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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