Many bird species are year-long residents of the Flathead Valley. Others spend only part of the year here, depending on their migrational patterns.
Migrating flocks stop in the Flathead and summer residents return.
Flathead Valley lies in a migration corridor. Large flocks of waterfowl pass through in March, April and May. The first songbirds arrive in late February (!) and March – blackbirds, robins, Varied thrushes.
Kestrels, and Tree and Violet-green Swallows show up in middle to late March.
Osprey arrive early April, and begin building nests in May.
Most insect eaters arrive in May or early June – warblers, vireos, nighthawk, and flycatchers.
Newly hatched young appear. Late in summer, southerly migration begins.
Look for waterfowl broods along river- and lakeshores. Flocks of swallows and blackbirds begin staging in late June for southern flight.
Southbound shorebirds start showing up in July.
Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds begin to move south in late July and August.
Summer birds are leaving, winter birds arriving.
Most songbirds, Great Blue Heron and Osprey fly south by mid-September. Waterfowl return from the north and form flocks in pothole lakes and rivers.
Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Shrikes return from their northern breeding areas November and December.
Many bird species over-winter in the Flathead. More than 80 species are regularly found on the Bigfork Christmas Bird Count, 60 or more on the Kalispell Christmas Count.
Feeders attract a variety of birds, including chickadees, nuthatches, Evening Grosbeaks, woodpeckers and jays. Winter finches, waterfowl, Bald Eagles and Rough-legged Hawks are usually present in good numbers.
Bohemian Waxwings fly about in large flocks, looking for winter berries.
Merlins fly about too, looking for waxwings.