Have you wondered what those birds are that are visiting your backyard in Montana? Do you need help identifying common backyard birds in Montana?
There is a great joy in putting up bird feeders and watching what comes to visit, but it gets better if you know who they are. Well, now you can find out the most common birds in Montana that visit feeders or hop across your lawn.
So if you’re ready to do some backyard birding in Montana, then read on to find out how to identify birds and how to attract more birds to your yard.
Also, get free printable backyard bird worksheets with pictures for Montana to help you identify and keep track of the birds that visit your backyard.
Top 28 backyard birds in Montana
- American Robin
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Northern Flicker
- Mourning Dove
- Black-billed Magpie
- Western Meadowlark
- Brown-headed Cowbird
- Pine Siskin
- European Starling
- Cedar Waxwing
- Black-capped Chickadee
- House Finch
- House Sparrow
- Eurasian Collared-Dove
- Chipping Sparrow
- Eastern Kingbird
- House Wren
- Song Sparrow
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Downy Woodpecker
- Mountain Chickadee
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Red-breasted Nuthatch
- American Crow
- American Goldfinch
- Yellow Warbler
- Gray Catbird
- Western Tanager
These are the backyard birds most often seen in Montana that may visit your lawn or feeders. In addition, they are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists on ebird. The data combines birds most commonly spotted in Montana in summer (June and July) and winter (December and January).
Birds that are not often seen at feeders or in backyards were removed to give you the birds in Montana you are most likely to see from home.
This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are bird-watching in Montana, these are the birds you will most likely spot at feeders or on your lawn.
Birds in Montana
The Western Meadowlark is the state bird of Montana. This bird was chosen by schoolchildren in 1931. A popular bird of summer that is seen in 25% of checklists for the state.
There are 429 species of bird recorded in Montana, according to ebird. Some of the highlight birds in Montana are Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Bitterns, Avocet, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wild Turkey, Bald Eagle, White Pelican, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sandhill Crane, Golden Eagle, White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Curlew, Western Tanagers, and Calliope Hummingbird.
The biggest bird in Montana is the Bald Eagle, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.5 m) for the females. This white-headed national bird symbol of the United States is a powerful bird of prey.
The smallest bird in Montana is the Calliope Hummingbird which is only about 3 in long, but they can travel long distances from Canada all the way to southern Mexico.
The most common bird in Montana is the American Robin, which is seen in 37% of recorded checklists for the state on ebird throughout the year.
Montana has 9 national parks, 10 national forests, 21 national wildlife refuges, and 55 state parks that offer excellent bird-watching opportunities if you want to get out and watch birds in their natural environment.
Read to the end of this article to find out more about the birds to look for if you go out birding in Montana and how to attract and identify birds.
Common Birds at Different Times of Year in Montana
The birds that are attracted to backyards in Montana change throughout the year. The lists below show the backyard birds most commonly seen at different times of the year in Montana.
Notable differences show that Yellow Warbler, Western Meadowlarks, and Pine Siskins are more common in summer and Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Mountain Chickadees are more common in winter.
Common birds in Montana all year
American Robin 38%
Black-billed Magpie 37%
Black-capped Chickadee 32%
Northern Flicker 31%
European Starling 26%
Red-winged Blackbird 24%
House Finch 22%
House Sparrow 20%
Eurasian Collared-Dove 17%
Dark-eyed Junco 17%
Summer birds Montana
American Robin 57%
Yellow Warbler 33%
Red-winged Blackbird 32%
Tree Swallow 29%
Northern Flicker 26%
Mourning Dove 26%
Black-billed Magpie 25%
Western Meadowlark 25%
Brown-headed Cowbird 24%
Pine Siskin 23%
Winter birds Montana
Black-billed Magpie 51%
Black-capped Chickadee 41%
Northern Flicker 34%
House Finch 27%
House Sparrow 25%
Eurasian Collared-Dove 20%
Downy Woodpecker 19%
Red-breasted Nuthatch 18%
Mountain Chickadee 17%
Dark-eyed Junco 17%
Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheet for Montana
These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in Montana at different times of the year. So when you want to do some backyard birding, these handy guides have pictures and space to either tick off the types of birds you have seen or keep a tally of the total number of birds you see.
