Montana is a thrilling destination for any bird lover because it hosts over 400 species.
To make the experience even more exciting, wait for birds in your backyard instead of looking for them in woodlands or scrublands.
You can turn your property into a birding haven ASAP! Install a backyard feeder and a birdbath, add some birdhouses and watch birds from your deck.
In this article, we tell you about common backyard birds of Montana, including the ones that migrate to this state. We also talk about the kind of foods that can attract more birds. Are you ready?
- Facts About Montana Birds That Love Bird Feeders
- 1. Pine Siskin
- 2. Red-breasted Nuthatch
- 3. Eurasian Collared-dove
- 4. Dark-eyed Junco
- 5. Cedar Waxwing
- 6. Tree Swallow
- 7. Yellow-rumped Warbler
- 8. White-crowned Sparrow
- 9. Rufous Hummingbird
- 10. Western Tanager
- 11. Bullock's Oriole
- 12. Rock Pigeon
- 13. Brown-headed Cowbird
- 14. Common Grackle
- 15. Common Raven
- 16. House Wren
- 17. Eastern Kingbird
- 18. White-breasted Nuthatch
- 19. Grey Catbird
- 20. Chipping Sparrow
- 21. Northern Flicker
- 22. Mourning Dove
- 23. Black-capped Chickadee
- 24. Black-billed Magpie
- 25. Red-winged Blackbird
- 26. House Finch
- 27. European Starling
- 28. American Crow
- 29. Downy Woodpecker
- 30. Song Sparrow
- 31. Hairy Woodpecker
- 32. House Sparrow
- 33. American Robin
- 34. American goldfinch
- 35. Mountain chickadee
- Montana Bird Identification: How To Identify Backyard Birds Of Montana
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
Facts About Montana Birds That Love Bird Feeders
We want to give a comprehensive list of species that visit several times a month, if not every day.
1. Pine Siskin
This siskin is a small bird between 4.3 and 5.5 inches long, belonging to the finch family. As you watch birds exploring your feeder, look for one with brown and white streaks similar to the plumage of a female house finch.
The only difference is that pine siskins have yellow feathers on their wings and the sides of their tails. These birds are migratory, so you see them any time of the year in the western region of Montana but only during the winter months on the eastern side. Pine siskins like nyjer, millet, and hulled sunflower seeds.
2. Red-breasted Nuthatch
It loves sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts. You see it more in the western and southern edge of the state as the red-breasted nuthatch is a migratory species.
You can tell a red-breasted nuthatch by its gray back, rusty underbelly, and bold black and white stripes on its face. You'll often see these nuthatches hopping from tree trunks to branches hunting insects. A red-breasted nuthatch can use your nest box since it's a cavity-nester.
3. Eurasian Collared-dove
This pale dove is almost everywhere on the continent, with a resident population in Montana. A Eurasian collared dove is longer from bill to tail than a mourning dove and has a broad white band on its tail tip.
The foods to keep a flock of Eurasian collared doves on your lawn include seeds and grains.
4. Dark-eyed Junco
It shows up in the winter months in northeastern Montana, but the rest of the state has a resident population. Dark-eyed juncos on the eastern side have a gray body and a white belly, while the western ones have a black hood, brown upperparts, and a white belly. This bird loves hopping on the ground so use a tray or hopper feeder to offer seeds and insects.
5. Cedar Waxwing
The wing feathers have waxy tips with a red tinge. If you miss the red tips, you notice the stunning crest and black mask or the bright yellow tip on its tail.
A cedar waxwing is stocky and has a large head. Other ID features are a yellowish belly, gray wings, and a brown back. It loves berries and insects, but you can also offer it cherries.
6. Tree Swallow
Its body size is about 4 to 5 inches, about the size of an American goldfinch. A tree swallow has a metallic-blue back and a white underbelly. The males also have black masks that give them an edgy look. This bird loves insects and flies after them all the time.
7. Yellow-rumped Warbler
The gray and yellow plumage of the yellow-rumped warbler makes it such a stunning avian. It has a plump body, a short tail, and an almost invisible neck.
