Least Tern was a common sight to Lewis and Clark on their expedition,
but has since become endangered due to uncontrolled hunting and loss
of habitat. The smallest of terns, it
measures 9 inches long and weighs only an ounce. It has a glossy black
crown, white forehead and undersurface, pale gray back and wings,
and black-tipped yellow bill.
Black-billed Magpie is a large black and white bird with a long tail
and dark bill. They have a rapid, nasal mag? mag? mag? or yak yak
yak, voice, and have been trained to imitate a human voice when kept
in captivity. Magpies live in open woodlands, savannas
or in brushy growth near streams.
look at the Prairie Sharp-Tailed Grouse and it's easy to see how it
got its name. Its narrow, pointed tail is a distinguishing feature
as it roams the grasslands, scrub forests,
and arid sagebrush. The sharp-tailed
grouse grows to length of 15-20 inches and sports brownish, speckled
Whippoorwill is a chunky, dark, wide-mouthed, insect-eating bird with
a short curved bill. They are named for their distinct, repeated call:
"Whip-poor-WILL!, Whippoorwill!, Whippoorwill!" The Whippoorwill
stays close to the ground in river valleys or watered meadows, and
is rarely seen.
by Lewis and Clark near Fort Mandan, North Dakota, the Prairie Horned
Lark is brown in color with a black stripe below and a white stripe
above its eye, a black crescent on its breast, and black "horns."
The horned lark is known for the way it travels; it walks instead
of hopping, and will sing its "tsee-ee" from any slight
elevation on the ground. It can be found in large fields, open areas,
shoreline beaches, grasslands, and agricultural areas.
Great Horned Owl is hard to mistake because of its large ear tufts
or "horns." It is a very large bird, measuring 18-25 inches
long with a wingspan of 48-60 inches. The color of these owls ranges
from very dark to almost as pale as the Snowy owl. The Great Horned
Owl has a loud, booming "Whoo, whoo whoo, whooo, wooo-whooo...,"
voice. It preys on medium-sized mammals and birds. It ranges from
river bottoms to forests throughout the United States.
Northern Flicker is a member of the woodpecker family but you won't
find them making a lot of noise like his relatives. It spends a great
deal of time on the ground, searching for insects (especially ants),
fallen fruits, and seeds to eat. The flicker varies in color depending
on the region its found in: Eastern birds have a black "mustache"
and yellow on the wings; Western birds have a red mustache and red
on the wings; and Southwestern birds have a red mustache and yellow
on the wings. They live in woodlands, deserts, and suburbs.
Goose was sighted by Lewis and Clark on May 5, 1805, above the mouth
of the Poplar River in Montana. It is looks like a small version of
the well-known Canada Goose. It is only about the size of a Mallard
duck. The Hutchin's Goose makes the same musical honking noise and
flies in the same V-shaped pattern, that the Canada Goose does. It
makes its home in lakes, bays, rivers, and marshes.
Long-Billed Curlew is the largest member of the sandpiper family.
Its total body length of 21-26 inches includes a bill that is up to
8 3/4 inches long. This long, down-curved bill (which gave this bird
the nickname of "sicklebill"), and long legs are characteristic
of shorebirds (wading birds). Shorebirds are associated with wetland
or coastal areas. The Long-Billed Curlew, originally discovered by
Lewis and Clark near Great Falls, Montana, was once a plentiful game
bird of the Great Plains.
Willets are large, gray-brown shorebirds, with a long straight bill.
They have a flashy black and white pattern on the underside of their
wings, which identifies them in flight. They have a loud ringing "pill-will-willet"
voice. They are found on coastal beaches, freshwater and salt marshes,
lakeshores, and wet prairies. Lewis and Clark discovered them in May,
1805, at Fort Peck Dam, Montana.
Pacific Nighthawk is not a hawk, although it acts like a hawk and
catches flying insects on the wing. It is also not a strictly nocturnal
bird; it may also appear during the day. It is mottled
brownish-black in color, and has a long notched- or square-tipped
tail and long pointed wings. The Pacific Nighthawk's has a loud nasal
call, "peent" or "pee-yah", that is heard primarily
at dusk. It likes to live in open woodlands, clearings, or fields,
or in towns with roosting trees or fence posts.
