Learn About Glacier Park Here

Birds of Glacier National Park (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of our three-part series covering a variety of bird species found in Glacier National Park. View part one and part three.

If you’re interested in four-legged wildlife, click here.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus)

Belonging to the Accipitridae family, the Bald Eagle is indigenous to North America. They are carnivorous and eat mostly fish and other birds.

As a mating gesture, these birds spin quickly towards the ground in a cartwheel flight with talons clinched, unlocking them only at the last minute.

Bald eagles are 30 to 36 inches long and weigh 6.6 to 13.9 lbs. With a wingspan of approximately 78 inches, they are a large, powerful bird of prey. The wings and body of the Bald Eagle are dark brown with a distinctive white head and tail. They are found near rivers and mountains in Glacier National Park. During warmer times of the year, you generally see them in the morning, and in the afternoon during winter.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo Jamaicensis)

Originating from the family of Accipitridae birds, this bird of prey is native to North America. Though it rarely hunts for chicken, this Red-tailed Hawk is also termed Chicken-hawk.

These birds fly high (up to 1,000 feet). The male partner flies above his female mate and approaches her from above as a courtship gesture. Sometimes, both partners lock their talons and move towards the ground at a speed of approximately 100 mph. After copulation, both males and females build the nest, and the female will lay one to five eggs. They mostly build nests in the tall trees.

It weighs approximately 24 lbs and is 17.7 to 25.6 inches long. The upper wings, shoulders, and back are dark brown colored. Close to the shoulders is a distinctive dark bar. Red-tailed hawks remain active in the daytime during all seasons and unusual to see them after sunset.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus)

The Great Horned owl breeds in the Americas, sometimes termed a Hoot owl or a Tiger owl. The Great Horned owl is considered one of the most popular birds of the Strigidae family.

Between January and February, both female and male owls exchange hoots as mating gestures. As they come close to each other, they begin bowing and preening. Great Horned owls do not establish their own nests, rather, they occupy others’ nests; herons, crows, or hawks.

They are 18.1 to 25.2 inches long with a weight of approximately 3.3 lbs. The majority of the body is grayish brown, with a white patch on the neck and a reddish-brown face. You can see these owls all year round In Glacier.

Snowy Owl (Bubo Scandiacus)

This owl breed belongs to the Strigidae family just like the Great Horned owl, sometimes referred to as arctic owl, white owl, and polar owl.

Snowy Owls mostly mate for life, however, one male can breed with two female owls if there is an abundance of food. The male partner attracts his female mate for copulation during winters.

These birds are rich in white color, with a non-uniform brownish pattern on their feathers and bodies. They are 24.8 to 28.7 inches long, with a wingspan of 48 to 60 inches. You can see them nesting on the ground and are generally seen before sunset, and remain active in the daytime (unlike other owls) during winter.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle Alcyon)

From the Alcedinidae family, the Belted Kingfisher is indigenous to North America.

These birds mate once a year between April and May. The male performs a courtship gesture by bringing a fish and feeding it to its female partner. During courtship, both partners choose a nesting site, mostly high on a bank where floodwater can’t reach.

The Belted Kingfisher is 13 inches long and 4.0 to 6.3 oz in weight. This bird has a bluish-gray shade, with white underparts. The breast consists of a blue band and the tail and wings have white spotting on them. You can see this species on the canals, rivers, and lakes throughout Glacier National Park. Early morning and late afternoon are the perfect time to see Belted Kingfishers.

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates Pubescens)

It is one the smallest species of woodpecker in North America, originating from the Picidae family.

These woodpeckers breed during the same season they are born in. They perform copulation mostly in the spring season and return every year to the same nesting site. A Downy Woodpecker is 5.5 to 6.6 inches long and weighs 0.71 to 1.16 oz. It has a black and white look, with a check pattern. The back and head consist of a white strip, male woodpeckers have a small red patch on their head.

The Downy Woodpeckers nest in shrubs and trees in Glacier National Park. They remain active in the morning and early evening during spring. However, you can also see them in the summer.

American Kestrel (Falco Sparverius)

The American Kestrel belongs to the Falconidae family. Being the smallest falcon living in North America, it is also known as a sparrow hawk.

American Kestrels may not nest for a period of years. Female Kestrels follow a two-day interval to lay eggs. She starts incubating as soon as the third egg is laid. These birds are approximately 9 inches long, with a wingspan of 22 inches. If you see an American Kestrel from below, you will find it pale. The tail has a black-colored band, upperparts are rusty brown, with black spots.

They are found in the daytime during autumn and nest in natural tree hollows or cavities. They can’t excavate on their own therefore utilize the holes created by woodpeckers.

Merlin (Falco Columbarius)

From the Falconidae family, they mostly hunt small birds like sparrows and quails.

These birds only pair for one season and start breeding between May and June. During the breeding season, both partners perform an aerial courtship display. They don’t build their nests but utilize the habitats (located in mixed tree stands or coniferous) of other birds like crows or hawks.

Merlins are 9.8 to 13 inches long, weighing approximately 0.4 lbs. The color varies from gender to gender. The immature, female birds are brown whereas the males are gray (slaty to dark) in color. You can see these birds during May and June on cliff edges, cavities in trees, and on structures in Glacier National Park.

Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile Atricapillus)

The Black-Capped Chickadee a non-migratory bird belonging to the Paridae family. Uniquely, during winters, this species efficiently reduces its body temperature.

These birds’ mate once a year between April and early August. The female lays 6 to 8 eggs (on average) every season. During the breeding season, the female chickadee produces a sound like “dee dee dee” as a courtship gesture to attract her male partner.

The adult Black-Capped Chickadees are 4 to 6 inches long, with a wingspan of 6 to 8 inches. They appear with a white belly, black bill, grayish feathers, black head, and white cheeks. They are small songbirds that live in mixed forests and deciduous in Glacier National Park. They are found during the day all year round.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta Bicolor)

It is one of the popular migratory birds that belong to the Hirundinidae family, and is native to the Americas.

Breeding occurs between May and September. They are known for rearing one brood yearly and typically nest alone. However, they can build nests close to the nests of other swallows.

This bird has a wingspan of approximately 13.8 inches with a body length of 5.5 inches. The upperparts of the female birds are brown, immature Tree Swallows are fully brown, and adult males have black feathers, a thin blackish mask on the eyes, and bluish-green upperparts.

The Tree Swallows build their nests on open fields close to fresh water. You can see them in the late morning and afternoons during spring and fall.