Top 28 backyard birds in Montana
1. American Robin
American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms. They have black heads and back with red or orange breasts. They tend to roost in trees in winter, so you are more likely to see them in your backyard from spring.
American Robins can be found in many habitats, from woodlands, forests, mountains to fields, parks, and lawns. They eat earthworms, insects, snails, and fruit.
You can attract more American Robins to your yard with sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground. Also, try planting some native plants that produce berries, such as juniper, sumac, hawthorn, and dogwood.
2. Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged blackbirds are very common and easy to identify with the all-black coloring except for the bright red and yellow shoulder patches. The females are rather dull in comparison with streaky brown coloring.
They can often be spotted sitting on telephone wires, and the males will fiercely defend their territories in the breeding season, even attacking people that get too close to nests. In winter, they roost in large numbers into the millions.
To attract more Red-winged blackbirds to your backyard, try mixed grain and seeds spread on the ground. They will also feed on large tube feeders or platform feeders.
3. Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers, between the size of a robin and a crow, with brownish coloring and black spots, bars, and crescents and red on the nape. The undersides of tail and wing feathers are bright yellow in eastern birds and red in western birds.
They can be found on the ground looking for ants and beetles in woods or forest edges. Those that breed in Canada or Alaska migrate to southern states, but otherwise, they can be found all year over the lower 48.
You can attract more Northern Flickers to your backyard feeders with suet and black oil sunflower seeds.
4. Mourning Dove
Mourning Doves are graceful small-headed birds, plump bodies and long tails. They are a soft brown with black spots on the wings.
They can be seen perching on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground in grasslands, fields, and backyards. Mourning Doves can also be found in open areas or on the edge of woodland. Mourning Doves are common over all of the lower 48 all year but may migrate after breeding from the far north.
You can attract more Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or on platform feeders. They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.
5. Black-billed Magpie
Black-billed Magpies are black and white birds noisy birds that are larger than Jays, with long tails and blue-green iridescent flashes in the wing and tail.
They do not tend to migrate and can be found in meadow and grasslands or other open areas feeding on fruit and grain, beetles, and grasshoppers. They have also been known to kill small mammals such as squirrels and voles and raid bird nests for eggs or nestlings and even carrion.
Black-billed Magpies will visit backyards for platform and suet feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, fruit, suet, millet, and milo.
6. Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlarks, with their bright yellow bellies and melodious song, can brighten up your day. This is probably what makes them so popular, so popular in fact that they are the state bird of 6 states.
Western Meadowlarks are related to blackbirds and are about the size of a Robin with shades of brown and white upperparts and a black V-shaped band across the bright yellow chest that turns gray in winter.
They breed in northern US states and Canada before moving to more southern states. Those in the west and midwest remain all year. Western Meadowlarks can be found foraging for insects and seeds from weeds and seeds, on the ground alone or in small flocks in grasslands, meadows, and fields.
7. Brown-headed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird males are black-bodied and brown-headed Blackbirds with short tails and thick heads. Females are brown all over with slight streaking.
They are often considered a nuisance as they destroy the eggs of smaller songbirds to lay their eggs in the nest and have the bird foster their chicks.
They breed in much of the north and west of North America before heading further south but remain all year in the Eastern and Southern states and Pacific Coast.
8. Pine Siskin
Pine Siskins are small finches that are streaked brown with yellow streaks in the wing and tail. They have a forked tail and pointed wings, with a short pointed bill.
Pine Siskins breed in Canada and can overwinter in most of the US, but their migration depends on pine cone crops, so they may not migrate in some years. However, some birds remain all year in the pine forests of the west.
As their name suggests, Pine Siskins predominantly eat seeds from conifers, but they also eat young buds and seeds from grasses and weeds.