Blackbird, named for the 19th-century ornithologist,
Thomas M. Brewer of Boston, is a Robin-sized bird that makes its home
in prairies, fields, and farmyards. The male blackbird is black with
a purplish blue head and yellow eyes. Female blackbirds are gray with
dark eyes. They call with a gurgle, squawk, and whistle. Brewer's
Blackbird is a very social bird and mixes with other species such
as the red-winged blackbird and the brown-headed cowbird.
Western Meadowlark is the state bird of Kansas, Montana, Nebraska,
North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming! It is a brightly-colored bird,
about 8 1/2- to 11 inches long and weighing about 3 ounces. The Western
Meadowlark is found in the fields, pastures, open grasslands, and
prairies of the western and central U.S. It feeds on insects, worms,
snails, spiders, grain and seeds.
White-Rumped (Loggerhead) Shrike is slightly smaller than a robin,
has a dark gray back, white breast, and black bill, tail, and wings.
It has a black mask that extends across the eyes. It is known as the
"loggerhead" shrike because its head is large in proportion
to its body. The White-Rumped Shrike is also known as the "butcher
bird" because it impales its prey
- usually a small bird, mouse, or insect - onto a thorn or barbed
wire fence. This practice allows them to eat larger prey that they
cannot hold with their feet.
and Clark first noted the McCown's Longspur in June 1805, near the
Marias River in Montana. This bird is about the size of a sparrow.
It has a dry, rattling call, but also will give a clear, sweet warble
during a fluttering flight with wings raised high over its back. McCown's
Longspur makes its home in the arid plains,
not liking moisture at all. It will abandon the areas in which it
is normally found if the weather gets too wet.
Grouse, or sage cock, or sage hen, or sage chicken, is the largest
member of the family of hen-like terrestrial
birds known as grouse. The Sage Grouse is about 25 to 30 inches long,
has short rounded wings, a blackish colored belly, and long pointed
tail feathers. Male grouse have a large white collar-like patch that
conceals air sacs. These air sacs inflate during the male's elaborate
courtship of the female. The sagebrush plant is essential to the life
of the sage grouse. They the soft plant, nest underneath it, and use
it as cover from predators and weather.
American or Pale Goldfinch was spotted by Lewis and Clark near the
Marias River, Montana in June 1805. Male birds are bright yellow with
a white rump, black forehead, white edges on black wings and tail
and yellow at the bend of the wing. Females are duller and grayer
in color. Their voice is a bright "per-chick-o-ree" (sounds
like "potato-chips") usually heard in flight. Pale Goldfinches
live in brushy thickets, weedy grasslands, and nearby trees.
Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse was an important source of food for
many Native Americans and early settlers of the West. Columbian sharp-tails
are grayish-brown in color with black and buff markings, and white
spots on the wing feathers. They feed on forbs
(clover, goldenrod, dandelion, grass, grains) during the spring and
summer, and fruit, seeds and buds of native shrubs during the fall
and winter. They can be found in grassland, scrub forest, and arid
spotted by Lewis and Clark on the Kooskooskee (Clearwater) River March
3, 1806, the Dusky Horned Owl is a subspecies
of the Great Horned Owl (see description above). This owl is the darkest
colored of all the horned owls. Its home is the forests, deserts,
open country, swamps, and city parks in areas of North America south
of the tree line. The Dusky Horned Owl feeds on grouse, ducks, and
rabbits as well as beetles, lizards, frogs, and skunks.
do you tell the difference between an American crow and an American
Raven? The raven is larger and has a heavier bill and a wedge-shaped
tail. The raven's throat looks shaggy because of the long, lance-shaped
feathers that cover it. It often soars like a hawk through the coniferous
forests and rocky coasts where it makes its home. The raven is a resident
of northern Alaska and northern Canada south throughout the western
United States and to Minnesota, the Great Lakes, and northern New
England; also the Appalachians to northwestern Georgia.
Blue Grouse is more of a sooty-gray color than blue. Its neck is set
off by white-based feathers on each side. The Blue Grouse's voice
is a series of deep hoots, "whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop"
that increase in tempo and volume. It feeds only on conifer needles
during the winter, but eats a more varied diet during the summer of
insects, seeds, and berries.
Pinyon Jay is a stocky, short-tailed jay bird, about nine inches long.
They are gray-blue in color with white streaks on the throat. Pinyon
Jays range from central Oregon and Montana southward to central Arizona,
New Mexico, and northwestern Oklahoma; they do not migrate.
Most of the Pinyon Jays' diet is made up of pine seeds. They stay
close to forests with pinyon-juniper, ponderosa pine, douglas-fir,
redwood, lodgepole pine, fir-spruce, and aspen trees. Their voice
is a high-pitched "caaa."
