Wildlife Informer is reader-supported. When you click and buy we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

32 Birds of Prey in Montana (With Pictures and Facts)

Montana is known for its diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes. It’s ranked fourth in size out of all 50 U.S. states with only Alaska, Texas, and California being larger. However, Montana is ranked 43rd by population. This means much of Montana’s natural resources and landscapes are left untouched by humans which allows birds and other wildlife to flourish. Bringing us to the topic of this article, the birds of prey in Montana.

Montana is one our northernmost states with Canada at its northern border. It is home to several famous national parks such as Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. These protected wildlife refuges make great places for these birds of prey to safely live, raise their young, and thrive.

Montana landscape scenery

Many of the species you’ll find on this list are simply migratory visitors that only pass through the state, while others may live in the state year-round. However, every species you’ll see below have a presence of some sort within the state’s borders.

Birds of prey in Montana

In this article we’ll discuss 32 raptors, or birds of prey, found in the state of Montana including various species of Hawks, Falcons, Eagles, Owls, and the Osprey.   Below you’ll find pictures for each species, some details about them, as well as some fun and interesting facts about them that you may or may not have already known.

Let’s get right into the article and take a look at these amazing birds!

Hawks of Montana

1. Broad-winged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo platypterus
  • Length: 13.4-17.3 in
  • Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in

The Broad-winged Hawk has a migration range only in the Northwest corner of the state of Montana. These medium sized birds of prey breed in parts of Canada and most of the eastern half of the United States, then migrate south for the winter. Their migration path starts in Canada just north of Montana and goes south all the way into Central and northern South America where they spend their winters. If you’re a Montana resident, a good time to look for them is during the fall when they head south in large numbers.

Broad-winged Hawks form large flocks called kettles that consist of hundreds of thousands of birds. These kettles move south into Central America and the northern forests of South America. Data from satellite transmitters used to track the birds tells us that Broad-winged Hawks will travel up to 69 miles in a day and a total distance of over 4300 miles when migrating.

2. Swainson’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
  • Length: 18.9-22.1 in
  • Weight: 24.4-48.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 48 in

Swainson’s Hawks have a breeding range throughout the state of Montana. They have a very long migration path that stretches from Alaska all the way to southern South America where they spend their winters.

Look for Swainson’s Hawks in open fields perched on fence posts, along power lines and telephone poles, and other elevated perches that give them a “birds eye view” of their territory. These raptors are gray, white, and brown in color and feed primarily on small rodents and mammals, reptiles, and even insects.

Swainson’s Hawks also migrate in huge kettles in the tens of thousands and will even intermix with kettles of Broad-winged Hawks forming massive flocks of migrating hawks.

3. Red-tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Length: 17.7-25.6 in
  • Weight:  24.3-51.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in

Probably one of the most widespread hawks in North America, the Red-tailed Hawk is commonly seen throughout the state Montana. In the majority of the state they are only part time breeding residents only. Near the western border to Idaho some Red-tailed Hawks make Montana their home year-round.

Red-tailed Hawks are the second largest hawks in Montana and North America, second only to the Ferruginous Hawk that you’ll see lower on this list. Red-tailed Hawks feed primarily on small to medium sized mammals and you won’t often see them in your yard and around your bird feeders. You may occasionally catch one snatching up a squirrel however.

Coupled with their large size, Red-tailed Hawk’s red tail feathers set them apart from other species making it a bit easier to identify them in the wild.

Fun fact: Did you know that when you hear a bird of prey call in a movie, even if it’s supposed to be an eagle, it’s usually a Red-tailed Hawk?

4. Northern Harrier

image: Renee Grayson | Flickr | CC 2.0
  • Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
  • Length: 18.1-19.7 in
  • Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in

Northern Harriers are found throughout the state of Montana, but year-round only in the western parts of the state. Throughout most of central and eastern Montana, this hawk is breeding only and will migrate to states further to the south or even well into Central and South America to spend its winters.

Northern Harriers resemble owls more than any other species of hawk, although they aren’t related to owls. Like owls though, they rely on both vision and hearing to hunt their prey. Harriers are almost always spotted in flight and don’t sit perched as often as other species since they hunt from the air. Look for them soaring over grasslands, marshes, or fields throughout their range.

5. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Photo by: Dennis Murphy | CC 2.0
  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Length: 9.4-13.4 in
  • Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
  • Wingspan: 16.9-22.1

Sharp-shinned Hawks are prevalent throughout the state of Montana, but may different parts of the state have birds with different ranges. For instance northeast Montana has a mostly migration range of Sharpies, but in western and central Montana you’ll find a mixture of breeding and year-round populations of these hawks. They mostly occupy deep woodlands and forests, where they rely on the element of surprise to hunt their prey.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest hawks in Montana as well as the United States. Their slender bodies, rounded wings, and long, square-tipped tails help them quickly navigate through dense forests. Their colors and plumage are very similar to Cooper’s Hawks that you’ll see next. In fact, telling these two birds apart can be difficult even for the pros. Both species of hawks are bluish-gray on top, with light-orange barring on their pale under-parts.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are also notorious for ambushing congregations of songbirds at backyard bird feeders, so be sure to take your feeders down for a few days if you see this happening.

6. Cooper’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Length: 14.6-17.7 in
  • Weight: 7.8-24.0 oz
  • Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in

Cooper’s Hawks are medium-sized accipiters that look very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but with slightly larger heads, longer tails, and longer frames. Both birds have grayish upper parts and pale undersides with rufous barring, and red-orange eyes (in adults). However, a close examination of the tails of these hawks will show that the tips of Cooper’s Hawks’ tails are rounded, where Sharp-shinned Hawks’ are square.

As accipiters, Cooper’s Hawks rely on other birds as a large part of their diet. Common prey for Cooper’s Hawks include Blue Jays, Starlings and American Robins in addition to rodents, reptiles, and other small animals. Like Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks are secretive and elusive, so going to hawk watches during migration times is often the easiest way to observe them.

You’ll only find Cooper’s hawks in Montana during the breeding months, aside from a few pockets in southern areas where they live all year, so look for them in the spring and summer before they migrate south to spend their winters in warmer climates.

You may also like:  8 Common Spiders in Tennessee (Pictures)

7. Northern Goshawk

Photo by: Francesco Veronesi | CC 2.0
  • Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
  • Length: 20.9-25.2 in
  • Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in

Northern Goshawks are found all throughout Montana and are the largest accipiters in North America. Like other accipiters, Northern Goshawks are elusive birds. They stay away from populated areas and live in dense, mature forests where they hunt and nest.  Though they are the most widespread accipiter in the world, spotting them may prove difficult.

They have mostly gray feathers, with bright red eyes and bold white stripes that give them the appearance of having eyebrows. Northern Goshawks hunt and feed on small mammals as well as other birds.

8. Rough-legged Hawk

Photo by: DickDaniels | CC 3.0
  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Length: 18.5-20.5 in
  • Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in

The Rough-legged Hawk has a non-breeding range in Montana. They migrate far north to the arctic tundra regions of Canada and Alaska to breed each year. Here they spend their summers breeding and hunting lemmings and other small mammals.

Look for them in the winter soaring overhead in open country and fields or high perches carefully watching for movements on the ground and their next meal. One identifying feature of Rough-legged hawks is their leg feathers that go all the way down to their feet.

Rough-legged hawks are mostly brown and white but these hawks come in 2 variations, light morphs and dark morphs. Light morphs are mostly white underneath while dark morphs have mostly dark colors with pale white edges.

9. Ferruginous Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo regalis
  • Length: 22.1-27.2 in
  • Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in

Ferruginous Hawks are the largest hawks in Montana as well as all of North America. They have a pretty limited range and are only found in the western half of the United States, and parts of northern Mexico. In Montana you can find a breeding population only in central and eastern areas of the state, so start looking for them in the Spring. They prefer wide open spaces and can be seen soaring high above grasslands, prairies, and fields.

Like the Goshawk above, these hawks come in both light and dark variations. The dark morphs are much rarer than light morphs and have a rusty chocolate color. They breed high on high cliffs or tall trees and feed primarily on rabbits, hares, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and pocket gophers.

