird about 6 1/4″ long. They’re brown with a red cap, brown stripe across their cheeks, and white underneath with light pink streaks on the chest.
The female is similar except she doesn’t have red or pink. her chest and belly are heavily streaked brown and she has a white streak above and over her eyes.
DietSeeds, buds, and berries. Occasionally insects.
Feeder FoodBlack-oil sunflower seeds.
HabitatOpen forested areas rich with conifers.
NestingNest: They build a nest high up in a conifer – about 30+ feet up.
Broods: 4-5 eggs/brood
Clutch: 3-6 eggs/brood
Egg color: Light bluish with black, brown, and purplish speckles
Egg size: 0.7 – 0.8 inches by 0.5 – 0.6 inches
Incubation: 12-14 days.

Range Map

Cassin's finch finch range map.
Cassin’s finch range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping sparrow perched on a branch
Chipping sparrow. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash
AppearanceSmall bird about 5″ long, gray/brown with a light gray chest and rusty crown. Eyes have white eyebrows with a black eye lining, a thin gray-black bill, and 2 wing bars. Male and female look the same.
DietInsects and seeds.
Feeder FoodBlack-oil sunflower seed, mixed seeds. Mostly a ground feeder.
HabitatOpen areas and edges of woodlands.
NestingThe nest is placed low in dense shrubs. They have 2 broods/year and 3-5 eggs/brood that are blue/green with brown markings. Incubation lasts 11-14 days.

Range Map

Chipping sparrow range map.
Chipping sparrow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle
Common Grackle. aPhoto by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash
Appearance12.5″ long bird with iridescent blue with purple and bronze. Eyes are yellow, long flared tail. Female is similar with less vibrant coloring (more brown) and shorter tail.
DietInsects, grains, seeds, fruit, scavenged garbage.
Feeder FoodSunflower seeds, black-oil sunflower seeds.
HabitatFields with scattered trees, open woodlands, farmlands, and marshes. Common in suburban yards.
NestingBulky cup-shaped nest of twigs placed 3-20′ high in conifer tree. 3-5 eggs incubated for 12-15 days. Young fledge at about 12-15 days.

Range Map

Common grackle range map.
Common grackle range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Eastern Bluebird

Male eastern bluebird
Male eastern bluebird. Photo by Mike Carmo.
Appearance7″ long, royal blue, orange throat & breast, white belly & undertail. Female is similar but more muted colors
DietInsects & spiders in spring/summer. Small fruit in Fall/Winter. 
Feeder FoodSuet, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, jelly. 
HabitatWide-open spaces, fields, meadow.
NestingNest: Cavity nesters. The male bluebird determines the nest site (an old woodpecker hole in a tree or manmade nestbox), but the female is the one who builds the nest. She keeps the nest for multiple broods.
Brood: 2-7 broods/season
Clutch: 4-5 eggs/brood
Egg color: Pale blue eggs (sometimes white) with no blemishes or discoloration. 
Egg size: 0.9 inches by 0.8 inches
Incubation: 11-19 days

Range Map

US map showing the migration range of the eastern bluebird
Map depicting where Eastern bluebirds can be found throughout the year. Compliments of Cornell University.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian collared dove perched on concrete block
Eurasian collared dove. Image by Markéta Machová from Pixabay
AppearanceThe Eurasian collared-dove is a large bird about 12 1/2″ long, gray/tan with a black collar on the back of its neck. Eyes are large and black, bill long and slightly curved down. They have a long, squared-off tail with a white tip best seen from underneath.
DietSeeds, grain, berries, and insects.
Feeder FoodMillet on the ground or platform feeder.
HabitatLive in towns, suburbs, and farms.
NestingThey build their flimsy platform nest of twigs and stick then place them in a tree or shrub about 1/2 way up. They have 3-6 broods/season with 1-2 eggs/brood. Eggs are white and slightly glossy. Incubation is for 14-19 days and fledglings leave the nest about 16-20 days after hatching.

Range Map

Eurasian collared dove range map.
Eurasian collared dove range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

European Starling

European starling singing on a branch
European starling.
AppearanceMedium-sized bird about 7 1/2″ long with iridescent shades of purple and black with white speckles throughout. They have a long pointed gray bill in fall and yellow in spring. The tail is short. The Female looks the same.
DietInsects, seeds, fruit.
Feeder FoodEverything and anything you could offer at the feeder.
HabitatUrban and residential areas throughout the US and Canada including backyard lawns, parks, and fields.
NestingNest: They are cavity nesters
Brood: 2 broods/year.
Clutch: 4-6 eggs/brood
Egg color: Glossy bluish or a pale green
Egg size: 1.1 – 1.3 inches by 0.8 – 0.9 inches
Incubation: 12-14 days.

