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Birds of Glacier National Park (Part 3)

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

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

Gyrfalcon (Falco Rusticolus)

Gyrfalcons are a bird of prey belonging to the Falconidae family. Among all the falcon species, it is considered the largest.

The Gyrfalcon is somewhat a lone bird, except during breeding season. The male falcon performs a fantastic aerial display as a courtship gesture, rolling and diving.

This bird is 18.9 to 25.6 inches long, with a wingspan of 43 to 63 inches, weighing 1.8 to 4.6 lbs. The body has different colors; dark brown, gray, and white accompanied by black spotting. In Glacier National Park, you can see these birds nesting on cliffs, mountains, or near rivers. They are found between November and April in the early morning and late evening hours.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco Peregrius)

This incredible bird of prey is indigenous to North America, sometimes referred to as Duck hawk or just Peregrine. This falcon is famous for its velocity, reaching unmatched speeds in excess of 200 mph.

Once the peregrines reach two years of age, they begin breeding. To attract the female falcon and convince her to select a nesting area, the male peregrine performs an aerial display as a mating gesture. These birds mate for life and return to the same nest for breeding every year.

A Peregrine Falcon is 13.4 to 22.8 inches long. The female bird weighs 1.5 to 3.3 lbs whereas the weight of the male bird ranges from 0.7 to 2.2 lbs. The falcon’s head is black, and the underparts are barred white, with a bluish-gray back and yellow feet. These birds stay active in the daytime, visible on coastlines, near rivers and mountains in Glacier National Park.

Sandhill Crane (Antigone)

Originating from the Gruidae family, this is a large bird native to North America.

When Sandhill Cranes mate, it usually lasts for a couple of years because the relationship lasts for life. Only if one of the partners dies, the other will start searching for a new mate. Single cranes pair up in early spring. The adult cranes are 39.4 to 47.2 inches long, with a wingspan of approximately 78 inches.

This breed of Crane has yellow eyes, gray feathers, and a dark bill. The grayish shade varies because they often rub mud on their feathers. You can see Sandhill cranes an hour before the sunset or right after the sunrise during early fall, summer, and late spring. They nest on isolated and small wetlands in Glacier National Park.

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus Verticalis)

From the Tyrannidae family, Western Kingbirds are found in western parts of North America.

These birds mate in a pair (they are monogamous). They breed between May and June. Some of them also copulate in mid-July. As a courtship gesture, the male kingbird flies up high, vibrates his feathers, and sings a song while almost hovering in place. They are 7.9 to 9.4 inches long, with a wingspan of 14 to 16 inches.

White throat and chest, yellow belly, and gray-colored head make a Western Kingbird an eye-catching bird. They build high nests in large trees in Glacier National Park. You can see them during the day in autumn but rarely in the spring.

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta Stelleri)

From the Corvidae family, Steller’s Jay may also be termed pine jay, mountain jay, or long-crested jay.

They are known for building a long-lasting relationship with their mate. Their breeding season starts in late March and ends in early July. April and May are considered the peak breeding period. The nests are mostly built among conifers. Sometimes, the Steller’s Jays can establish their nests in hollow spaces in trees around the park.

They weigh between 0.2 to 0.3 lbs, with a body length of 11.8 to 13.4 inches. The Steller’s Jay has a blue body with a charcoal black head. You can see them during the day all year round.

White-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta Carolinensis)

Sitta Carolinensis is one of the most popular and noisy members of the Sittidae family.

White-Breasted Nuthatch mate for life and live with each other until one of the birds loose their way or passes away. To attract the female, the male partner gives her food scraps and bows to her. They are approximately 6 inches long and the genders differ in coloring shades. The female nuthatches appear with white underparts, and a dark gray crown, and the lower abdomen has a reddish hue. Whereas adult males have black nape and a crown, with bluish-gray upperparts.

These birds are primarily found in tree cavities or utilize woodpeckers’ holes throughout Glacier National Park, generally at a height of 50 to 60 feet. You can see them in the early morning during winters.

Pacific Wren (Troglodytes Pacificus)

The Pacific Wren is a tiny bird that belongs to the Troglodytidae family, found in North America.

To attract a female Pacific Wren, the male partner will sing. Then, during courtship, the male leads the female to different nesting sites until the female chooses one, and they breed. Pacific Wrens are 3.1 to 4.7 inches long and weigh 0.01 to 0.03 lbs. The body is brown, with brownish-black bands on the belly, tail, and wings.

They live in woodpecker holes or build their nests on rocks and rotten stump cavities throughout the park. The best time to see these birds is the early morning, pretty much all year-round.

Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus) by almiyi is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

European Starling (Sturnus Vulgaris)

This is a medium-sized bird also known as starling or common starling, belonging to a popular starling family – Sturnidae.

Though the broods are brought up by one female and one male, European Starlings are considered both polygamous and monogamous. The period between spring and early summer is peak breeding season. The most interesting fact about these birds is that all the birds within the same area, choose the same time to lay eggs.

They have a wingspan of 12.2 to 15.8 inches and are 7.9 to 9.1 inches long. At a distance, they have a blackish brown appearance in winter. And a purplish-green appearance in summer. The bill remains yellow throughout.  During winters, you will find these birds in grassy areas and lawns in Glacier National Park. They are most active in the daytime.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia Sialis)

This small bird from North America, part of the Turdidae family.

These birds mostly perform copulation in the nests, lasting only three to five seconds. The female Eastern Bluebird can mate with multiple male partners at a time and can easily bring up broods from different partners. They are 6.3 to 8.3 inches long, with a wingspan of 9.8 to 12.6 inches.

The breast and throat of a male Eastern Bluebird are rusty red, whereas the upperparts are dark blue. From a distance, these birds have a grayish-brown look. They nest in man-made refuges, dead oak trees, or natural cavities (woodpeckers’ holes) in Glacier National Park. You can see these birds during the day between February and March.

Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona Vespertina)

Another small North American bird, belonging to the Fringillidae family.

Grosbeaks are normally monogamous and mate for life. However, when there is an abundance of food, they become polygamous and copulate with multiple partners at a time. They can bring up to two broods every year. An Evening Grosbeak is 6.3 to 7.1 inches long, with a wingspan of 11.8 to 14.2 inches.

The immature and female grosbeaks are gray-colored birds. In contrast, the adult males are black and yellow. The eyes have a yellowish stripe, and the feathers have a white patch. They nest on the horizontal branches of high trees in Glacier National Park. Grosbeaks are found during winters at irregular intervals. You can see them in the morning, and often hear them singing at dusk.

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