This species is slightly larger than a chickadee or goldfinch, although smaller than a house finch. Suet feeders are a favorite hangout spot, though it prefers to eat insects and berries in the wild.
Montana is in the breeding range, as the wintering grounds are in the southern states.
8. White-crowned Sparrow
This species is in western Montana during the breeding season, and its numbers increase throughout the state during the migration months from May to October. This gray sparrow has a long tail and black and white stripes on its head.
In general, white-crowned sparrows eat grass, sunflower, and weed seeds.
9. Rufous Hummingbird
You may come across some with a green back while other birds have a reddish-orange one. A female has a green back, rufous flanks, and the rest of the underbelly is white, while a male has a reddish-orange iridescent throat. Montana lies in the breeding range, and you can only see the rufous hummingbird in the western area.
10. Western Tanager
Its yellow body contrasts its black wings and red-orange head, although a female tanager has a yellow-green body and a red face. This medium-sized bird grows to between 6.3 and 7.5 inches long, and its breeding range is in the western states and western Canada. It spends winter in Mexico and Central America.
11. Bullock's Oriole
The bright orange plumage of the male bird is unmistakable. On top of that, it has a black throat and a black line across its eyes.
A female has a yellowish head and grayish back. Bullock's orioles live in the western area of North America, with most of the region serving as its breeding range. Hence, set up a nectar feeder in your backyard to supply it with energy for the migration south.
12. Rock Pigeon
These birds have plump bodies, small heads, black wing bars, and short legs. Their backs are gray while their heads are blue-gray.
Rock pigeons inhabit every state in North America and are always in large flocks. They become a nuisance when they overcrowd your backyard.
13. Brown-headed Cowbird
A male brown-headed cowbird has a black body and a brown head, while a female has a plain brown body with some streaks. Not the most colorful birds in Montana, do you agree?
Montana hosts the brown-headed cowbird during the breeding season, as the resident population is in the eastern states.
14. Common Grackle
When you stare at it for a while, you notice how colorful it is with its yellow eyes and an iridescent blue head. It also has a bronze body.
This large blackbird inhabits the western region, with the resident population in the southeastern states and the northernmost area of North America hosting the breeding birds. Hence, a common grackle is rare in western Montana.
Lastly, it eats seeds, fruits, insects, birds, mice, and garbage.
15. Common Raven
It might be interested in trash or pet food instead of seeds and millet. A common raven is comfortable around humans. This species inhabits the western section of Montana any time of the year, so when you see a bird about 22.1 to 7.2 inches long, you might be looking at a common raven.
16. House Wren
A house wren is a tiny avian with a short tail and dark bars on its wings and tail. Most of North America is in the breeding range except for the southern states, such as Texas, Florida, and California, as these states are in the wintering range.
A house wren may not spend most of its time in your backyard, but you might see it flying by as it hunts insects. Consequently, to see more house wrens on your property, grow brush piles to attract insects.
17. Eastern Kingbird
North America hosts breeding birds that later migrate to South America in winter. An Eastern kingbird is between 7.5 and 9.1 inches long. The body features to help you ID it is a large head, long tail, a black back, and a white tip on its tail. Its underbelly is white. To see it in your backyard more often, fill bird feeders with fruits.
18. White-breasted Nuthatch
A white-breasted nuthatch is one of the common birds throughout North America, and when it comes to your backyard, it eats sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower, or mealworms. You can also entice it with suet.
Male and female birds have different head patterns, with a male displaying a black crown while that of the female bird is blue-gray. Their backs are bluish-gray, while their underbellies are white.
19. Grey Catbird
This songbird is 8.3 to 9.4 inches long, and the name catbird came about because its call sounds like a mew. You can tell it by its gray back, black crown, and a reddish patch on its tail.
The breeding range is in the midwest and the eastern states, even though some also breed in southern Canada. It flies to the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean in winter. You can attract a grey catbird to your backyard by growing fruit trees or shrubs, such as serviceberry and dogwood.