European starling range map
European starling range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet
Golden-crowned kinglet. Photo by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash.
AppearanceGolden-crowned kinglets are small birds about 4″ long, olive-green in color with crowns striped with reddish/orange and white stripes above & below eyes. Females are the same except for their crowns are yellow instead.
DietInsects and spiders.
Feeder FoodSuet.
HabitatIn their year-round area, they generally inhabit mountainous regions with abundant coniferous trees. They nest in mixed forested areas and within small groups of trees with minimal or no undergrowth.
NestingThe golden-crowned kinglet builds a 3″x3″ cup-shaped, deep nest and places it at the intersection of several branches. They have 1-2 broods/season and 7-8 eggs/brood that are white/cream colored with specks of brown or lavender. Incubation lasts 15 days.

Range Map

Golden-crowned kinglet  range map
Golden-crowned kinglet range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Great Blue Heron

great blue heron wading in water
Great blue heron. Image by terrysartifacts from Pixabay
AppearanceGreat blue herons are enormous waterbirds about 45-55″ long. They have a large body with blue/gray feathers, long legs, a white face with a black streak on the cheek and crown, a long pointy orange bill, and a curvy neck which they often curl into the shape of an “S”.
DietFish, frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, small mammals, and birds.
Feeder FoodThey don’t visit feeders.
HabitatThe Great Blue Heron is a highly adaptable bird evidenced in its wide year-round range that spans much of the US and British Columbia coast. They prefer calm freshwaters, rivers, and shallow coastal areas.
NestingNest: A large, round platform-style nest is weaved by the female from sticks collected by the male and lined with pine needles, moss, grass, and other soft materials and placed on the ground.
Brood: 1 – 2 broods/year
Clutch: 2 – 6 eggs/brood
Egg color: They lay large eggs ranging from pale blue to white. The lighter the color, the older the egg is. If you see near white eggs, they are close to hatching.
Egg size: 2.4 – 3 inches by 2 inches
Incubation: Both parents incubate the eggs for about 25-30 days.

Range Map

Great blue heron range map.
Great blue heron range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Greater White-Fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose walking along the grass
Greater White-fronted Goose. Image by Dr. Georg Wietschorke from Pixabay
AppearanceLarge mostly brown waterbird about 25-32″ long. They have a heavy, stocky body with an orange bill and legs, white between the bill and head, and buffy underparts.
DietDiet includes plants such as grasses, berries, seeds, and grain.
Feeder FoodN/A
HabitatNear wetlands, rivers, and ponds.
NestingThe greater white-faced goose is a ground nester. The female constructs the nest on the shore of a lake or wetland area. She scrapes the ground and incorporates grass and sedge to form a large bowl-shaped nest.
Broods: 1/season
Clutch: 1-8 eggs/brood
Egg color: white – tan
Egg size: About 3.2″ x 2.1″
Incubation: Incubation lasts about 22-27 days and fledglings leave the nest after a short 2 days.

Range Map

Greater white-fronted goose range map.
Greater white-fronted goose range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Harris’s Sparrow

Harris's sparrow on a bird feeder
Harris’s sparrow. Photo by Ginny Fuhrer.
AppearanceThe Harris’s sparrow is a medium-sized bird about 7 1/2″ long. It has black and charcoal in its head all the way to the back of its neck. The neck and belly are white with brown spots, brown wings, and a pink bill and legs.
The female is the same/
DietSeeds, insects, berries.
Feeder FoodBlack-oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and millet.
HabitatShrubby areas dense with vegetation.
NestingThe cup-shaped nest is located on the ground. They have 1 brood/season with 4-5 white eggs with brown spots in each brood. Incubation is 13-14 days.

Range Map

Harris's sparrow range map
Harris’s sparrow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit thrush perched on a branch
Hermit thrush. Photo by Dietra Semple on Unsplash

Appearance: The Hermit thrush is about 7″ long. In the east, they’re rich brown with brown flanks (belly area below the wing). In the west, they’re gray/brown with gray flanks. They have a cinnamon-colored tail, dark round eyes with a white eye-ring, and tan breasts with dark spots.

Diet: Insects and fruit.

Feeder food: Unlikely to visit a feeder.

Habitat: Forested areas that are rich with coniferous and hardwood trees.

Nesting: They build a cup-shaped nest made of grass and placed it on the ground. They have 1-2 broods/season, usually, 4 eggs/brood, and the eggs are light blue – sometimes with brown spots. Incubation is for 12-13 days and fledglings leave the nest about 12-13 days after hatching.