Eagles of Montana

10. Golden Eagle

  • Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos
  • Length: 27.6-33.1 in
  • Weight: 105.8-216.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 72.8-86.6 in

The Golden Eagle is one of only two eagles in Montana, on top of that they are one of the most efficient hunters and largest birds in North America. They are found throughout most of the continent, but their distribution is very mottled with patches of breeding only, year-round, scarce, migration only, and non-breeding all over the place. In Montana though, Golden Eagles have a year-round population in the entire state.

Their dark brown plumage and wingspan of over 7 feet make Golden Eagles impossible to mistake for any other species. Even though their massive size, strength and talons would allow them to kill larger prey, they primarily hunt small to medium sized mammals like rabbits, hares, and ground squirrels.

Golden Eagles are one of only 3 North American raptors that have feathers all the way down to their toes. The other 2 species are the Ferruginous Hawk and the Rough-legged Hawk, whom are both on this list.

11. Bald Eagle

  • Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Length: 27.9-37.8 in
  • Weight: 105.8-222.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 80.3 in

In North America, Bald Eagles breed in Canada and Alaska. In Montana, look for them near natural bodies of water in the fall and winter as they do much of their hunting there. They are excellent hunters and their favorite food is fish, although they will also prey on small mammals, reptiles, and even crabs. Bald Eagles are also known for stealing meals from other animals, simply because their massive size allows them to.

The Bald Eagle is the national symbol of the United States and probably the most well-known bird in America. Their bodies are dark chocolate brown and their heads are all white, which is where they get the name “Bald Eagle”.

Fun fact: The largest Bald Eagle nest ever recorded was almost 9 feet across and 18 feet deep! These large nests will be used multiple times by the same breeding pair. 

Falcons of Montana

12. American Kestrel

  • Scientific name: Falco sparverius
  • Length: 8.7-12.2 in
  • Weight: 2.8-5.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 20.1-24.0 in

American Kestrels have a breeding range only throughout the state of Montana, so look for them during breeding times in the Spring and Summer. These birds can be seen perching on telephone wires and fence posts when in the country, keeping a keen eye out for insects, small mammals, and reptiles to snatch up. Kestrels also have to be sure to keep an eye out for predators, as they are often meals for larger birds of prey, such as hawks, owls, and crows, as well as snakes.

American Kestrels are the smallest falcons in Montana and North America, they also happen to be the most colorful. Males have grey-blue wings and a rusty orange back with black barring. The tail is also rusty orange with black tips. The pale belly is washed with orange and pleasantly spotted with small, black polka dots.

13. Merlin

  • Scientific name: Falco columbarius
  • Length: 9.4-11.8 in
  • Weight: 5.6-8.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 20.9-26.8 in

The Merlin is another small species of falcon found all year throughout most of Montana. They can be identified by their gray or slate gray upper-parts and mostly brown underbody with short black stripes.

They are only slightly bigger than American Kestrels but can appear somewhat larger and heavier. Merlins do not build their own nests but will take over the nests of other raptors or birds. They feed primarily on small songbirds and have been known to hunt flocks of birds in pairs to increase chances of success.

14. Gyrfalcon

  • Scientific name: Falco rusticolus
  • Length: 18.9-25.2 in
  • Weight: 28.2-74.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 48.4 in

The Gyrfalcon is the largest of falcons in Montana and the entire world! Even though they can occasionally be seen in the state, they are very rare in Montana making sightings uncommon. These birds breed far to north in the Arctic Archipelago of Canada and into Greenland. The southernmost parts of their winter range dips down into a few northern U.S. states such as Montana.

They are easily identified by their beautiful white plumage with black and gray spots. However you may see variants of this species that are more grayish black than white. Gyrfalcons are powerful yet beautiful birds of prey that prey on other birds as their primary food source. Gyrfalcon is pronounced “Jer-Falcon”.

15. Peregrine Falcon

  • Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
  • Length: 14.2-19.3 in
  • Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 in

The Peregrine Falcon is a mostly migratory visitor throughout the state, but does have a limited breeding range in central Montana. Even thought the Peregrine was pushed to the edge of extinction in North America at one point, they have made a comeback in recent decades and are among the most widespread birds in the world. They are found on all continents on earth except for Antarctica.

