Top 30 Backyard Birds in Montana (Free ID Charts)

Backyard Birds Montana ID Chart

Have you wondered what those birds are that are visiting your backyard in Montana?

Well, this guide will help you to find out how to identify these birds by sight and sound and what time of year you can spot them in Montana. Also, get a free ID chart to print with the most common backyard birds in Montana.

In Montana, 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.

Backyard birds in Montana all year: Northern Flicker, European Starling, House Finch, House Sparrow, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Song Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Crow, Hairy Woodpecker
Backyard birds in Montana in summer:
American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove, Western Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird, Pine Siskin, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Kingbird, House Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, Gray Catbird, Western Tanager
Backyard birds in Montana in winter: Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee
Backyard birds in Montana during migration:
White-crowned Sparrow

These are the most common backyard birds in Montana that may visit your lawn or feeders. They are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists submitted by bird watchers on ebird.

This article gives you identification information and photos to help you identify and attract more of the common backyard birds that you can spot in Montana.

Facts About 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.

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.

Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Montana Page 1
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Montana Page 2
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Montana Page 3

30 Common Backyard Birds In Montana

1. American Robin

American Robin for identification

American Robins can be spotted in Montana all year, but they are more frequently seen during the breeding season from March to October. They are recorded in 59% of summer checklists and 7% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms. They have black heads and backs 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.

  • Turdus migratorius
  • Length: 7.9-11.0 in (20-28 cm)
  • Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz (77-85 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)

American Robins are residents in the lower 48 and the coast of Western Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and inland Alaska move south for the winter.

American Robins can be found in many habitats, from woodlands, forests, mountains to fields, parks, and lawns. They eat earthworms, insects, snails, and fruit.

American Robin Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC656426. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/656426.

American Robin Call:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC698509. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/698509.

Attract American Robins to your backyard 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 blackbird for identification

Red-winged blackbirds are frequently spotted in Montana during summer. Some are residents of the state all year but most migrate south for winter. They appear in 38% of checklists in summer and 5% of checklists in winter for the state.

Red-winged blackbirds are very common and easy to identify with the all-black coloring except for the reddish-orange wing patches. Females are rather dull in comparison with streaky brown color.

  • Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Length: 6.7-9.1 in (17-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz (32-77 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)

Red-winged Blackbirds remain all year in the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. Those that breed in Canada and some northern US states migrate south for the winter.

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 their nests. In winter, they roost in large numbers into the millions.

Red-winged Blackbird Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC629168. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/629168.

Red-winged Blackbird Calls:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC669258. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/669258.

Attract Red-winged blackbirds to your backyard with mixed grain and seeds spread on the ground. They will also feed from large tube feeders or platform feeders.

Blackbirds are a vast family of birds that have numerous family members, and why don’t you get to know all the blackbirds in Montana?

3. Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are spotted in Montana all year. They are recorded in 27% of summer checklists and 33% of winter checklists for the state.

Northern Flickers are large brown woodpeckers with black spots and a white patch on their rump in flight, plus a red nape of the neck in the males. 

Northern Flickers have red or yellow flashes in the wings and tail depending on where they originate. Red-shafted birds live in the west, and yellow-shafted birds live in the east.

  • Colaptes auratus
  • Length: 11.0-12.2 in (28-31 cm)
  • Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz (110-160 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in (42-51 cm)

Northern Flickers can be spotted across the US all year and in Canada during summer. Those that breed in Canada migrate south for the winter.

Northern Flickers mainly eat ants, beetles, fruits, and seeds, and they can often be seen on the ground digging with their curved bill.

Northern flicker Call:

Credit: Thomas Ryder Payne, XC636252. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/636252.

Attract Northern Flickers to your backyard with suet.

Some woodpeckers are more easily recognized than others, but with this guide, you can identify all the woodpeckers in Montana.

4. Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are often spotted in Montana during the breeding season from April to September, but some also remain in the state all year. They appear in 25% of summer checklists and 3% of winter checklists.

Mourning Doves are graceful small-headed birds with plump bodies and long tails. They are a soft brown color with black spots on the wings. Males are slightly heavier than females.

  • Zenaida macroura
  • Length: 9.1-13.4 in (23-34 cm)
  • Weight: 3.0 -6.0 oz (96-170 g)
  • Wingspan: 17.7 in (45 cm)

Mourning Doves are common over all of the lower 48 all year but may migrate after breeding from the north of the Midwest and southern Canada.