Range Map

Hermit thrush range map.
Hermit thrush range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Herring Gull

Herring gull
Herring gull. Photo by Ray Harrington on Unsplash
AppearanceThe herring gull is a large bird about 25″ long. They’re pal gray above with a white yead and underparts. The head has brown specks except for the summertime when it’s pure white. They have yellow eyes and bills, and pink legs.
Dietfish, marine life (shellfish, sea urchins, crabs…), insects, other bird eggs, and bird nestlings.
Feeder FoodThey don’t visit feeders.
HabitatOpen water areas both coastal and inland.
NestingHerring gulls nest on the ground. They have 1 brood/season and 3 eggs/brood. The eggs are light green/tan with spots. Incubation is for 27-30 days and fledglings leave the nest after a few days.

Range Map

Herring gull range map.
Herring gull range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

House Finch

House finch on a branch
House finch (male). Photo taken by Tammy Poppie.
AppearanceSmall bird about 5″ long, orange/red face chest and rump. Brown wings streaked with white. White belly with brown streaks. The Female and juvenile are brown with streaks of white.
DietSeeds, fruit, tree buds.
Feeder FoodBlack oil sunflower seed is their favorite.
HabitatHouse finches are found in the western and eastern parts of the US. They prefer to live around human dwellings (buildings, backyard trees, and shrubs, barns. Also are found in parks and other urban areas.
NestingNest: Small cup about 3-7″ wide, constructed from stems, leaves and plant roots, and feathers. The nests are built in coniferous or deciduous trees or even any place that holds a nest (ledges, vents, hanging plants).
Broods: 1-6 broods/season
Clutch: 2-6 eggs/brood (typical is 4-5)
Egg color: Eggs are pale blue and speckled with black and purple dots.
Egg size: 0.6 – 0.8 inches by 0.5 inches
Incubation: 13-14 days and the young fledge between 12-19 days.

Range Map

House finch range map.
House finch range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo bunting male
Male indigo bunting. Photo by Lonnie Gilstrap.
AppearanceSmall bird 5″ long. Breeding males are bright blue with short, gray, triangle-shaped beaks, and dark blue wings with a brush of tan. Wintering male and first-spring male are patchy brown and blue. Females are a soft yellowish-brown and some light streaking on the underparts.
DietSmall seeds, insects, and fruits. 
Feeder FoodAlthough not a regular at the feeder you may entice them with nyjer/thistle and white millet seeds.
HabitatBrushy fields, on weedy plants, scrub, and along the edges of the woods. Also in clearings within deciduous woods, and edges of swamps.
NestingCup-shaped nest in shrubs or trees 3′ high. Shrubs or trees 3′ high. 1-3 broods/season, 3-4 eggs/brood, eggs are white with few brown spots.

Range Map

Indigo bunting range map
Indigo bunting range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

For more detail about the Indigo Bunting such as its mating & nesting, how to attract them to your yard, and more: check out Proven Ways to Attract Indigo Buntings.


Lark Sparrow

Lark sparrow perched on a branch
Lark Sparrow.
AppearanceThe lark sparrow is a medium-sized bird about 7″ long. They’re primarily brown with striped patterns of chestnut, tan, white, and dark brown on its head. Underneath is a buffy tan with a dark brown spot in the middle of its chest.
DietWeed and grass seeds as well as insects.
Feeder FoodMillet and cracked corn scattered beneath the feeder.
HabitatVaried habitats comprised of grassy areas, trees, shrubs, prairies, hedgerows, and desert scrub.
NestingLark sparrows usually nest on the ground. They have 1 brood/season and 4-5 eggs/brood. Incubation is for 11-12 days and fledglings leave the nest after about 9-12 days.

Range Map

Lark sparrow range map.
Lark sparrow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting
Lazuli Bunting. Photo taken at the Powell Butte Nature Park in Portland, taken by Patti Bright.
AppearanceSmall bird 5-6″ long, brilliant blue on top, soft orange-cinnamon color chest, white belly and patch on the shoulder, cone-shaped bill, and slightly flat forehead.
DietInsects, fruits, and grasses.
Feeder FoodWhite proso millet, sunflower seeds, or nyjer thistle seeds.
HabitatOpen woodlands, brushy hillsides, thickets, and backyards throughout the West.
NestingCup-shaped nest of bark, twigs, and leaves nestled in a shrub about 3′ up. They have 1-2 broods/season, 3-4 eggs/brood, and eggs are .7-.8″ long and pale blue to faint green/blue or white. 11-14 days incubation period.