Nutcracker was named after William Clark who first saw the bird in
the Rocky Mountains. It is somewhat misnamed, however, because it
uses its long, stout beak to pry pine seeds from the cones of whitebark,
pinion, and other types of pines. It usually stores more than enough
for it to eat during the winter. These leftover seeds then sprout
new trees in the spring. The combination of black, white and gray
feathers make Clark's Nutcracker a beautiful bird.
Oregon Ruffed Grouse was noted by the Expedition on September 20,
1805, along the Lolo Trail in Idaho. This grouse is a gray-brown,
chickenlike bird with a fan-shaped, black-banded tail. It can be found
from the tree line in Alaska and northern Canada, south to California,
Wyoming, Minnesota, Missouri and the Carolinas, and in the Appalachians
Double-Crested Cormorants are 29 to 36 inches long and weigh up to
6 pounds. They have dark brown to black colored feathers, a yellow-orange
throat patch, and a long hooked bill. Adult birds have tufts of feathers
above their eyes. Double-Crested Cormorants are known for their feeding
behavior in which they dive for fish, crustaceans, and amphibians,
from the water's surface. Their oil glands are not well-developed
so they aren't waterproofed very well. They can often be seen perched
on a pole or tree with their wings spread apart to dry.
Western Common Crow is a stocky black bird with a stout bill and fan-shaped
tail. An intelligent, wary bird its voice is the "caw-caw"
or "caa-caa" we're all used to hearing. Western crows lives
in the deciduous growth along rivers
and streams, and in orchards and city parks. It was first noted by
Lewis and Clark in November 1805 at Tongue Point, near present-day
Northwestern Crow was spotted by Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop,
Oregon, in March 1806. It is smaller and more slender that than the
American crow, and is black with a purplish shine to its feathers.
This crow makes its home on the shorelines, tidewater areas, and along
the edges of coastal forest, from coastal southern Alaska to Puget
Sound in Washington.
Western Pileated Woodpecker, possibly the largest woodpecker in the
United States, is black with white neck strips and a red crest. This
woodpecker feeds on insects (it especially likes ants), wild fruits,
and wild nuts. It pries off long slivers of wood to expose the ant
colonies underneath, and then uses its long, pointed tongue to catch
and eat them. Pileated Woodpeckers make their nests in trees and poles.
Their nests are about 8 inches wide and 2 feet deep, and have been
known to cause trees and poles to snap. This can be a problem if it
happens to be an electric pole carrying someone's electricity!
wrens are somewhat misnamed because they are some of the first birds
back from migration in the spring. Western Winter Wrens are more warmly
colored than their eastern counterparts. They have a short, stubby
tail, which they hold straight up in the air as they bounce around
beneath the tangles and thickets of forests. They were discovered
by the Expedition at Fort Clatsop, Oregon, in March 1806.
Pacific (Northern) Fulmar is a stocky, gull-like seabird. They come
in two colors: pale gray on the back and wings, with white elsewhere,
and dark gray. In flight, they take several fast wing beats and then
go into a stiffed-winged glide. They can be found in the open ocean
from the Pacific Ocean south to California, and in the Atlantic south
to North Carolina. Pacific Fulmars nest on cliffs and rocky islands,
often in colonies of thousands of birds.
Pacific Loon is a small loon with a straight, slender bill. It was
once considered to be a form of the Arctic Loon, but recently was
made a separate species. Pacific Loons feed on small fish and other
aquatic life. They fish below the water's surface assisted by well-developed
air sacs, which allow them to stay underwater for extended periods.
Female loons will lay two eggs, one a few weeks before the second.
The first egg is also the first to hatch and it becomes the dominant
offspring. It is always fed first, and in times when there is little
food, is the only one fed.
and Clark made note of the Glaucous-Winged Gull on March 7, 1806,
at Fort Clatsop, Oregon. It is a large white gull with pearly gray
wings. The Glaucous-Winged Gull makes its home near rocky or sandy
beaches, harbors, dumps, or the open ocean. You rarely find it away
from salt water.
seen following fishing boats, the Western Gull commonly feeds on scraps
thrown overboard by fish cleaners as well as small fish and marine
invertebrates. It can be found along
the west coast of North America and is hardly ever seen inland or
beyond the reach of the tides. To break open the shells of their prey
- like sea urchins and clams - the gulls drop them from high in the
air to hard surfaces below.