Mourning Doves can be seen perching on telephone wires and foraging for seeds on the ground in grasslands, fields, and backyards. They can also be found in open areas or woodland edges.

Mourning Dove call:

Credit: Peter Ward and Ken Hall, XC613539. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/613539.

Attract Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or platform feeders. They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.

5. Black-billed Magpie

black-billed-magpie

Black-billed Magpies are spotted all year in Montana but are more commonly seen during winter from September to April. They are recorded in 29% of summer checklists and 50% of winter checklists.

Black-billed Magpies, usually just called Magpies, are black and white birds that are noisy. They have long tails and blue-green iridescent flashes in the wing and tail. Males are up to 25% heavier than females.

  • Pica hudsonia
  • Length: 17.7-23.6 in (45-60 cm)
  • Weight: 5.1-7.4 oz (145-210 g)
  • Wingspan: 22.1-24.0 in (56-61 cm)

Black-billed Magpies live in northwestern US states and western Canada, and the coast of Alaska. They do not migrate.

You can find them walking on the ground in meadows 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 Magpie sounds: A series of harsh calls and also a scream.

Credit: Peter Ward and Ken Hall, XC614155. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/614155.

You can attract Black-billed Magpies to your backyard with platform and suet feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, fruit, suet, millet, and milo.

6. Western Meadowlark

western meadowlark

Western Meadowlarks are frequently spotted during the breeding season in Montana. They are recorded in 27% of summer checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

With their bright yellow bellies and melodious song, Western Meadowlarks 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 US states.

Western Meadowlarks are members of the blackbird family 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.

  • Sturnella neglecta
  • Length: 6.3-10.2 in (16-26 cm)
  • Weight: 3.1-4.1 oz (89-115 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.1 in (41 cm)

Western Meadowlarks breed in northern US states and Canada before moving to more southern states. Those in The West and Midwest remain all year.

You can find Western Meadowlarks foraging for insects and seeds from weeds. Also, they look for seeds on the ground alone or in small flocks in grasslands, meadows, and fields.

Western Meadowlark Song:

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC698318. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/698318.

Attract Western Meadowlarks to your backyard with hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

There are so many yellow birds in Montana that you will spot, especially in spring.

7. Brown-headed Cowbird

brown headed cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbirds are frequently spotted in Montana during summer and appear in 25% of checklists at this time. They spend the breeding season here and are mostly spotted from May to September, but some remain all year.

Males Brown-headed Cowbirds are larger than females, with black bodies, brown heads, and short tails. Female Brown-headed Cowbirds are brown all over with slight streaking.

  • Molothrus ater
  • Length: 76.3-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3-1.8 oz (42-50 g)
  • Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)

Brown-headed Cowbirds remain all year in eastern US states, southern US states, and along the Pacific Coast. However, those that breed in northern and western US states and Canada migrate south for winter.

Brown-headed Cowbird Song:

Bobby Wilcox, XC645459. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/645459.

They are often considered a nuisance because they are parasite birds that destroy the eggs of smaller songbirds so they can lay their eggs in the nest and have the bird foster their chicks.

8. Pine Siskin

pine siskin

Pine Siskins spend the breeding season in southwestern Montana and are seen during migration in the east of the state. Some also stay in the northwest of the state all year. They appear in 21% of summer checklists and 6% of winter checklists.

Pine Siskins are small brown finches with yellow streaks on the wing and tail. They have a forked tail and pointed wings, with a short pointed bill.

  • Spinus Pinus
  • Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz (12-18 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm)

Pine Siskins remain all year in the pine forests in the western states and along the Canadian Border. Some also breed in Canada before heading south for winter.

Depending on pine cone crops, they can be found over much of North America. As their name suggests, Pine Siskins predominantly eat seeds from conifers, but they also eat young buds and seeds from grasses and weeds.

Pine Siskin Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC348803. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/348803.

Attract Pine Siskins to your backyards with thistle and nyjer feeders but also black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

9. European Starling

European Starlings are considered introduced species in Montana that can be seen in the state all year. They appear in 28% of summer checklists and 14% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

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. 