Range Map

Lazuli bunting range map.
Lazuli bunting range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Mallard

Male and female mallard floating on water together
A pair of mallards. Photo by Massimo Adami on Unsplash
AppearanceMallards are large ducks about 23″ long. The male has a metallic green head, chestnut breast, and yellow bill. The female is a mottled brown with an orange bill and heavily streaked dark brown.
DietInsect larvae, snails, seeds.
Feeder FoodThey’re not feeder visitors.
HabitatAround freshwater habitats.
NestingMallards nest on the ground near water. The nest is typically made from plant materials and lined with feathers and down. They have 1-2 broods/season and 10-12 eggs/brood. Incubation lasts for 28 days and fledglings leave their mom at about 7-8 weeks.

Range Map

Mallard range map.
Mallard range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird. Photo by Arnold Joe.
AppearanceSmall bird about 7″ long. Sky-blue color, darker blue wings and tail, lighter shades of below underneath, white undertail with black wing tips, and straight thin bill. Females are gray/brown with a big of soft blue on their wings and tail.
DietInsects, fruit, and seeds.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatOpen woodlands, fields, prairies.
NestingNest: Cavity nesters – will use an old woodpecker hold or manmade nesting box.
Brood: 1-2 broods/season
Clutch: 4-8 eggs/brood
Egg size: 1″ x .8″
Egg color: Pale blue to bluish-white (rarely pure white)
Incubation: 18-21 days

Range Map

Mountain bluebird range map.
Mountain bluebird range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern mockingbird standing on an electrical box
Northern mockingbird. Image by zoosnow from Pixabay
AppearanceNorthern mockingbirds are about 10″ long. They have gray above and white below. Wings are dark gray with patches of white. They have long beaks and yellow eyes.
DietInsects and berries.
Feeder FoodSuet.
HabitatNorthern mockingbirds prefer thickets and brushy areas with open areas nearby.
NestingNest: They nest in a thick shrub or tree between 1-10′ up. Northern mockingbird males select several nesting sites and begin building nests in each. The female will pick her favorite and finish the nest. They won’t abandon these nests but move to another with each brood
Brood: 2-3 broods/season
Clutch: 2-6 eggs/brood
Egg color: Light blue to greenish-white sporting brown or red spots.
Egg size: 1.1 inches by 0.8 inches
Incubation: 12-14 days and fledglings leave the nest at 11-15 days.

Range Map

Northern mockingbird range map.
Northern mockingbird range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Northern Shoveler

Male and female northern shovelers flying
Male and female northern shovelers. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash,
AppearanceNorthern shovelers are medium-sized waterbirds at about 17-20″ in length. They have shovel-shaped heads. The male has a dark green head, black back and feathers, white neck, and brown chest. The female has an orange bill & eggs with brown and white markings throughout her body.
DietMollusks, insects, crustaceans, sometimes small fish, aquatic plants, and seeds.
Feeder FoodN/A
HabitatNorthern shovelers can be found in shallow wetland areas with plenty of vegetation. They’ll also be found in salt marshes, lakes, flooded fields, and other overflow areas that collect water.
NestingNorthern shovelers are grounds nesters. The female generally
Broods: 1 broods/season
Clutch: 8-12 eggs/brood
Egg color: pale olive
Egg size: About 2″ x 1.4″
Incubation: Incubation lasts 21-27 days. The young follow their mom out of the nest within a few hours of hatching. They’re able to fly about 52-60 days after hatching.

Range Map

Northern shoveler range map
Northern shoveler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Orange-Crowned Warbler

Orange crowned warbler perched on a branch
Orange-crowned warbler. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash
AppearanceThe orange-crowned warbler is a small bird about 5″ long. They are olive-green and yellow throughout with an orange crown that is barely visible. There’s a subtle dark line that runs through the eyes. They have yellow underneath that’s smudged with olive green.
DietInsects, small berries, and nectar.
Feeder FoodSuet and peanut butter spread.
HabitatThe orange-crowned warbler is found in a variety of habitats within its range from low-growing shrubs and thickets to coastal canyons and backyard gardens.
NestingThey build a cup-shaped nest of twigs and other plant material placed on or near the ground. They have 1 brood/season and 3-6 eggs/brood. The eggs are white/cream with spots. Incubation is for 11-13 days and fledglings leave the nest at 10-13 days.

