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State of Idaho

Bluebird
Western Bluebird Sialia currucoides ©Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith - Wikimedia Website

Birding Idaho

The Inland Northwest state of Idaho lies like a great wedge between the Pacific coastal states of Washington and Oregon, the mountainous state of Montana, the boreal forests of British Colombia, and the vast deserts and mountain ranges of Nevada and Utah. Habitats and terrain vary widely across the state, from low elevation shadscale deserts to alpine mountain summits. With such a great diversity of habitats, it's not surprising that nearly 400 species of birds have been recorded in Idaho.

An excellent cross-section of common to rare western US birds can be observed in Idaho from spring to late fall. A birding trip to northern and central Idaho's coniferous forest and mountain valley habitats can produce wish-birds such as Harlequin Duck, Spruce and Blue Grouse, Flammulated, Northern Pygmy, Great Gray and Boreal Owls, Black and Vaux's Swifts, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers, White-headed, Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, American Dipper, Townsend's Solitaire, Pine Grosbeak, both crossbills, and many others.

The state widens to the south, spreading across sagebrush deserts and scenic basalt cliffs on the Snake River Plain. Although much of southern Idaho is cultivated, large portions of the native sagebrush grasslands still exist. These sagebrush-covered plains, foothills, and canyons are home to birds such as Swainson's and Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Gray Partridge, Chukar, Greater Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owl, White-throated Swift, Gray Flycatcher, Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Rock & Canyon Wrens, Sage Thrasher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Brewer's, Vesper, Lark, Black-throated and Sage Sparrows, Lark Bunting, and Bullock's Oriole. The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, renowned for hosting the densest concentration of breeding raptors in North America, is also one of the best locations in Idaho for observing sagebrush-related birds.

Idaho's agricultural areas and sagebrush plains give way to juniper foothills and mountains in the south, and these areas support Common Poorwill, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Gray and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, Western Scrub and Pinyon Jays, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Virginia's & Black-throated Gray Warblers, Green-tailed Towhee, and Scott's Oriole.

Interspersed among the farmlands and rangelands of southern Idaho are several large reservoirs and man-made wetlands, some of which host colonial breeding bird populations and provide resting areas for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Among these are Eared, Western and Clark's Grebes, Great, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, White-faced Ibis, Snow and Ross's Geese, Cinnamon Teal, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope, Franklin's Gull, Forster's Tern, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and Yellow-headed Blackbird. American Falls Reservoir, Camas National Wildlife Refuge, and Market Lake Wildlife Management Area in eastern Idaho are undeniably the state's best hotspots for water-related birds. In addition, these places frequently produce exciting rarities.

One of the best bird-watching sites in the state is at Lucky Peak in the Boise Foothills. Lucky Peak serves as an important bird migration corridor, and since 1994 the Idaho Bird Observatory has conducted avian research there. September hawk-watching features Sharp-shinned, Cooper's and Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, Merlin, and others, with Northern Goshawk, Broad-winged hawk, and Peregrine Falcon occasionally seen. A wide variety of non-raptors may also be seen there in fall as well, including Blue Grouse, Dusky & Hammond's Flycatchers, Cassin's Vireo, both kinglets, Townsend's Solitaire, many warbler species, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Chipping and White-crowned Sparrows.

A definite must for anyone contemplating a birding trip to Idaho is a copy of A Birder's Guide to Idaho by Dan Svingen and Kas Dumroese - see the Useful Reading section below. (Also available from ABA Sales at P.O. Box 6599, Colorado Springs, CO 80934-6599)

To learn more about birding opportunities in southwestern Idaho, visit the Southwestern Idaho Birders Association (SIBA) website or, to view north Idaho's recent bird postings, see the link below.

