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Central Montana Birding Trails | Montana

Birdwatching Area
Snow Geese – Central Montana

Best Times of the Day for Viewing

Great birding exists year round although, because of winter weather, some routes are not accessible until roads are cleared of snow. April to October are the best months. Timing is important to view two bird-watching treats.

Driving Directions

Directions are available in the Birding Trails in Central Montana's brochure, or available online at . Brochures are available at most visitor information centers or from the Central Montana office, 800-527-5348.

Overview of this Wildlife Watching Landscape

Twelve birding routes in north-central Montana offering incredible diversity in geography and bird species.

Birding trails cover areas in the Rocky Mountains, grasslands, prairies, dramatic cliffs, island mountain ranges, lakes, prairie marshes, fens and rivers.

Facilities are available along the 12 different birding trails.

Specialties include chestnut-collared and McCown's longspurs, sharp-tailed grouse, long-billed curlew, Sprague's pipit, Baird's sparrow, Say's phoebe, calliope hummingbird, Lazuli bunting, red-naped sapsucker, cordilleran flycatcher, Steller's jay, gray jay, Clark's nutcracker, pine grosbeak, Cassin's finch, spruce grouse, varied thrush, Townsend's solitaire, Townsend's warbler, mountain chickadee, western tanager, American three-toed woodpecker, ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, Swainson's hawk, bald eagle, prairie falcon, peregrine falcon, white-throated swift, burrowing owl, great gray owl, northern pygmy-owl, Barrow's goldeneye, eared grebe, white-faced ibis, Wilson's phalarope, yellow-headed blackbird, American avocet, black-necked stilt, Franklin's gull, black tern and gray partridge.

East and West mix here, so bird watchers from both sides of the country find something new - like American dipper and rock wren for Easterners, brown thrasher, upland sandpiper, ovenbird and alder flycatcher for Westerners.

Don't overlook the various owl species. You'll have a good chance of sighting burrowing owl, short-eared owl and great horned owl. Chances of finding other owls are slim, even with our information, but eastern and western screech-owl, northern pygmy-owl, long-eared owl, snowy owl, northern saw-whet owl and great gray owl are all possibilities.

Places and Pointers for Viewing

In a place where fewer than 30 miles stand between the prairies and the continental divide, the Rocky Mountains truly earn their name. Dramatic cliffs provide an abundance of secure nesting sites for raptors, which feed on the nearby plains. Life zones march up to the mountains as the forests change, featuring birds from Lazuli bunting and red-naped sapsucker to Townsend's warbler and pine grosbeak. Island mountain ranges, scattered on the sea of grass to the east, add even more forested land to explore.

Grasslands along the Rocky Mountain Front are some of the largest expanses of unbroken prairie in Montana, supporting outstanding populations of long-billed curlews, chestnut-collared longspurs, Sprague's pipits and ferruginous hawks. The grasslands, a mixture of private cattle ranches and public lands, are a high conservation priority. Agencies, nonprofit organizations and local citizens are working to protect this national treasure.

Lakes, prairie marshes, fens and rivers all act as bird magnets in this water-limited area. The cottonwoods that grow along the rivers don't occupy much of the landscape, but they support an exceptionally high diversity of bird species.

All this varied habitat creates a special place for birders who keep a life list.