Pine Siskins can be attracted to backyards with thistle and nyjer feeders but also black oil sunflower seeds and suet.
9. European Starling
European Starlings are not native but are now one of the most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with iridescent purple, green, and blue tones.
Some are considered a pest due to their aggressive behavior, these birds fly in large, noisy flocks and can be seen perched in groups on the top of trees or flying over fields in flocks.
Starlings eat insects, including beetles, flies and caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders predominantly. They also eat fruit, including cherries, holly berries, mulberries, Virginia Creeper, sumac, blackberries, and grains and seeds.
You can attract more European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.
10. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings are elegant social pale brown birds on the head, chest, and crest, which fades to gray on the back and wings and tail. Their belly is pale yellow and there is bright yellow on the tip. They have a narrow black mask over their eyes and bright red on the wingtips.
They are resident all year in northern states and the winter in the south. They make a high-pitched call and can be found in berry bushes, woodlands, and streams.
To attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard, plant native trees and shrubs with small fruit such as serviceberry, dogwood, juniper, winterberry, and hawthorn. You can also try fruit on platform feeders.
11. Black-capped Chickadee
The Black-capped Chickadee is a cute bird with a big round head and tiny body. These birds will happily feed at backyard feeders and will investigate everything, including you!
They have black-caps and beaks, white cheeks, and are gray on the back, wings, and tail.
They can be found in forests, open woods, parks. Black-capped Chickadees eat seeds, berries and insects, spiders, and suet.
To attract more Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard, try suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts or peanut butter. They will even feed from your hand and are often one of the first birds to discover new feeders. They will also use nest boxes, especially if you fill them with wood shavings.
12. House Finch
House Finches have a red head and breast in the males and brown-streaked coloring in the females. Initially, only in western states, they were introduced to the eastern states have done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.
They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. They can be found in noisy groups that are hard to miss.
You can attract more House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.
There are a surprising number of species of red birds in Montana that have been spotted.
13. House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is another introduced species that has done very well and is now one of the most common birds. They are found near houses and buildings and can be quite tame so that they will eat out of your hand.
They can be considered a pest as they are non-native but will be found in backyards even if you do not feed them.
You can attract more House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.
14. Eurasian Collared-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Doves are an introduced species that only arrived in the 1980s but are now across most of the country. They are light brownish-gray, with white patches in the tail, and look very similar to Mourning Doves, but with a black half collar at the nape of the neck. They are also larger and with a square tail rather than pointed.
Preferring areas near people where seeds are plentiful, such as backyard feeders and farms, they are not found in heavy forests. Eurasian Collared’Doves predominantly eat a wide variety of seeds and grain but also will eat some berries and insects.
You can attract more Eurasian-Collared-Doves to your backyard with millet, oats, cracked corn, and Black oil sunflower seeds or hulled sunflower seeds on ground feeders, but they may also visit platform or hopper feeders.
15. Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrows are slender, long-tailed birds that have a grayish belly and brown and black-streaked back, with a rusty crown and black eye line. In winter, the colors are more subdued.
Breeding over much of North America and Canada then flying to Mexico and Florida or in the far south, they remain all year.
They can be found in small flocks on open ground and come to backyards for many kinds of birdseed.
16. Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbirds are medium-sized, large-headed flycatchers that are blackish on the back and white underneath. Their heads are darker black and they have a white tip on the tail.
They get their name ‘king’ from the aggression they show each other and other birds when defending their nests. They have a concealed crown of yellow, orange, or red feathers, which they raise when defending themselves or their nest.
They breed in much of the US before heading south into Central and South America for winter. They usually breed in fields, orchards, and along forest edges. They can often be found nesting near water such as rivers or lakes.
Eastern Kingbirds catch insects in midair, including bees, wasps, ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, bugs, and flies. They will often perch up above fields waiting for insects to fly past. They will also eat fruit, including serviceberries, cherries, blackberries, and elderberries.