  • Sturnus vulgaris
  • Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
  • Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz (60-96 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)

European Starlings live in all of North America, except the north of Canada and Alaska.

They are considered a pest by some 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.

European Starling Calls:

Credit: Lars Edenius, XC657601. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/657601.

Starlings predominantly eat insects, including beetles, flies and caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders. However, they also eat fruit, including cherries, holly berries, mulberries, Virginia Creeper, sumac, blackberries, and grains and seeds.

Attract European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.

10. Cedar Waxwing

cedar waxwing

Cedar Waxwings are mainly seen in Montana during the breeding season, but some also remain here all year. They are recorded in 16% of summer checklists and 2% of winter checklists.

Cedar Waxwings are elegant social birds that are pale brown on the head, chest, and crest, which fades to gray on the back, wings, and tail.

Their belly is pale yellow and bright yellow towards the tail. They have a narrow black mask over their eyes and bright red on the wingtips.

  • Bombycilla cedrorum
  • Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1 oz (32 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in (22-30 cm)

Cedar Waxwings remain all year in the northern half of the US. Those that breed in Canada migrate to the southern half of the US for winter.

They make a high-pitched call and can be found in berry bushes, woodlands, and streams.

Cedar Waxwing Call:

Credit: Peter Ward and Ken Hall, XC512254. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/512254.

Attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard by planting 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

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadees are more common in Montana during winter from November to February, but they can also be seen in the state all year. They appear in 24% of summer checklists and 43% of winter checklists.

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 investigate everything, including you! 

They have black caps and beaks, white cheeks, and are gray on the back, wings, and tail.

  • Poecile atricapillus
  • Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in (16-21 cm)

Black-capped Chickadees do not migrate and can be spotted in the northern half of the US and Canada.

You can find them in forests, open woods, parks. Black-capped Chickadees eat seeds, berries and insects, spiders, and suet.

Black-capped Chickadee Call/Song:

Credit: Matt Wistrand, XC554222. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/554222.

Attract Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard with 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 are residents of Montana all year. They do not migrate and appear in 16% of summer checklists and 27% of winter checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

House Finches males have a red head and breast, and the rest of their bodies are mainly brown-streaked. Females are brown-streaked all over. 

  • Haemorhous mexicanus
  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)

Originally only in western US states, House Finches were introduced to eastern US states and have done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.

They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders in noisy groups that are hard to miss.

House Finch Song:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC653352. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/653352.

House Finch Call:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC612573. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/612573.

Attract House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.

There are lots of other red birds in Montana that you can spot.

13. House Sparrow

House sparrow for identification

House Sparrows are an introduced species in Montana that can be spotted here all year. They do not migrate and occur in 21% of summer checklists and 25% of winter checklists submitted by the bird watchers for the state.

The House Sparrow is another introduced species that has done very well and is now one of the most common birds. They have gray and brown heads and white cheeks. Their backs are black and brown, and their bellies are gray.

  • Passer domesticus
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz (27-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)

House Sparrows live in the US and Southern Canada all year.

You can find them near houses and buildings, and they can be pretty tame, and they may even eat out of your hand.

House Sparrows eat mostly grain and seed as well as discarded food. They can be considered a pest because they are non-native, but they are found in backyards even if you do not feed them.

House Sparrow Song:

Credit: Olivier SWIFT, XC697951. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/697951.

Attract House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.

Sparrows are known as LBJs (Little brown jobs) but if you want to know more, check out this guide to sparrows in Montana.

14. Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian collared dove

Eurasian Collared-Doves do not migrate and are residents of Montana all year. They are recorded in 14% of summer checklists and 20% of winter checklists for the state.

Eurasian-collard Doves 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.

  • Streptopelia decaocto
  • Length: 11.4-11.8 in (29-30 cm)
  • Weight: 4.9-6.3 oz (140-180 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.8 in (35 cm)

Eurasian Collared-Doves are an introduced species that only arrived in the 1980s but now live across most of the United States.

You can find Eurasian Collared-Doves in most areas, including rural and suburban and they eat a wide variety of seeds and grain but also eat some berries and insects.

Eurasian Collared-Dove song:

Manuel Grosselet, XC722058. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/722058.

15. Chipping Sparrow

chipping sparrow

Chipping Sparrows spend the breeding season in Montana and appear in 21% of summer checklists. They arrive in April and start to leave in mid-October.

