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Beginning Bird Guide

Are you looking for some adventure right in your own backyard? Why not give bird identification a try? All you need to get started with bird identification are some simple tools-a good field guide such as the one provided below, and some binoculars.

American Coot (Fulica Americana)

American Coot image.
American Coot
Photo by Bob Martinka

A familiar wetland bird with a distinctive white bill. Aggressive. When swimming, it pumps its head back and forth, and can dive from the surface. The downy chicks have a hairy orange-red head.

Voice:

A grating kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk; various crackles, croaks

Habitat:

ponds, lakes, marshes
[ View Distribution Map]

American Crow (Corvus Brachyrhynchos)

American Crow image.
American Crow
Photo by Bob Martinka

A very common bird in most of the U.S. and Canada. Often gregarious. A large, chunky black bird.

Voice:

Loud caw, caw, caw

Habitat:

woodlands, farms, fields, shores, towns, dumps
[ View Distribution Map]

Black-billed Magpie (Pica Hudsonia)

Black-billed Magpie image.
Black-billed Magpie
Photo by Bob Martinka

A gregarious jay-like bird of the West. In flight its long greenish black tail streams behind and white patches flash in the wings.

Voice:

A harsh rapid queng queng queng queng; also a nasal maag?
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

rangeland, brushy country, conifers, streamsides, farms
[ View Distribution Map]

Black-capped Chickadee (Parus Atricapillus)

Black-capped Chickadee image.
Black-capped Chickadee
Photo by Bob Martinka

A small, plump, small-billed bird. In addition to a black cap, it has a white wing patch and rusty sides.

Voice:

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee

Habitat:

woods, willow thickets, shade trees
[ View Distribution Map]

Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis)

Canada Goose image.
Canada Goose
Photo by Bob Martinka

The most widespread goose. Often seen migrating in V-formations in fall or spring; often year-round residents in many areas. Fluffy yellow goslings grow up into huge brown gees with long black necks, black heads and a white chinstrap.

Voice:

Deep musical honking, ka-ronk or ka-lunk
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

lakes, ponds, bays, marshes, fields
[ View Distribution Map]

Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias)

Great Blue Heron image.
Great Blue Heron

A lean gray bird that can stand 4'… tall. It has long legs, long neck, dagger-like bill, and flies with its neck pulled in.

Voice:

Deep harsh croaks: frahnk, frahnk, frahnk
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

marshes, swamps, shores, tideflats
[ View Distribution Map]

Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus)

Great Horned Owl image.
Great Horned Owl
Photo by Bob Martinka

North America's largest owl. It has ear tufts and is roughly eagle-sized. This owl eats rabbits, skunks, squirrels, and sometimes smaller owls.

Voice:

Hoo!, hu-hu-hu, Hoo! Hoo!
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

forests, streamsides, open country
[ View Distribution Map]

Mallard (Anas Platyrhynchos)

Mallard image.
Mallard
Photo by Bob Martinka

The world's most widespread duck. While the male is more colorful than the brown mottled female, both have a shiny bluish patch on the wing, called the speculum.

Voice:

Male: yeeb; Female: loud quacking
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

ponds, lakes, marshes, bays, city parks
[ View Distribution Map]

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia Currucoides)

Mountain Bluebird image.
Mountain Bluebird
Photo by Bob Martinka

Males colored peacock blue with a paler belly-no orange coloring like the Western Bluebird. Female is dull brownish.

Voice:

A loud chur or phew, short subdued warble

Habitat:

open country with some trees
[ View Distribution Map]

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius Phoeniceus)

Red-winged Blackbird image.
Red-winged Blackbird
Photo by Bob Martinka

One of the first birds to migrate north in early spring. Male is bright; female is drab.

Voice:

A loud check, high tee-err; song is a gurgling konk-la-ree

Habitat:

marshes, brushy swamps, hayfields, along edges of water
[ View Distribution Map]

Ring-billed Gull (Larus Delawarensis)

Ring-billed Gull image.
Ring-billed Gull
Photo by Bob Martinka

This gull was almost eliminated by human encroachment between 1850 and 1920, but has made a dramatic comeback. The gull takes three years to become an adult. The black ring around its bill is its distinctive feature.

Voice:

A high-pitched hiyak…hiyah…hyia-hyak
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

lakes, bays, coasts, piers, dumps (opportunistic feeder)
[ View Distribution Map]


Western Meadowlark (Sturnella Neglecta)

Western Meadowlark image.
Western Meadowlark

The Montana state bird. A member of the blackbird family-not larks. Has a distinctive V-shaped bib.

Voice:

7-10 flute-like notes, double-noted
[ Listen To Call]

Habitat:

meadows, grasslands, prairies
[ View Distribution Map]