You can attract more Eastern Kingbirds to your yard with native berry bushes and having lots of native vegetation that attracts insects.
17. House Wren
House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tails and a paler throat. They breed in most states before migrating to the far south and Mexico for winter.
House Wrens can be found in backyards, parks and open woods foraging for insects, and spiders, such as beetles, caterpillars, and earwigs in brush piles. They can often be found energetically hopping through tangles and low branches with their tails up, stopping to sing their cheerful song.
House Wrens are fierce for their size. When getting the best nest holes, they will often harass larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs or nestlings out of a nest site they want.
You can attract more House Wrens to your backyard by leaving piles of brush or putting up a nest box.
18. Song Sparrow
Song sparrows are not as remarkable as other backyard birds, but these predominantly brown-streaked birds use their almost constant song to attract mates in spring and summer.
They can be found in open, shrubby, and wet areas, often perched on a low shrub singing. They are often found at backyard feeders. Song Sparrows eat a wide variety of insects and plants, including beetles, caterpillars, midges, spiders, and earthworms. They will also eat buckwheat, sunflower, raspberries, wild cherries, blackberries, wheat and, rice.
You can attract more song sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders.
19. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers are gray with flashes of yellow on the face, sides, and rump and white in the wings. Females may be slightly brown and winter birds are paler brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning bright yellow and gray again in spring.
After breeding predominantly in Canada, they migrate in large numbers south across most of southern and central North America and the Pacific Coast and throughout Mexico and Central America.
You can attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.
20. Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpeckers are small birds that are common at backyard feeders. They are often mixed in with other birds, such as chickadees and nuthatches.
They have black and white coloring with a red patch at the back of their heads. They look similar to the Hairy Woodpecker but smaller.
Downy woodpeckers can be found in woodlots, along streams, city parks, and backyards and eat mainly insects, beetle larvae, and berries, acorns, and grains.
To attract more Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard, try suet feeders, but they will also eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts on platform feeders.
Check out all the different species of woodpeckers in Montana that you can spot.
21. Mountain Chickadee
Mountain Chickadees are tiny birds with black-and-white heads and gray over the body, darker on the back and light gray underneath.
They are residents of the mountains in the west and can commonly be seen in evergreen forests, especially conifers. Mountain Chickadees eat insects and spiders, nuts, and seeds and will often visit backyard feeders. Mountain Chickadees will often stash food for later and create a store of food.
To attract more Mountain Chickadees to your yard, try putting up nest boxes and they will visit most types of feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, mealworms, nyjer, suet and, peanut butter.
22. Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are of different colors depending on the state. They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.
They can be found in open and partially wooded areas, often on the ground and are common across the continent. Some remain resident all year in the west and in the Appalachian Mountains. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to much of the United States.
You can attract more Dark-eyed Juncos to backyard feeders with a variety of seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and peanuts. Platform feeders or scattered on the ground are best.
23. Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatches remain all year in northeastern and western states, Alaska and Canada but may move south across all of North America in winter if cone crops are poor.
They are blue-gray birds with black and white stripes on the head and a rusty underside.
Red-breasted Nuthatches can be found in coniferous woods foraging for cones and they do visit backyard feeders.
You can attract more Red-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with black oil sunflower seeds, suet feeders, peanuts, and mealworms.
24. American Crow
American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound. They are common birds that can be found in most habitats, including treetops, woods, fields, beaches, or towns.
They eat most things and usually feed on the ground, eating earthworms, insects, seeds, and fruit. They also eat fish, young turtles, mussels, and clams and will even eat eggs and nestlings of many species of birds.
In winter, American Crows gather in large numbers of up to two million crows to sleep in communal roosts.
You can attract more American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts but can become a nuisance as attracted by garbage or pet food if left out.
25. American Goldfinch
American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males bright yellow and black coloring in spring. The females are more dull brown as are males in winter.