Range Map

Orange-crowned warbler range map.
Orange-crowned warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Pine Grosbeak

Male pine grosbeak
Male pine grosbeak. Photo by Janet Jarzynski.
AppearanceSturdy bird approx 8-10″ long, soft pinkish-red with gray & charcoal body, short charcoal beak, medium tail with black tip, wings of black, white, and red. No crown. The Female is gray with a yellow head and tail.
DietMostly seeds and fruits from their habitat (pine trees). Sometimes supplements with insects.
Feeder FoodBlack-oil sunflower seeds and suet.
HabitatOpen areas with coniferous trees and deciduous trees in winter.
NestingAbout 20′ up in evergreen trees rests their rather large nest constructed with roots and twigs then lined grass, pine needles, and feathers. 1 brood/season, 3-4 eggs/brood, incubation lasts 13-14 days and they fledge between 13-20 days. Eggs are light blue and dotted.

Range Map

Pine Grosbeak range map.
Pine Grosbeak range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Pine Siskin

Pine siskin.
Pine siskin. Photo by Bryan Hanson on Unsplash
AppearanceSmall brown bird about 5″ long with streaks on back, breast, and belly. Some yellow in wing bars at end of the tail. The Female is the same.
DietSeeds, insects.
Feeder FoodBlack-oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, suet & fruit.
HabitatOpen areas, wooded edges.
NestingCup-shaped nest for 2 broods/year. 3-4 eggs/brood that are green/blue with brown spots. Incubation is 12-13 days.

Range Map

Pine siskin range map.
Pine siskin range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Pinyon Jay

Pinyon Jay
Pinyon Jay. Photo by Tom Duncan.
Appearance10-11″ long bird, dusty blue body and lighter blue belly and throat, short tail, and no crown. The female looks similar.
DietPrimarily Pinyon-pine seeds, acorns, fruit, and grains. Also consumes insects, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, and small mammals.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn.
HabitatForested areas comprised of Pinyon-juniper, sagebrush, scrub oak, and other pine trees.
NestingLarge bulky nests of sticks and twigs in the trees about 3-115′ up. 1 brood/season, 2-5 eggs/brood, eggs are 1.3-1.5″ long, pale blue with dark brown specks, incubation last 17 days and young fledge between 21-22 days.

Range Map

Pinyon jay range map
Pinyon jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch on a suet cage
Red-breasted nuthatch. Photo by Robert Heyer.
Appearance4.5″ long, gray/blue backs, white head with black stripes running over either eye, orange-cinnamon-colored breast, and a pointy pick-like beak. Females look the same except their underside is a more faded color. Usually spotted climbing upside-down a deciduous tree foraging for insects beneath the bark.
DietInsects, spiders, and other bugs.
Feeder FoodSuet, sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, fruit.
HabitatForested areas primarily comprised of coniferous trees (i.e. pines). Woodsy areas of deciduous trees in the east. Southern birds prefer mountainous regions until winter comes in which case they head to lower land.
NestingCavity nesters – prefer to excavate their own holes. 1 brood/season, 6 eggs/brood, eggs are white & speckled with red-brown.

Range Map

Map of the red-breasted nuthatch range
Red-breasted nuthatch range. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

For more details about the Red-Breasted Nuthatch such as its mating & nesting details, how to attract them to your yard, and more: check out 7 Ways to Attract Red Breasted Nuthatches to Your Yard.


Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-billed gul standing beside water
Ring-billed gull. Image by Lee Dusing from Pixabay
AppearanceRing-billed gulls are about 17 1/2″ long. They’re light gray above and white below. The bill is yellow with a black ring. Their legs and eyes are yellow.
DietScavenges along water edges for garbage refuse, fish, insects, earthworms, and grains.
Feeder FoodThey don’t visit feeders.
HabitatIn and around water.
NestingRing-billed gulls are ground nesters. They have 1 brood/season and 2-4 eggs/brood. Incubation lasts 20-31 days and fledglings leave the nest after 4-5 days.

Range Map

Ring-billed gull range map.
Ring-billed gull range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeon
Rock Pigeon. Photo by Kieran Somerville on Unsplash
AppearanceLarge bird 12-14″ long, chubby with blue/gray wings with black pointy tips, short red legs, black, round wide tail, and iridescent neck. 
DietGrains, seeds, and fruit. Commonly seen scavenging trash cans for food.
Feeder FoodMillet, cracked corn, black-oil sunflower seed, safflower, peanut hearts.
HabitatCommon around cities and towns as well as farmlands
NestingA large nest of sticks and grass wherever there’s a ledge (e.g. highway overpass, barns, bridges, tall buildings). 1-6 broods/year, 1-3 eggs/brood, eggs are white, incubation about 18 days and the young fledge at about 25-32 days.

Range Map

Rock pigeon jay range map.
Rock pigeon jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Short-Eared Owl

short eared owl
Short eared owl. Image by cadop from Pixabay

Appearance: Short-eared owls are medium-sized owls at about 14-17″ long. They’re a brown spotted birds with tan, white, and ivory on the upper parts. The face is lighter and the eyes are yellow surrounded by black. As you would expect, their ears are so short they appear to be missing. Females are the same.