20. Chipping Sparrow
This sparrow is between 4.7 and 5.9 inches long; thus, slightly larger than an American goldfinch. It breeds in the U.S. and Canada and then flies to winter in Mexico and Florida.
However, some birds remain south. A chipping sparrow has a long tail, gray belly, and brown and black streaks on its back. It also has a rustic crown, although its plumage takes on a dull hue in winter. You can draw chipping sparrows to your backyard with bird seed or cracked corn offered on a platform or hopper feeder.
21. Northern Flicker
This large, brown species is also a resident bird in Montana. Since this state is in the west, expect northern flickers with red shafts as the eastern birds have yellow ones. It loves suet, fruits, seeds, and insects.
You see it digging the ground looking for insects, unlike other woodpeckers that drum trees to extract them. The northern flicker is in all the states, even in the mountains of Mexico. This medium-sized bird is about 11 inches long.
22. Mourning Dove
It forages on the ground under your feeder, looking for fallen seeds. Therefore, you can entice it with bird seeds on a tray feeder. A mourning dove is about 9.1 to 13.4 inches long; thus, a mourning dove is almost the size of an American robin.
Look for a gray body with black spots and a pale peach underbelly. It also has a bluish-gray ring around its eye and pinkish legs.
23. Black-capped Chickadee
This bird can visit your backyard to enjoy black oil sunflower seeds or suet any time of the year. A black-capped chickadee has a gray back and a buffy underbelly. Its most outstanding feature is a black cap and bib contrasting a white face.
Black-capped chickadees are small birds about the same size as goldfinches because they measure between 4.7 and 5.9 inches long.
24. Black-billed Magpie
I doubt you can find another bird with a flashy tail like the blue-green iridescent flashes of a black-billed magpie. This species is noisy, so when it comes to your backyard, prepare for never-ending songs. This large bird is a resident species in most northwestern states.
You can give it fruits, millet, sunflower seeds, or peanuts when it visits your lawn. Something else you should know before you entertain it is that it kills small mammals and raids nests to steal eggs and nestlings.
25. Red-winged Blackbird
It's a resident bird with a wintering range in the southern region of North America. The red-winged blackbird is probably one of the easiest to identify because its black body resembles the common crow. The male has reddish-orange patches on his shoulders that differentiate it from the common crow, and the female is brown-streaked.
Red-winged blackbirds love mixed grain and seeds. You have two options; you can feed them in a large tube feeder or a platform feeder.
Remember, red-winged blackbirds are aggressive when breeding and can even attack people to defend their nests.
26. House Finch
A rosy red head and upper breast distinguish a male from a female house finch. There are house finches throughout North America though you find them on the eastern and western sides of the U.S. and almost no house finches in the middle states.
This backyard visitor loves safflower, sunflower, and nyjer seeds. Lastly, the house finch moves in a flock as it settles in your backyard.
27. European Starling
This bird species eats nestlings and is very aggressive, so encouraging it to visit your feeders can have some unexpected outcomes. Unfortunately, the starling lives everywhere in the U.S. It eats everything, but its favorite food is suet.
A European starling has an iridescent body, yellow bill, and feet. Note these characteristics so you can chase it away when it bothers other species.
28. American Crow
We have mentioned it several times here because of its iridescent body. This crow species is everywhere in Montana except the southeastern edge because that area is in the northern breeding range of this species.
The American crow is rare in backyards but when it comes, entertain it with peanuts, whole kernel corn, or suet.
29. Downy Woodpecker
A downy is one of the most common birds in Montana as a resident bird throughout North America except in the southern region around California and the northernmost parts.
Downy woodpeckers come to backyard feeders for suet, sunflower seeds, or peanuts. They also love exploring hummingbird feeders.
30. Song Sparrow
There are many subspecies, which makes it difficult to identify them. However, the song sparrow is easy to ID when you see its underbelly with brown streaks that converge in the middle. There are color variations, but all song sparrows have a gray-brown back.
This sparrow has a resident population in the northeast and west areas, with the southern section of North America serving as the wintering range and the northernmost area as the breeding range.