Chipping Sparrows are slender, long-tailed birds with a grayish belly and brown and black-streaked back, with a rusty crown and black eye line. In winter, the colors are more subdued.

  • Spizella passerina
  • Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz (11-16 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.3 in (21 cm)

Chipping Sparrows spend their summer breeding in the US and Canada before flying to Mexico and Florida for winter. Some remain all year in the southern states.

You can find Chipping Sparrows in small flocks on open ground and will come to backyards for many kinds of birdseed.

Chipping Sparrow Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC611297. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/611297.

Attract Chipping Sparrows to your backyard with seeds or cracked corn on open feeders such as hoppers or platforms.

16. Eastern Kingbirds

eastern-kingbird

Eastern Kingbirds spend the breeding season in Montana and are spotted from May to September. They appear in 17% of summer checklists for the state.

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.

  • Tyrannus tyrannus
  • Length: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.2-1.9 oz (33-55 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.0-15.0 in (33-38 cm)

They breed in 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 wren

House Wrens spend the breeding season in Montana and appear in 18% of summer checklists submitted by bird watchers of the state. They can be seen here from April to October.

House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tails and a paler throat. 

  • Troglodytes aedon
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (10-12 g)
  • Wingspan: 5.9 in (15 cm)

House Wrens spend their summer breeding in the US and southern Canada before migrating to southern US states and Mexico for winter.

You can find House Wrens in backyards, parks and open woods foraging for insects and spiders. 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 it comes to getting the best nest holes. They will often harass larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs or nestlings out of a nest site they want. 

House Wren Song:

Peter Boesman, XC693927. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/693927.

Attract House Wrens to your backyard by leaving piles of brush or putting up a nest box.

Wrens are often overlooked for more flash birds, but take the time to get to know the sight and sounds of wrens in Montana.

18. Song Sparrow

Song sparrow for identification

Song Sparrows are frequently spotted in Montana during summer and are recorded in 21% of checklists at this time. They are mainly seen during the breeding season, from April to July, but some also spend the winter in western Montana and appear in up to 15% of winter checklists.

Song sparrows are not as remarkable looking as other backyard birds, but these predominantly brown-streaked birds use their almost constant song to attract mates in spring and summer.

  • Melospiza melodia
  • Length: 4.7-6.7 in (12-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz (12-53 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in (18-24 cm)

Song Sparrows live all year in the northern US states. Those that breed in Canada migrate to southern US states for winter.

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.

Song Sparrow Song:

Credit: Christopher McPherson, XC692182. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/692182.

Song Sparrow Call:

Credit: Manuel Grosselet, XC683210. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/683210.

Attract 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 warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers can be spotted during the breeding season in western Montana, but their numbers increase during the migration in May and September. They are recorded in 21% of summer checklists and up to 39% of checklists during migration.

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.

  • Setophaga coronata
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (12-13 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-9.1 in (19-23 cm)

Yellow-rumped Warblers breed predominantly in Canada and parts of the Rockies and the Appalachian mountains.

During migration, they can be seen in the Midwest before overwintering in southern and southwestern US states and the Pacific Coast and into Mexico and Central America.

You can find Yellow-rumped Warblers in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat mostly insects and on migration, and in winter, they eat mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler Song:

Credit: Christopher McPherson, XC602699. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/602699.

Attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.

20. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker for identification in Massachusetts MA

Downy Woodpeckers are more often spotted during winter in Montana, but some also hang around here all year. They are recorded in 7% of summer checklists and 18% of winter checklists.

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.

  • Dryobates pubescens
  • Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz (21-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)

Downy Woodpeckers do not migrate and can be spotted in most states and provinces, except the north of Canada.

You can find Downy woodpeckers in woodlots, along streams, city parks, and backyards, and they eat mainly insects and beetle larvae but also berries, acorns, and grains.

Downy Woodpecker Call:

Credit: Christopher McPherson, XC601009. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/601009.

Attract Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard with their favorite treat of suet, but they will also eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts on platform feeders.

21. Mountain Chickadee

mountain chickadee

Mountain Chickadees do not migrate and can be spotted in Montana all year, mainly in the west of the state. They appear in 11% of summer checklists and 18% of winter checklists.