Diet: Small mammals such as shrews, moles, rabbits, gophers, bats, and rodents in which they first decapitate and then swallow the prey whole.

Feeder food: Short-eared owls do not visit feeders.

Habitat: Open grassland areas as they prefer to perch on the ground or low in trees.

Nesting: Short-eared owls nest on the ground in the grass with surrounding vegetation to hide it. They have 1-2 broods/season and 1-11 eggs/brood that are creamy white in color. Incubation lasts about 21-37 days and they fledge the nest after about 12-18 days.

Range Map

Short-eared owl range map.
Short-eared owl range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Snowy Owl

a snowy owl on snow in winter
Snowy owl. Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Appearance: The snowy owl are large owls about 20-30″ long with round heads, and thick feathering throughout their body. Although much of their body is white they also sport black and brown markings throughout. The males are much whiter than the females.

Diet: Snowy owls will eat a variety of food including lemmings, Arctic hares, mice, ducks, and seabirds. They’ll swallow the smaller prey whole.

Feeder food: They do not visit feeders.

Habitat: As their name implies, snowy owls prefer northern climates. They can be found near open areas with few trees. In Canada’s Northwest Territories and Greenland, where they also breed, they live in the tundra, but also inhabit grasslands and open fields. During winter they prefer to be near lake and ocean shorelines but are also seen in farmers’ fields.

Nesting: The nest is built on a shallow hollowed-out area on the ground. They have 1 brood/season, 3-11 eggs/brood, eggs are white and incubation lasts about 32 days. After 18-25 days the fledglings leave the nest.

Range Map

Snowy owl range map.
Snowy owl range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Stellar’s Jay

Stellar's Jay
Stellar’s Jay. Photo by Barbara Ferraro.
AppearanceLarge bird 11.5″ long, dark blue body and crest, black head and crest with spots of blue. Females are similar.
DietNuts, seeds, fruits, insects, other birds’ eggs and nestlings, small animals.
Feeder FoodWhole peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet.
HabitatTypically found in forested areas of mix tree types – coniferous and deciduous.
NestingLarge open-cup nest of twigs, bark and mud located high in a conifer tree. 1 brood/season, 4-5 eggs/brood, eggs are blue/green with dark brown/purple/olive spots, 16-18 days incubation and the young fledges at about 16-18 days.

Range Map

stellars jay range map
Stellar’s jay range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Swainson’s Thrush

Swainson's thrush perched on a branch
Swainson’s thrush. Image by Hans Toom from Pixabay
AppearanceSwainson’s thrush is about 7″ long. Their upper parts are brown and their underparts are white with spots. Their dark eyes have a buffy eye ring as well as flanks.
DietInsects and fruit.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatForests.
NestingNest: Swanson’s thrush builds a deep, compact cup-style nest and is placed in a small tree about 2-7′ up.
Broods: They have 1 brood/season
Clutch: 1-5 eggs/brood
Egg color: Eggs are blue or greenish-blue with reddish-brown speckles
Egg size: 0.8 – 1 inches by 0.6 – 0.7 inches
Incubation: 10-14 days and fledglings leave the nest at about 14 days.

Range Map

Swainson's thrush range map.
Swainson’s thrush range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp sparrow perched on small branch with soft golden background.
Swamp sparrow.

Appearance: Swamp sparrows are small birds about 5-6″ long. They sport an array of colors including blue/gray on its head with a rust-colored crown and a black stripe that connects to the cone-shaped bill. The tail is brown and points up – legs are relatively long for a sparrow. The female looks the same.

Diet: Seeds, fruits & invertebrates.

Feeder food: They don’t usually visit feeders.

Habitat: As their name implies they prefer to be near water as well as vegetation near water.

Nesting: Nest is built in a patch of grass or reeds less than 3′ off the ground. Using plant fibers, rootlets, grasses, sedges and plant down, the female constructs the cup-shaped nest which will end up being about 3″ tall x 4″ wide and 1.5″ deep. They have 1-2 broods/season, 1-6 eggs/brood, eggs are bluish/green with spots. Incubation lasts 12-14 days and fledglings leave the nest after 7-14 days.