Contributor

David Trochlell

North American Birds - Idaho-Western Montana Regional Editor

Boise, ID

dtrochlell@verizon.net

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 434

(As at August 2018)

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Birder's Guide to Idaho

Edited by Dan Svingen & Kas Dumrose | ABA | 1997 | Spiralbound | 339 pages, 11 line illustrations, 86 maps |

ISBN: 1878788140

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds in Place

- a Habitat-based Field Guide to Birds of the Northern Rockies by Radd Icenoggle Paperback 384 pages Publisher: Farcountry Press 2003

ISBN: 1560372419

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Inland Northwest and Northern Rockies:

(Includes Idaho, Eastern Washington and Oregon, and Western Montana) | By Harry Nehls, Mike Denny & Dave Trochlell | R W Morse Company | 2008 | 422 pages, colour photos, maps |

ISBN: 9780964081062

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

Mountain Bluebird Sialia currucoides

Organisations

Audubon Society in Idaho

Website

The usual list of local chapters.

Coeur D'Alene Audubon Society

Website

Usually the first things to get cold in the body of cold weather bird watchers are our hands and feet. A bird's body is covered with down for insulation but what about it's feet? When we look at a bird's foot, we are actually looking at its toes. A bird stands, not as a man does on the flat of his foot, but on it's toes. What we often call the leg of the bird is actually an elongated tarsus (foot bone). When we watch a robin hopping or a starling walking, what appears to be it's knee bending backwards (instead of forwards as in a man) is actually the bird's heel. The bird's knee joint is higher up and hidden by feathers. With no feathers or insulated booties to keep their feet warm…

Golden Eagle Audubon Society

Website

Serving all Southwest Idaho. The Golden Eagle Audubon Society is southwest Idaho's chapter of the National Audubon Society, a non-profit organization. We are dedicated to building an understanding and appreciation of the natural world. These pages are to inform you of our activities and invite you to join us. Be sure to come back often and read about upcoming activities and issues that are of concern to us all…

Idaho Birds

Website

Whether you want to challenge yourself physically by climbing a mountain to find Rosy-finches, add those hard to find lifers to your list, park next to a marsh to view breeding plumage waterfowl, or just enjoy the bird life amidst natural beauty, Idaho has many possibilities to offer.

Join us if you are interested in sharing your Idaho bird photos, videos, audio, sightings, events, or want to discuss birding in Idaho.

Website

The IBRC’s purpose is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the birds of Idaho, by providing an officially validated and accurate data source of bird distribution and patterns of avian vagrancy in Idaho.

Nature Conservancy in Idaho

Website

This entry used to read: Usual site. It still could, the difference is that the NC sites are now really excellent. They use the most stunning photos too. Welcome to The Nature Conservancy's Idaho Chapter home page. Here you'll find information on the many ways we're working to help preserve the diversity of living things by protecting the habitats they call home…

Palouse Audubon Society

Website

The Palouse Audubon Society has been serving the Palouse region of North Central Idaho and Eastern Washington since 1973. Our chapter, headquartered in Moscow Idaho has a membership of nearly 400 people enjoying our national heritage of songbirds and wildlife. We share both the opportunities to observe songbirds and other wildlife as well as our concerns about their continued survival.

Portneuf Valley Audubon

Website

Welcome to Southeastern Idaho & the Portneuf Valley Audubon's web site! By promoting the conservation of natural resources, educating others about wildlife and the need to live in harmony with our surroundings, we hope to promote and safeguard the welfare of birds and their habitat. …

Prairie Falcon Audubon Society

Website

Prairie Falcon Audubon (PFA) is the south-central Idaho chapter of the National Audubon Society. Our website provides local birding resources, including hotspot guides, maps and checklists.

Snake River Audubon Society

Website

The Snake River Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society and serves members in the Upper Snake River Valley of Eastern Idaho. Please join us for our Monthly Meetings, which are held at the Idaho Falls Public Library on the third Thursday of the month at 7:15 p.m. from September through April (except December). Newsletters are published monthly except for July, August, and December. During summer months, and throughout the year, we offer a variety of bird walks, field trips, and camping trips.

Southwest Idaho Birders Association

Facebook Page

The purpose of the club is to promote bird watching among its members and with the general public and to encourage environmental conservation.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

Idaho Birding Trail

Webpage

The Idaho Birding Trail is organized by geographical region. For the purposes of this guide, the birding trail is divided into North, East Central, Southwest and Southeast Regions.

Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

Website

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation manages 27 state parks and three gateway visitor centers located on interstate highway entrances. We also run the registration program for snowmobiles, boats and off-highway vehicles. Money from registrations and other sources goes to develop and maintain trails, facilities and programs statewide for the people who use those vehicles…

Idaho's IBAs

Webpage

Idaho's Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program was launched in 1996 as a partnership between Idaho Partners in Flight and the Idaho Audubon Council. Since 1997, the IBA Technical Committee has encouraged and reviewed nominations for potential IBAs. To date, 55 sites have been officially recognized as Important Bird Areas in Idaho, representing 3.8 million acres of public and private wetland and upland habitat throughout the state.

NC Morrison Knudsen

Information

Satellite View

The Morrison Knudsen Nature Center is home to nearly five acres of wildlife habitat along the Boise River Greenbelt. Make sure to bring a camera and curious eyes as wildlife is often found wandering through the area.The MK Nature Center features walking paths on the StreamWalk, underwater viewing windows, and a Visitor Center.

NCA Snake River Birds of Prey

Webpage

Satellite View

...More than 700 pairs of raptors nest each spring along 81 miles of the Snake River Canyon, including 150-200 pairs of Prairie Falcons (highest breeding density in the world). Other nesters include American Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, Barred, Burrowing, Great Horned, Long-eared, Northern Saw-whet, Short-eared, and Western Screech-Owls...

NPr Cougar Bay Preserve

Webpage

Satellite View

Cougar Bay attracts migrating and nesting waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, songbirds, moose, beaver, otter and deer.

NWR Bear Lake

Webpage

Satellite View

Just seven miles south of Montpelier, the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 18,000 acres of cattail marsh, open water, and flooded meadows. Other portions of the area include scattered grasslands and brush-covered mountain slopes, all ideal habitat for various wildlife and waterfowl. Keep your eyes peeled for sandhill cranes, great horned owls, moose, muskrats, and rabbits all known to utilize this amazing refuge.

NWR Kootenai

Facebook Page

Satellite View

The nearly 3,000 acres of Kootenai Wildlife Refuge are home to a variety of wildlife species, including bear, deer, and coyotes, as well as large colonies of migratory birds such as Tundra swans. Excellent birdwatching and photographic opportunities are available.

WMA Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh

Information

Satellite View

The Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area offers countless opportunities for wildlife viewing. Thousands of waterfowl flock to the area throughout the year, but an increase in activity usually occurs in late May when a beautiful purple camas lily blooms.

WMA Hagerman

Information

Satellite View

Hagerman typically winters 30,000-40,000 ducks. Amazing numbers of Bald Eagle and waterfowl can be present during winter especially when other water bodies are frozen. The winter gull flock that roosts on the islands in Riley Pond often contains Herring Gull. Thayer’s, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged Gulls, and other varieties also occur occasionally. Large populations of breeding waterfowl (Mallard, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Canada Goose), Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Northern Harrier occur within the WMA. During spring and summer, waterbirds (American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Western Grebe, American Bittern, Virginia Rail, Sora, California Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Forster’s Tern), shorebirds (Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Long-billed Curlew) are common. During migration, Common Loon, Tundra Swan, and other shorebirds can be seen.

Forums & Mailing Lists

Inland Northwest Birding List

News & Sightings, Views

This list is for the discussion of birds and birding in the inland northwest. The area of interest is roughly Idaho north of the Salmon R. and Washington east of the Cascades - especially the far eastern counties of the state. Birders outside the area are welcome and encouraged to share information that may be of regional interest. Recent postings can be viewed online at: www.birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/INNW.html. Complete archives are available to subcribers.

Idaho Birders Linked Electronically is a Restricted Group with 840 members. Idaho Birders Linked Electronically

Mailing Group

News etc

Idaho Bird Sightings and Discussion

News & Sightings, Views

Birders at all levels are welcome, however, this group is for semi-serious discussion of difficult ID topics and sharing of rare bird sightings etc...

Idaho Birding

News & Sightings, Views

Facebook group - Join us if you are interested in sharing your Idaho bird photos, videos, audio, sightings, events, or want to discuss birding in Idaho.

Southwest Idaho Birders Association

To subscribe to list: https://www.facebook.com/SWIdahoBirders/

Share bird sightings with all birders throughout the state of Idaho and adjacent areas in neighboring states. Post photos etc this list will be restricted mainly to birds and bird related topics. All birders and bird clubs in Idaho are invited to participate in this E-mail list.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Snake River Birds of Prey Expeditions

Tour Operator

The Snake River "Birds of Prey" National Conservation Area is located just under 30 bird miles southwest of Boise. It is a spectacular canyon that was created by the Great Bonneville flood. Our guides focus on the Natural history, Geology & Bird watching. The guides are very informative and have been studying and working the "Birds of Prey" area for many years.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2005 [07 July] - Jan Landsverk

Report

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Narrows Cottage Lakehouse - Twin Lakes Rathdrum

Accommodation

Lakefront North Idaho Vacation Rental - The atmosphere is one of relaxation and warmth in which you and your family can come back to after a day on the lake, or after enjoying the many area attractions such as nearby Farragut State Park…

Observatories

Intermountain Bird Observatory (was Idaho Bird Observatory)

Observatory Website

Satellite View

In 1993, we discovered that the Boise Ridge, just a few miles from downtown Boise, supports one of the largest known raptor and songbird migrations in the western U.S. during autumn. A long-term project has been established at Lucky Peak, the southernmost peak on the ridge, to annually count the number of migrating raptors during fall to provide reliable population trend information on western species. Long term raptor banding projects also have been established to identify migration routes, wintering areas, breeding areas, and mortality factors.

Blogs

Anna Fasoli - Speed Birding

BLOG

In 2007, I graduated from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and have been doing bird work ever since. I love to travel and I think I must have been a gypsy in my other life. I also write at www.nemesisbird.com… Last update October 2012

Bryce W Robinson - Ornithologi

BLOG

The creative study of birds through art, photography, and writing…

Kathleen Bowman - Birds of the Air

BLOG

Welcome to my blog. I am the owner/photographer of Shekinah Photography… Last update April 2017

Larry Thorngren - The Wild Photographer

BLOG

Last update January 2013

Robert Mortensen - Birding is Fun!

BLOG

Robert Mortensen began birding in the summer of 2004 when his father-in-law Lynn Davenport handed him a pair of binoculars to go on a Sunday afternoon walk at Lake Lowell (Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge) in Nampa, Idaho. It was an instant addiction… Last entry (ever) May 2015

Other Links

Bird By Bird

Website

Educating children one bird at a time...

Digital Atlas of Idaho Birds

Website

These pages are designed to help you identifying species of birds…

Idaho Birding Trail

Website

The Idaho Birding Trail is organized by geographical region. For the purposes of this guide, the birding trail is divided into North, East Central, Southwest and Southeast Regions…

Idaho Wildlife Viewing

Website

including notes on, e.g. Idaho State Parks Good for Birding…

Idaho's Fish & Game

Website

The following is a list of avian species that breed in Idaho, winter in Idaho, or migrate through Idaho. It does not include species considered rare or accidental (only 1-25 known occurrences)…

Southeast Idaho Bird Watching Guide

Website

Birding Trails in Southeast Idaho…

World Center for Birds of Prey

Website

Here is an opportunity to see peregrine falcons, harpy and golden eagles up close. Observe the incubation process in springtime, view displays of all aspects o the lives of hawks and eagles, and see live bird demonstrations and the Tropical Raptor Building…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Larry Thorngren - The Wild Photographer

Gallery

A professional nature photographer, Larry Thorngren has spent many years studying animals. During his spare time Larry spent 21 years teaching science and photography in the Idaho school system. Many of his biology students have been inspired to go into careers in the natural sciences…