American Goldfinches breed in far northern states and Canada before migrating to southern states. They remain all year in the rest of the US. They can be found in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.
To attract more American Goldfinches to your backyard, try planting thistles and milkweed. They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed.
26. Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast, which are a common sight in summer.
They migrate a long-distance and breed over much of North America before heading into Central and northern South America for winter. They can be seen during migration in the far south.
Yellow Warblers can be found along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.
Warblers are hard to attract to your backyard as they are shy and eat mainly insects. To attract Yellow Warblers, you can try suet, oranges, peanut butter and plant berries and native plants that attract insects, so no pesticides or being too tidy! Birdbaths with fountains with secluded thickets nearby to provide protection.
27. Gray Catbird
Gray Catbirds are so named because of their distinctive catty mew song that can last for up to 10 minutes. They are medium-sized songbirds with a slate gray coloring, black cap and tail, and a reddish patch under their tails.
Gray Catbirds breed over much of the US except the Pacific Coast and inland along the west and southwest before heading south to the Gulf Coast of the US, Mexico and Central America, and the West Indies. Some remain all year along the Atlantic Coast.
You can spot Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs, small trees, and along forest edges or hedgerows foraging for insects but also fruit.
You can attract more Gray Catbirds to your backyard feeders with fruit and fruit trees or shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.
28. Western Tanager
Western Tanagers have a flaming orange-red head, yellow body, and black wings. They can be found all over western states breeding towards the north and then migrating south for winter.
They live in open conifer forests but stay hidden in the canopy, despite their bright coloring. The red coloring probably comes from eating insects that produce pigments that the Western Tanagers cannot produce themselves.
You can attract Western Tanagers with dried fruit, cut oranges, and other fruits from bird feeders.
Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds in Montana
A variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds
- Tube Feeders can be filled with different types of birdseed and depending on the seed different birds will be attracted. Black oil sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins.
- Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
- Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
- Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny fascinating birds with sugar and water nectar, but other bids will also feed from them.
How to Attract Birds to Your Yard in Montana
If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in Montana, there are some tips
- Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
- Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream. Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
- Grow native plants that will provide food and shelter. Plants, trees, and shrubs that provide fruit, berries, and nuts. Blackberries, wild grasses, elderberries, serviceberries, oaks, beeches, cherries, sumacs, hemlocks, purple coneflowers, sunflowers, milkweed, Cardinal Flowers, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, Buttonbush, and Dogwoods.
- Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
- Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds and prevent the natural foraging opportunities for insects and seeds that birds will seek in your yard.
- Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.
How to Identify Birds in Montana
Here are some tips to help you identify birds:
- Size – Size is the easiest thing to notice about a bird. Birds are often measured in inches or centimeters in guide books. It’s best to take a note of the bird in terms of small, medium, or large to be able to look for it later. A small bird is about the size of a sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of a pigeon and a large bird is the size of a goose.
- Shape – Take note of the silhouette of the bird and jot it down or draw the outline. Look at tail length, bill shape, wing shape, and overall body shape.
- Color pattern – Take a note of the main color of the head, back, belly, and wings, and tail for the main color and then any secondary colors or patterns. Also take note of any patterns such as banding, spots, or highlights.
- Behavior – Are they on the ground or high up in the trees. Are they in flocks or on their own? Can you spot what they are eating?
- Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
- Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon
Birds to Spot if Out Birding in Montana
If you go out Birding in Montana, these are other birds that you may be able to spot:
- Canada Goose
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Bald Eagle
- Great Blue Heron
- Ring-necked Pheasant
- Northern Harrier
- Northern Shoveler
- American Kestrel
- Belted Kingfisher
- Sandhill Crane
- Rough-legged Hawk
- Spotted Sandpiper
- Turkey Vulture
- American White Pelican
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Wilson’s Snipe
- Golden Eagle
- Calliope Hummingbird
- Wild Turkey
- Trumpeter Swan
- American Avocet
- Great Horned Owl
- Wilson’s Phalarope
- Snow Goose