Through the years a guy gets kind of attached to certain birds…just some that make an impression…they stick with you…my Top Ten Montana Bird List:
#10. Steller’s Jay
A secretive type…I would see them in the Montana hills at altitude in elk country…not that common, though. Saw a lot of them when I lived in Colorado…interesting mountain bird about to get a name change in 2024.
#9. Mountain Chickadee
Comes to the feeder with his Black-Capped relatives…loves sunflower seeds…always on the move and chatting it up…never fails to entertain. Tame…I’ve had them eat out of my hand.
#8. Rufous Hummingbird
Buzzing like big copper bees around the feeder, these guys are always ready for a fight!
#7. Mountain Bluebird
If you want to see these neat birds, just play a round of golf at Madison Meadows Golf Course in Ennis and you will get your wish! They like rolling, open country. The highway between Sappington and Cardwell has bluebird boxes situated along the fence lines. Also, the Centennial Valley is a great bluebird spot!
#6. American dipper (water ouzel)
Furtive little rascals…sometimes I see them underneath the cliffs near Comleyville Rapids, or up Jack Creek in the canyon…they can actually swim underwater…pretty cool birds. You can also find them in Bear Trap Canyon.
#5. Sandhill Crane
They nest here and spend the whole summer. Their mating dance in the spring is a sight. I found a nest once on one of the islands below Varney…two large eggs. In the Fall, they herd up and commence to squawking up a storm, then adios! We have been lucky enough to see 5,000 of these birds staging for migration near Wilcox, AZ. Spectacular!
#4. Cliff Swallow
To see the nests these critters build in the McAtee Bridge. Varney Bridge, Ruby Cliffs and elsewhere…and how they build them… is an engineering miracle.
#3. Great Gray Owl
Along with the Snowy, the largest North American owl. I once walked up on a pair of Great Grays perched on a low branch in the hills near Low Pass Lake. They were surprisingly tame and let me get close. And we spotted one hunting in a snowstorm near Jeffers, MT. Impressive bird.
#2. American Avocet
You see them on the river in the Summer. The only shore bird with a turned up bill. They fly in formation like a jet squadron. Harrison Lake is also a great spot to see them.
#1. Western Tanager
If you spot one along the river it will be a good day!
#1A. Gray Catbird
You will hear them before you see them. They can meow like an alley cat or babble like a mockingbird. A great imitator.
If I could add a few more, the list would include the Long Billed Curlew, Cinnamon Teal, Peregrine Falcon, Clarks’ Nutcracker, Marsh Wren, Yellow Warbler and more. But ya gotta end somewhere! All photos are stock, E-Bird or credited.