Montana Public Radio

birds

Red fox
Erik Karits (Pixabay)

I know that gully.  It’s full of secrets, hidden under the downfall, in the hawthorne trees, or in woodpecker holes that riddle the twisted old aspens. I love looking for treasures there: the signs of birds or animals or insects who find a home there or respite from the heat of a prairie summer. ... But I did not do it.

Mark Mariano does daily waterfowl observations rounds at the Berkeley Pit during migration season. October 2018.
Nora Saks / MTPR

The Trump administration moved forward Friday with plans to scale back a century-old law protecting most American wild bird species, despite warnings that billions of birds could die as a result.

Why Do Red Crossbills Have Scissor-Like Bills?

May 31, 2020
Red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)
Pixabay

As winter faded into spring and the last remnants of snow remained in shadowy patches atop higher peaks, I wandered into the Rattlesnake Wilderness, outside of Missoula, Montana.  The air was filled with male songbirds singing to attract a mate for the season. The crackling call of the corvid, the rasp of the chickadee, and the delicate honk of the red-breasted nuthatch were giving way to the springtime calls of warblers and thrushes. 

Lazuli bunting, Oakland, CA
Doug Greenberg (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

There are poems on the wing upon the mountainsides – fraught with beauty and peril.  A female bunting with grass in her mouth is one such poem. In May, lazuli buntings return to the mountains and valleys of Montana.  Lazuli – stone of azure, jewel of the sky.  As spring ripens into summer, the males with their blue hoods and russet breast bands sing from atop shrubs and trees, and begin the rite of passion.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) in Potts Grove, Pennsylvania, USA. Female on nest.
Flickr user, Audrey. (CC-BY 2.0)

While glancing out my window the other day, I noticed a killdeer in my neighbor’s unpaved gravel driveway. I was reminded of the first time that I noticed a killdeer when I was a child. As I was walking up our gravel driveway, my attention was drawn to a killdeer in distress. The bird appeared to have a broken wing. Insistently and loudly repeating its name in call, it staggered forward, hugging the ground, with one of its wings distended as if broken.

The Teamwork Of Late Winter: Bird Flocks

Apr 5, 2020
A Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) puffs its feathers, April 2011, Glacier National Park, MT
David Restivo, National Park Service. (PD)

Except when mating and nesting, bohemian and cedar waxwings are simply highly social birds. They seek food and water supplies large enough for the entire flock. They will sometimes dispatch a few birds at a time out of a larger flock to a food source, rather than allow a frenzied competition of individuals.

'Field Notes': Meeting A Montana Loon In Mexico

Jan 26, 2020
U.S.F.W.S. (P.D.)

Each week, the haunting wail of the common loon opens the Field Notes program. The loon’s cry always brings to my mind clear mountain lakes rimmed by lush coniferous forests, a handsome pair of birds in their formal black and white courting plumage calling across the quiet water.

Golden eagle.
(PD)

The sky of west-central Montana turns into a highway for migrating golden eagles this time of year. And as the birds fly south, researchers are counting. Local researchers say annual counts show North America’s largest bird of prey’s migratory population is struggling in Montana.

Spotfist (CC-PDM-01)

When I first moved out West, I was impressed by the large black-and-white bird I noticed strutting around my yard and campsites, its long black tail dragging on the ground behind it. The bird’s loud “mag-mag-mag” calls slowly became a familiar sound. Now the black-billed magpie has become an important symbol of the West to me, and whenever I see or hear it, I’m reminded how lucky I am to call the Rocky Mountains home.

North America Has Lost 3 Billion Birds, Scientists Say

Sep 19, 2019

Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds.

That's according to a new estimate published in the journal Science by researchers who brought together a variety of information that has been collected on 529 bird species since 1970.

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