Peregrine Falcons are amazing aerial acrobats and fierce hunters. They can reach speeds of over 200 mph when diving for prey, making them the fastest animals on the planet. They feed almost exclusively on other birds and have been documented eating over 450 different species in North America and 2,000 worldwide.

You may also like:  Are There Water Snakes in Montana? 

16. Prairie Falcon

image: BLMIdaho | Flickr | CC 2.0
  • Scientific name: Falco mexicanus
  • Length: 14.6-18.5 in
  • Weight: 14.8-38.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 35.4-44.5 in

Prairie Falcons are common throughout most of the western half of the United States, and found year-round in most of Montana. As their name suggests they prefer wide-open treeless grasslands and can be seen flying high overhead looking for ground squirrels and other small mammals. Because they spend most of their time soaring they can be difficult to spot unless they land, or you have a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope.

They are close in size to Peregrines and like Peregrines they are commonly used in Falconry. They are mostly brown on top and pale white on bottom. Prairie Falcons nest high on sheer ledges or rocky cliffs and are known for fiercely protecting their nests from any intruders.

Owls of Montana

17. Barn Owl

  • Scientific name: Tyto alba
  • Length: 12.6-15.8 in
  • Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz
  • Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in

Barn Owls are commonly found throughout America and across the globe. In Montana they’re found year-round in woodlands and open areas, but only in southernmost areas of the state. They love to roost and nest in quiet, abandoned places like forgotten barns — hence the name “barn” owl. Farmland often provides plenty of rodents such as mice and voles that comprise the majority of these owls’ diets. At night they silently fly close to the ground, using their pristine eyesight and hearing to locate prey in the darkest of conditions.

These owls have pale, white faces with dark beady eyes. They’re medium-sized owls about the same size as a crow. Their calls aren’t the typical hoots that first come to mind, but rather harsh, raspy sounding screeches. Listen for them calling in the evening once the sun goes down, and keep your eyes peeled for a flash of white glide by.

18. Flammulated Owl

image: ALAN SCHMIERER | Flickr
  • Scientific name: Psiloscops flammeolus
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in
  • Weight: 1.5-2.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 15.9-16.1 in

Flammulated Owls are only found during the breeding season in far western portions of Montana, though they tend to be fairly common and widespread. They’re very small in size and share a similar silhouette as screech-owl, but with shorter tufts on the tops of their heads.

Spotting them often proves to be quite tricky, as their pale gray-brown plumage blends in perfectly with tree bark. These owls prefer to occupy mature pine forests, where they roost during the day and hunt at night. Locating them at night tends to be much easier than trying to see them during the day. Listen for their deceptively low hoot to track them. However, this feat may also prove to be a challenge, since their calls often seem farther away than they really are.

19. Western Screech-owl

image: Aidan Sammons | Flickr | CC 2.0
  • Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
  • Length: 7.5-9.8 in
  • Weight: 3.5-10.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 21.6-24.4 in

Western Screech-owls are commonly found year-round in western Montana. They’re small, robin-sized owls with stocky bodies and short tails. Their mostly gray-brown plumage with streaky undersides camouflages them exceptionally well against trees when they’re roosting in holes during the day. At night they hunt, perching still and silently before swiftly flying and seizing their prey. They’ll also catch insects in mid flight to supplement their diet, as well as reptiles, fish, and small birds.

Like trying the find other nocturnal owls, waiting for their calls at night is often the best way of locating Western Screech-owls. Their calls are a series of high-pitched toots that speed up slightly at the end. These owls will also take to nesting boxes, so consider setting one up in your yard if you live in their range.

20. Eastern Screech-owl

  • Scientific name: Megascops asio
  • Length: 6.3-9.8 in
  • Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz
  • Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in

Screech owls can be found mostly in the central and eastern parts of Montana, in both suburban and rural areas. They often inhabit woodland areas, with streams and meadows. Screech owls stay native to Montana and don’t migrate far – since the state has everything they need!

While these owls are small, elusive, and very well camouflaged, they will readily accept nest boxes if you put them out in your backyard! Listen for their calls while they’re hiding out in trees at night.

21. Great Horned Owl

  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Length: 18.1-24.8 in
  • Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in

They’re one of the most commonly found owls across North America and are found year-round in Montana. Great Horned Owls thrive in a wide variety of habitats, but they’re often found in woodlands with plenty of open spaces to hunt. These large owls are aggressive hunters able of taking down prey much larger than them.