31. Hairy Woodpecker
You might confuse it with a downy woodpecker because of plumage similarities, as they both have black and white feathers. But you can tell a hairy woodpecker from downy woodpeckers by the bill length, as hairy woodpeckers have a longer one.
Additionally, a downy woodpecker has spotted tail feathers while those of hairy woodpeckers are white. A hairy woodpecker is also longer from bill to tail and comes to a bird feeder looking for suet.
32. House Sparrow
The throat distinguishes male and female house sparrows because a male bird has a black bib. A female has a dark brown back with red streaks while its underbelly is light brown.
House sparrows are invasive birds but one of the most common species in North America. They compete for cavities with native birds and even build nests in buildings. House sparrows eat millet, milo, and cracked corn.
33. American Robin
You must have seen the American robin at least once when bird watching in different states of the U.S. because a robin is a resident bird in most of the U.S states except part of Florida and California, as they host winter birds. Parts of Canada and the rest of North America are in the breeding range.
Fortunately, this bird is a resident of most of Montana except the Northeastern edge, which falls in the breeding range.
A robin is a small bird with a long tail and a straight bill, and its body is a stunning combination of rusty orange feathers on its underbelly and a gray-brown back.
34. American goldfinch
A male goldfinch has a yellow body with white bars on black wings and a black cap. When it molts in winter, a grayish-yellow body and brown wings replace the flashy summer colors.
An American goldfinch is a small bird between 4.3 and 5.1 inches long. Foods that attract it to your backyard feeder include thistle, black oil sunflower, and weed seeds. Among these, its favorite is thistle.
35. Mountain chickadee
This chickadee lives in the mountain pine forests, but it also comes to bird feeders for insects and seeds like black oil sunflower seeds. A mountain chickadee has a gray back, black crown, round body with fluffy feathers, and its head is large and round.
How many of these species can you identify? If the descriptions are confusing, read on to know how you can differentiate birds.
Montana Bird Identification: How To Identify Backyard Birds Of Montana
The best way to improve your ability to identify birds is to go through field guides and practice what you learn. The more you do, the easier it becomes. Here are features to look for when comparing birds of Montana in your backyard:
We used this identification method to help you understand most of the species we talked about above. You can use the body length that describes the measurements from the bill to the tail.
You can also compare the wingspan, which measures from the tip of one wing to the other. In our discussion, we gave you the body length.
Contrasting colors and body patterns can help you compare species. You can also contrast a physical characteristic in one bird with a subspecies. For instance, if you notice one species has a pointed tail, you can compare it with other birds in the same species.
You notice that most of the species we discussed above have a different plumage for the adult male and female birds. Consequently, color also helps you distinguish two species; for example, if one species has a colored cap.
Some birds may come to your backyard as they migrate to their wintering grounds or on the way to their breeding range. Therefore, it helps to know which backyard birds may be in your state in different seasons.
When your bird feeding station is near your deck, you can see a close-up of the bill through a binocular lens. You might see a pointed, short, long, curved, or straight bird bill. For instance, a rufous hummingbird has a long and sharp one, while that of a downy woodpecker is short and thick.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common bird in Montana?
The common ones any time of the year include the American robin, black-billed magpie, European starling, northern flicker, and the black-capped chickadee. The black-billed magpie and the black-capped chickadee are some of the most common in winter.
On the other hand, expect to feed the American robin, red-winged blackbird, tree swallow, and the northern flicker more often in summer.
What is the rarest bird in Montana?
Are there mockingbirds in Montana?
Yes, and one of them is the northern mockingbird.
What bird is famous in Montana?
The western meadowlark is its state bird. Consequently, we can list it as the 36th species that may visit your backyard feeders.
Montana is rich in bird species, and even more exciting is the fact that most of these species come to bird feeders. Expect to see many sparrows and blackbirds, but the diverse list of backyard birds in Montana means that you need several bird feeders designs.
For instance, some feed on the ground, while other birds prefer to enjoy their seeds when standing on the small perching spot of a small tube feeder. Others come to your backyard for nectar.