Range Map

Swamp sparrow range map.
Swamp sparrow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Townsend’s Warbler

A Townsend's warbler perched on a branch.
Townsend’s warbler. Image by Francisco Corado from Pixabay
AppearanceThe Townsend’s warbler is a small bird about 5″ long with bright yellow on its face and chest and dark yellow on its back. Black on the crown, throat, and circle around and under each eye. They also have black wings and streaks of black on the white belly and chest.
Females are the same except for more subtle markings.
DietInsects and their larvae. Occasionally spiders and seeds.
Feeder FoodMealworms and suet.
HabitatWooded areas with tall, mature coniferous, and deciduous trees.
NestingThey build a cup-shaped and place it in conifers about 3′ up. They have 1 brood/season, 3-7 eggs/brood, and incubate for 11-14 days. the eggs are with brown specks.

Range Map

Townsend's warbler range map.
Townsend’s warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow. Photo by Lisa Minica.
Appearance5-6″ long, dark metallic blue – blue/green with white belly, notched tail and pointed wing tips. Females have same coloring but a bit duller.
DietInsects and small fruits.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatOpen areas such as fields, large lawns, and marshes.
NestingCavity nester, will use a manmade nest box or natural woodpecker tree hold. 1 brood/season, 4-6 white eggs, 13-16 days of incubation.

Range Map

Tree swallow range map.
Tree swallow range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Turkey Vulture

Tyurkey vulture perched on a branch with wings outspread
Turkey vulture. Image by Hans Toom from Pixabay
AppearanceThe turkey vulture is a large bird about 27″ long, black/brown, a red head of bare skin and pink legs
DietAnimal carcasses.
Feeder FoodThey don’t visit feeders.
HabitatWooded areas with open areas for foraging.
NestingThey nest on the ground in a rocky crevice, cliff, or hollowed-out log. They have 1 brood/season, 1-3 eggs/brood that are creamy-white with gray/blue or green spots, and incubate for 38-41 days. Fledglings leave the nest 75-80 days after hatching.

Range Map

Turkey vulture range map.
Turkey vulture range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Western Bluebird

Western bluebird perched on branch
Western Bluebird
AppearanceSmall bird 7″ long, deep blue underparts, orange-chestnut back and breast. Female gray/blue, light blue wings and tail, and pale chestnut breast.
DietInsects, fruits & berries.
Feeder FoodMealworms
HabitatOpen woodlands especially those with pines and oaks, orchards, and farmland with some trees.
NestingNest: Cavity nesters – old woodpecker hold or manmade nesting box.
Brood: 2 broods/season
Clutch: 4-5 eggs/brood
Egg color: Pale blue without blemishes, although sometimes are white
Egg size: Length: 0.8-2.4″ x Width: .8″
Incubation: 12-18 days and young fledge at about 20 days.

Range Map

Mountain bluebird range map.
Mountain bluebird range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch
White-Breasted Nuthatch. Photo by Shawn Conlon.
Appearance5-6″ long, gray/blue back, white head with a black cap, chestnut under the tail, and a long thin pick-like beak. Females look similar except their cap and neck are gray. Usually spotted climbing upside-down a deciduous tree foraging for insects beneath the bark.
DietInsects & seeds.
Feeder FoodSuet, sunflower seed, shelled peanuts.
HabitatNear mature deciduous and mixed forests; wooded suburban areas such as orchards, parks, and backyards.
NestingCavity nester, 1 brood/season, 5-9 eggs/brood, eggs are white with brown markings, incubation is 11-12 days and young fledge at about 13-14 days.

Range Map

White breasted nuthatch range map
White breasted nuthatch range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Wild Turkey

a wild turkey walking through grass
Wild turkey (male). Photo by William Stark on Unsplash
a female wild turkey walking through the woods
Wild turkey (female).

Appearance: Wild turkeys are enormous birds about 45″ long with long necks, large prominent red wattles, snoods (hanging skin from the neck), and a bronze-greenish iridescence to most of their feathers. The feathers also give the appearance of a variety of textures. Their wings are dark, with white bars and a fanned-out tail with rusty or white tips. Their head and neck show their skin with colors of red, blue, and gray. The red neck is unmistakable. The females are similar but lighter in color, they don’t fan their tail feathers, have subtle-looking wattle and snood, and they don’t strut like the male.

Diet: Wild turkeys are ground foragers consuming seeds, nuts (acorns, beech nuts, pecans, hickory nuts), and berries.  

Feeder food: Wild turkeys do not come to feeders.

Habitat: Wild turkeys are widespread throughout the US, southernmost parts of Canada, and Mexico. They prefer open forested areas, especially those with nut-producing trees. In the southwest, they can be found in open grassy savannahs.

Nesting: Wild turkeys are ground nesters. The female creates a shallow depression in the ground and fills it with leaves. The completed nest can be as large as 10″ x 12″. They have 1 brood/season, 4-17 eggs, eggs are 2-3″ long x 1.5-2″ wide. They’re a light yellow/tan color with red/brown or pink speckles and incubation lasts about 25-31 days.