Mountain Chickadees are tiny birds with black-and-white heads and gray over the body, darker on the back and light gray underneath.

  • Poecile gambeli
  • Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4 oz (11 g)

Mountain Chickadees live in the mountains west of the US all year and do not migrate but may move down the mountain to lower areas in winter.

You can find Mountain Chickadees in evergreen forests, especially those with pine and conifers.  They 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.

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC619853. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/619853.

Attract Mountain Chickadees to your yard by 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 junco for identification

Dark-eyed Juncos can be spotted in Montana all year, but their numbers increase during spring and fall migration from March to April and October to November.

They mainly spend the breeding season in the west of the state but can be seen during migration in the northeast. They are spotted in around 15% of checklists in summer and winter but up to 29% during the migrations.

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are different colors depending on the state. They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.

  • Junco hyemalis
  • Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in (18-25 cm)

Dark-eyed Juncos remain resident all year in northeastern and western US states and the Appalachian Mountains. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to the United States.

They can be found in open and partially wooded areas, often on the ground, and are common across the continent. 

Dark-eyed Junco Song:

Credit: Bobby Wilcox, XC667170. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/667170.

Attract 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 is best.

23. Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatches can be spotted all year in Montana. They appear in 15% of summer checklists and 18% of winter checklists for the state.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are blue-gray birds with black and white stripes on their heads and a rusty underside.

  • Sitta canadensis
  • Length: 4.3 in (11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (8-13 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)

Red-breasted Nuthatches remain all year in northeastern and western states, Alaska and Canada but may move south in winter if cone crops are poor.

You can find Red-breasted Nuthatches in coniferous woods foraging for cones, and they also visit backyard feeders.

Red-breasted Nuthatch Call:

Credit: Christopher McPherson, XC599843. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/599843.

Attract Red-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with black oil sunflower seeds, suet feeders, peanuts, and mealworms.

24. American Crow

American Crow for identification

American Crows can be spotted all year in Montana but are most common from mid-March to April. They are recorded in up to 15% of summer and winter checklists.

American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound.

  • Corvus brachyrhynchos
  • Length: 15.8-20.9 in (40-53 cm)
  • Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz (316-620 g)
  • Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in (85-100 cm)

American Crows are residents all year in most of the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast in Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and the northern Midwest migrate south for winter.

They are common birds 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 noisy communal roosts.

American Crow Call:

Credit: Russ Wigh, XC569711. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/569711.

Attract American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts, but they can become a nuisance as they are attracted by garbage or pet food if left out.

25. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch for identification

American Goldfinches spend the breeding season in Montana, but they also remain in the south of the state all year. They are recorded in 16% of summer checklists and 7% of winter checklists for the state.

American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males’ bright yellow and black coloring in spring. The females are duller brown, as are males in winter.

  • Spinus tristis
  • Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)

American Goldfinches can be found in most of North America and are usually resident all year. However, those that breed in Canada and the Midwest migrate to southern US States for winter.

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.

American Goldfinch Song:

Attract American Goldfinches to your backyard by planting thistles and milkweed. They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed.

There are a surprising number of finches in Montana that you can get to know. 

26. Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler

Yellow Warblers are frequently spotted in Montana during the breeding season. They are mainly spotted from May to October and occur in up to 30% of summer checklists.

Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast.

  • Setophaga petechia
  • Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-11 g)
  • Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)

Yellow Warblers migrate a long distance to breed in Canada and the US, except for southeastern states, before heading back into Central and South America for winter. However, they can be seen during migration in southeastern US states.

You can find Yellow Warblers along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.

Song

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC662546. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/662546.

Attract Yellow Warblers to your backyard with suet, oranges, peanut butter, and plants with berries. Also, plant native plants that attract insects without pesticides or being too tidy! Also, try birdbaths with fountains near secluded thickets to provide protection.

27. Gray Catbird

gray catbird

Gray Catbirds spend the breeding season in Montana and occur in 13% of summer checklists. They arrive in April and start to migrate in October.

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.

  • Dumetella carolinensis
  • Length: 8.3-9.4 in (21-24 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz (23.2-56.5 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in (22-30 cm)

Gray Catbirds breed in the Midwest, eastern US states, and southern Canada before heading to the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean for winter. Some remain all year along the East Coast.