Their diets are diverse, including rodents, reptiles, and birds as large as hawks and geese. They’re able to fly silently and dive-bomb their prey, thanks to the soft feathers that cover their entire bodies.

22. Snowy Owl

  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Length: 20.5-27.9 in
  • Weight: 56.4-104.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 in

Snowy Owls aren’t as commonly seen in the state as other species on this list, but do have a winter range in Northern Montana. At all other times of the year, Snowy Owls are primarily found in the arctic tundra and the majority of Canada in the winter. When they do appear in in the state, they’ve typically seen in spacious areas like fields.

Snowy Owls visually stand apart from other owls due to their beautiful snow-white plumage covering their large, round bodies. Females tend to have more black and dark brown markings scattering across their bodies, while males have less. Both sexes feature deep yellow eyes.

23. Northern Hawk Owl


  • Scientific name: Surnia ulula
  • Length: 14.2-17.7 in
  • Weight: 8.5-16.0 oz
  • Wingspan: 27.9 in

The Northern Hawk Owl is more common in arctic regions of Northern Canada and Alaska, but the far southern limits of its winter border do go into the state of Montana. So while they are probably another rare visitor to the state, Northern Hawk Owls can occasionally be seen in the state of Montana if you know when and where to look for them.

The Northern Hawk Owl acts like a hawk in many ways but looks like an owl. They typically stick to boreal forests, so look for them there if possible. They hunt primarily by sight and often in the daytime, unlike other owls. A sighting for one of these is a real treat for any birder.

24. Northern Pygmy-owl

image: NechakoRiver | Flickr | CC 2.0
  • Scientific name: Glaucidium gnoma
  • Length: 6.3-7.1 in
  • Weight: 2.1-2.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 14.5-16 in

Northern Pygmy-Owls are generally widespread in the mountainous western United States and are found year-round in western Montana. They’re active during the day, which makes seeing them a little easier than most other nocturnal owls, but they’re also pretty small and tend to perch still waiting for prey — so you still need to keep your eyes peeled.

Try to familiarize yourself with their high-pitched toots and calls to make locating them less tricky. Pay attention to groups of songbirds making a commotion, too. If they find a Northern Pygmy-Owl, they’ll often mob it, trying to get it to leave. It’s only fair seeing as small birds make up a large portion of a Northern Pygmy-Owl’s diet. These songbirds and chickadees may even attempt to mob a birder that imitates a Northern Pygmy-Owl’s call.

You may also like:  12 Examples of Mushrooms Found in Montana

25. Burrowing Owl

  • Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  • Length: 7.5-9.8 in
  • Weight: 5.3 oz
  • Wingspan: 21.6 in

Though they’re more frequently found further south in America, breeding populations of Burrowing Owls are sometimes spotted in central and eastern portions of Montana. Their habitat is primarily wide stretches of grassland and prairie. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls nest underground, in dug out burrows and dens. These smart owls will also store extra food away in these underground chambers to sustain them through incubation and brooding periods.

Burrowing Owls are small, about the same height and length as a robin, but with stockier bodies. They have smooth, round heads with no ear tufts, and sandy-colored plumage with brown spots. These owls don’t rely on flying to catch prey, either. Instead, they hunt on the ground, chasing after insects and small animals with their long legs.

26. Barred Owl

  • Scientific name: Strix varia
  • Length: 16.9-19.7 in
  • Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
  • Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in

Though rare to Montana, there are small pockets of Barred Owls living in northwestern parts of the state. The main range of these owls is the south eastern United States, primarily in swamps. In Montana, the best places to look for them are woodlands and forests near bodies of water. They’re most active at night, but they sometimes call and hunt during the daytime as well. Listening for their distinct, rich-sounding “who cooks for you?” call usually pans out better for finding these owls than just searching for them in the trees.

Barred owls are large birds with stocky bodies and smooth, round heads. Their eyes are wide and so deeply brown that they appear completely black. They have white and brown mottling all over their plumage, with vertical brown barring on their undersides and vertical barring on their upper parts.