Gull is a small, delicate gull that is silvery gray above and white
on the underside. Adults have black heads that turn white in the winter,
leaving one dark spot behind the eye. Their voice is a raspy, nasal
snarling one. This gull is named after a nephew of Napoleon, Charles
Lucien Bonaparte, who was a leading ornithologist
in the 1800s in America and Europe.
Western Grebe is the longest of the grebes, measuring 22-29 inches.
It has a long slender neck and long, slender, greenish yellow colored
bill, which it uses to spear fish to eat. Their voice is a rolling
"kr-r-rick, kr-r-rick!" Their feet are located far back
on their body, so they have a difficult time walking on dry land.
Lesser Canada Goose is just what its name says - a small version of
the Canadian Goose. They are migratory birds, spending spring and
summer in Alaska and northern Canada, and winters as far south as
northern Mexico. They fly in the familiar "V" formation
that allows them to cover 70% more distance than if they were flying
Whistling (Tundra) Swan is a large, white, very graceful bird. It
is white with black legs, feet, and beak. The "whistling"
part of its name comes from the sound made by the slow, powerful beating
of its wings in flight, and not to its voice. It is one of two swans
that are native to North America. They feed mainly on the tubers and
roots of aquatic plants that grow at shallow depths in fresh, brackish,
or salt water.
Red-Necked Grebe is the second largest grebe in North America. It
is short-bodied, long-necked, and long billed. Its diet consists mostly
of minnows and small fish, but it will also feed on crayfish, aquatic
insects, tadpole, salamanders, and vegetative matter. The Red-Necked
Grebe likes to nest in marsh grasses, reeds, rushes, and calm rivers.
Greater White-Fronted Goose was discovered by Lewis and Clark in March
1806, at Fort Clatsop, Oregon. It is a dusky brown goose with a white
belly and white patch on front of its face. Its voice is a bark of
"kla-ha!" or "kla-hah-luk!" These geese often
migrate in large flocks at night, when they can be identified by their
Ring-necked Duck gets its name from the brown ring around its neck,
which is difficult to see from a distance. This duck is also called
"ringbill" because of the white ring at the end of its bill.
Ringnecks like small bodies of water and eat only plants, particularly
wild rice, and insects. They get about 16 inches long and weigh 1
Woodpeckers are black and white woodpeckers with long, chisel-tipped
bills; males have a red head patch. They are from 9 to 13 inches long.
The Hairy Woodpecker is a beneficial bird, feeding on many harmful
insects, such as wood-boring beetles. It finds its food by feeling
the vibrations made by insects moving about in wood. They also can
hear insects munch on wood. Like other woodpeckers, it hammers on
a dead limb to attract females and to establish its territory.
Mountain Quail is the largest member of the quail family. It differs
from other western quail because of its straight, narrow, black plume,
consisting of two feathers. Mountain Quail eat buds, acorns, flowers,
fruits, and seeds of shrubs and trees. They prefer dry mountainous
areas, brushy woodlands, and chaparrals.
This quail migrates on foot from higher elevations to protected valleys
where it winters in coveys of 6 to 12 birds. Members of the covey
seek warmth and protection by huddling in a circle, with their heads
Western Tanager, northernmost of the 242 species of tanagers, is commonly
found in open coniferous forests. It is found in the western United
States and Canada; it winters in Mexico and South America. The Western
Tanager eats a diet of fruits and insects. It looks for food in the
canopy of trees.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird greenish in color and about 4 - 4 1/2 inches
long. The male Broad-tailed's wings make a cricket-like whistle in
flight. It makes its home in mountain meadows, pinion-juniper woodlands,
dry ponderosa pines, fir or mixed forests and in canyon vegetation.
This hummingbird nests in the same tree or bush year after year. This
is known as philopatry - faithfulness to the previous home
area. It will return to the same branch or even build a new nest atop
an old one.
Western Mourning Dove gets its name from its low, mournful voice "coo-ah,
coo, coo, coo." It was discovered by the Expedition in July 1806,
where Lolo Creek empties into the Bitterroot River, Missoula County,
Montana. This dove is a soft, sandy buff color with a long pointed
tail, and black spots on the wings. It is found in open fields, parks,
and lawns with many trees and shrubs.
Tern is white with pale gray back and wings, a black cap, and a deeply
forked tail. It has an orange bill with a black tip. It prefers to
live in inland marshes.