Wild turkey range map.
Wild turkey range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Wilson’s Warbler

Wilson's warbler perched on a branch
Wilson’s warbler. Photo by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash
AppearanceWilson’s warbler is a very small bird about 4-5″ long. They’re bright yellow with subdued tones of olive-yellow outside of the face, a black cap (looks a bit like a toupe), and black wings with white stripes. Their bills are short and pointy, eyes dark black.
The female is the same except the cap is light charcoal.
Dietinsects, especially larval insects, spiders, and the sugary liquid from scale insects (tiny insects that feed on plants).
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatForested edges, shrubby thickets, and often young conifer trees.
NestingThis bird places their 3-4″ nest on the ground. Sometimes nests are in shrubs in which case they are a bit bigger. They have 1-2 broods/season, 2-7 eggs/brood that are white/ivory with reddish/brown specks. Incubation is for 10-13 days and juveniles leave the nest at about 9-11 days.

Range Map

Wilson’s warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.


Wood Duck

wood duck perched on a fence post
Wood duck (male). Image by Alex from Pixabay
Female wood duck gliding across water
Wood duck (female). Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Appearance: The wood duck is a large bird about 19-22″ long and the male sports an array of colors. The male’s head and crest are metallic purplish-green, the sides of the face are black, a white stripe runs along the neck and a smaller one goes up each cheek. Their chest and the rump are dark red, and the sides are olive-yellow with black & white stripes on the edges, the belly is white, tail and back are black. The eyes are red, bill white with red on each side. The top of the bird’s head and crest are metallic purplish-green. The sides of the face are black, and a white stripe runs along the neck. A small white stripe also extends up each cheek. The chest and the rump are dark red, and the sides are a drab yellow with black and white stripes at the edges. The wood duck’s belly is white, its tail and back are black, and its wings are black and blue. The female looks vastly different. She is gray-brown with a white-speckled breast

Diet: The wood duck’s diet varies widely. They prefer water plants, seeds, fruits, and insects but will also eat nuts and grains.

Feeder food: They don’t visit feeders.

Habitat: Wet areas including swamps, marshes, streams & creeks as well as small lakes.

Nesting: Wood ducks are cavity nesters and will gladly move into your manmade nesting box is you put one up. When using a tree cavity, they opt for very large trees – 1-2′ in diameter. The cavity is anywhere from 2-60 feet in the air. They have 1-2 broods/season and 6-16 eggs/brood. Eggs are shiny cream white to light tan. Incubation is from 28-37 days and fledglings leave the nest at about 56-70 days.

Range Map

Wood duck range map
Wood duck range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow warbler perched on a branch
Yellow warbler. Photo by Patrice Bouchard on Unsplash
AppearanceSmall bird about 5″ long primarily yellow with orange streaks on the chest and belly, and black-streaked wings. Bill is long, pointy, and gray. The Female is a muted olive-green version of the male without the orange chest.
DietInsects.
Feeder FoodUnlikely to visit a feeder.
HabitatShrubby areas and gardens, willows, wet thickets, and roadsides.
NestingCup-shaped nest to raise 1 brood/year. They have 4-5 eggs/brood that is white with brown markings. Incubation lasts 11-12 days.

Range Map

Yellow warbler range map.
Yellow warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler perched on a branch
Male yellow-rumped warbler. Photo by Anne Spiers.
AppearanceThe male is slate gray with a black mask and beak. Yellow patches on the sides of its lower belly, head, and rump. White and gray striped throughout chest and belly.
The female is similar but duller in color and browner than she is slate gray.
DietInsects, berries.
Feeder FoodPeanuts, mealworms, nectar, fruit, suet with peanut butter.
HabitatJust about anywhere as they are very adaptable. Found in woods, bogs, forest and wooded edges, coniferous and deciduous trees, and wide-open areas.
NestingThe female builds a cup-shaped nest in a tree, has 2 broods per year, 4-5 eggs per brood, and eggs are white with brown spots and incubated between 12-13 days.

Range Map

Yellow-rumped warbler range map.
Yellow-rumped warbler range map. Compliments of The Cornell Lab.

Montanans are lucky – they get to experience so many different species of birds that live there or are just passing through. Keep this article handy. When you see an amazing wild bird I guarantee you’ll want to know the species and details about it. Trust me! 

Happy Birding!


Sources

All About BirdsThe Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2021
eBirdThe Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2021
Noah, Strycker, and Alderfer Jonathan. National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America. 2nd ed., National Geographic, 2019. 

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.