You can spot Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs, small trees, and along forest edges or hedgerows. They are named after their ‘mew’ sounding call.

Gray Catbird Call:

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC460766. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/460766.

Attract Gray Catbirds to your backyard with fruit and fruit trees or shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.

28. Western Tanager

western tanager
Male
Female Western Tanager
Female

Western Tanagers are spotted in Montana during the breeding season, mainly from May to September, but a few stay until January. They are recorded in 12% of summer checklists.

Western Tanagers have a flaming orange-red head, yellow body, and black wings. Females have only red faces, and their bodies are yellow-green.

  • Piranga ludoviciana
  • Length: 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (24-36 g)

Western Tanagers breed in western US states and western Canada. They can be seen during migration in the east and south of this range. Winter is spent in Mexico and Central America.

You can find Western Tanagers in open conifer forests, but they stay hidden in the canopy, despite their bright coloring. Their numbers are actually increasing in the last forty years.

They eat mainly insects in summer, such as wasps and grasshoppers, and in the fall and winter, they also eat fruit.

Western Tanager Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC678811. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/678811.

Attract Western Tanagers with dried fruit, cut oranges, and other fruits from bird feeders.

29. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are common and can be found all year, mainly in western Montana. They are recorded in 5% of summer checklists and 9% of winter checklists for the state.

Hairy Woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with a black and white pattern and a large white patch on their backs. The males have a flash of red towards the back of their heads.

They are visually similar to Downy Woodpeckers but larger and with longer bills. As they are often found in the same areas, it is hard to tell them apart if they are not near each other. 

  • Dryobates villosus
  • Length: 7.1-10.2 in (18-26 cm)
  • Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz (40-95 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in (33-41 cm)

Hairy Woodpeckers do not migrate and live in all US states and Canada, except the far north of Canada.

You can find Hairy Woodpeckers in woodlands on trunks or main branches of large trees, but they are also found in a wide variety of habitats, including woodlots, parks, and cemeteries. Hairy Woodpeckers’ diet is mostly insects.

Hairy Woodpecker Call/drumming:

Credit: Ron Overholtz, XC621902. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/621902.

Attract Hairy Woodpeckers to your backyard with suet feeders.

30. White-crowned Sparrow

white-crowned sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows spend the breeding season in western Montana. However, their numbers increase during the migration in May and from September to October across the whole state. They are spotted in around 8% of checklists in summer but up to 26% during the migration.

White-crowned Sparrows are large grayish sparrows with long tails, small bills, and bold black and white stripes on their heads.

  • Zonotrichia leucophrys
  • Length: 5.9-6.3 in (15-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.0 oz (25-28 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.3-9.4 in (21-24 cm)

White-crowned Sparrows breed in Alaska and arctic Canada before heading south to the lower 48 and Mexico for winter. However, some may remain along the Pacific Coast and the mountainous west all year.

You can find White-crowned Sparrows in weedy fields, along roadsides, forest edges,  and in yards foraging for seeds of weeds and grasses or fruit such as elderberries and blackberries.

White-crowned Sparrow Song:

Credit: Richard E. Webster, XC678159. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/678159.

Attract White-crowned Sparrows to your backyard with sunflower seeds, and they will also eat seeds that other birds drop at feeders.

Check out these great articles about birds in Montana:

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.

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.

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%

Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds in Montana

A variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds

  1.  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.
  2. Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
  3. Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
  4. Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
  5. Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
  6. 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

  1. Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
  2. Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream.  Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
  3.  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.
  4. Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
  5. Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
  6. 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:

  1. Mallard
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Killdeer
  5. Bald Eagle
  6. Great Blue Heron
  7. Ring-necked Pheasant
  8. Northern Harrier
  9. Northern Shoveler
  10. American Kestrel
  11. Osprey
  12. Belted Kingfisher
  13. Sandhill Crane
  14. Bufflehead
  15. Rough-legged Hawk
  16. Spotted Sandpiper
  17. Turkey Vulture
  18. American White Pelican
  19. Double-crested Cormorant
  20. Wilson’s Snipe
  21. Golden Eagle
  22. Calliope Hummingbird
  23. Wild Turkey
  24. Trumpeter Swan
  25. American Avocet
  26. Great Horned Owl
  27. Wilson’s Phalarope
  28. Snow Goose