27. Great Gray Owl

  • Scientific name: Strix nebulosa
  • Length: 24.0-33.1 in
  • Weight: 24.7-60.0 oz
  • Wingspan: 53.9-60.2 in

Great Gray Owls are found year-round in the western edge of Montana. They’re very large birds with broad wings and long tails — one of the tallest owls in America. Their eyes appear small and close together on their big facial disks, giving them a unique expression. A white “X” pattern on their faces is another key identifier. Like their name implies, their bodies are covered in fluffy, silvery gray feathers.

These owls are quiet and solemn, not really the type to bring attention to themselves. They reside in dense pine forests and on the edges of meadows, avoiding areas with people. Like most owls they are most active at night when they hunt, most often in the hours before dusk and dawn.

28. Long-eared Owl

  • Scientific name: Asio otus
  • Length: 13.8-15.8 in
  • Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
  • Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 in

Long-eared Owls are found year-round in only the spots in southern Montana, with a breeding population throughout the rest of the state. Though they’re fairly widespread, these owls are pretty secretive in nature, making them tricky to spot. During the day they roost in dense foliage, waking up to hunt at night.

Their plumage is a mixture of dark browns and grays which camouflages them nicely against trees. They get their name from the long tufts on the tops of their heads, giving them the appearance of having ears.

29. Short-eared Owl

  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Length: 13.4-16.9 in
  • Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in

It’s common to find Short-eared Owls year-round in Montana. They’re also one of the easier owl species to spot, due to their frequent daytime activity and tendency to occupy open spaces like fields and grasslands. Their broad, round wings allow them to gracefully flap close to the ground with a seemingly weightless appearance.

Unlike a lot of other owls, Short-eared Owls are also frequently found sitting directly on the ground. Although their name implies that they have short ears, their heads actually look perfectly smooth. Though they do have tufts, they’re very small and hard to see.

30. Boreal Owl

  • Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  • Length: 8.3-11.0 in
  • Weight: 3.3-7.6 oz
  • Wingspan: 21.6-24.4 in

Boreal Owls are found year-round in the western half of Montana in dense mixed-wood and coniferous forests. They’re mysterious birds and are often hard to spot, especially during the day. They roost in a different tree everyday, so don’t expect to find them in the same spots.

At about the size of a robin, they’re small owls with large, square heads, stocky bodies, short tails. At night they perch and wait for prey such as small mammals and birds before swooping down and grasping their meal with their talons. Boreal owls are usually quiet and don’t call very frequently. However, in the late winter through the spring this behavior changes as males call more often for mates. Listen for these quick hoots at night for a better chance at finding them.

31. Northern Saw-whet Owl

  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Length: 7.1-8.3 in
  • Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
  • Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in

In western Montana, Northern Saw-whet Owls are found year-round. In the rest of the state there are only non-breeding populations of this species. These owls tend to occupy dense coniferous forests and groves and can be pretty hard to locate due to their tiny size, camouflage-like coloration, and secretive nature.

It’s so good at perching motionless and avoiding attention that it’s frequently unnoticed in areas in which it occurs. Listen for it’s high-pitched “too-too-too” call to make finding it a little easier. During the breeding season males will repetitively make this call for hours — offering a good chance of spotting it.

If you live in western Montana, in an area where Northern Saw-whet Owls live year-round and breed, consider putting up a nesting box for them. Not only will it provide a home for a breeding pair of owls, but it will also increase your chances of getting an up-close look at these tiny birds.

Ospreys of Montana

32. Osprey

  • Scientific name: Pandion haliaetus
  • Length: 21.3-22.8 in
  • Weight: 49.4-70.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 59.1-70.9 in

At one point in time Ospreys were considered to be a type of hawk, now they are in a category of their own. These specialized hunters always live near bodies of water where they hunt for their food, fish. Ospreys are large birds with white heads and underparts, and mostly dark bodies. They have hooked beaks and very powerful talons that allow them to hold on to the fish they snatch out of the water.

Ospreys can often be seen nesting on top of utility poles in Florida, keep an eye out the next time you visit the state.

Most Ospreys migrate far north into Canada and Alaska to breed each season. In Montana they have a breeding range in western areas, but only migrate through the rest of the state. In the U.S. You’ll only find Ospreys year round in southern states near the ocean like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama.