State of Idaho

Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator ©Dubi Shapiro Website

Idaho is a landlocked state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. It shares a small portion of the Canada–United States border to the north, with the province of British Columbia. It borders Montana and Wyoming to the east, Nevada and Utah to the south, and Washington and Oregon to the west. The state’s capital and largest city is Boise with less than half a million residents. With an area of a little over 216,000 km2 (83,000 square miles), Idaho is the 14th largest state by land area. With a population of approximately 2 million, it ranks as the 13th least populous and the 7th least densely populated of the 50 U.S. states.

The landscape is rugged, with some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States. For example, at 2.3 million acres (930,000 ha), the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is the largest contiguous area of protected wilderness in the continental United States. Idaho is a Rocky Mountain state with abundant natural resources and scenic areas. The state has snow-capped mountain ranges, rapids, vast lakes and steep canyons. The waters of the Snake River run through Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the United States. Shoshone Falls falls down cliffs from a height greater than Niagara Falls.

By far, the most important river in Idaho is the Snake River, a major tributary of the Columbia River. The Snake River flows from Yellowstone in northwestern Wyoming through the Snake River Plain in southern Idaho before turning north, leaving the state at Lewiston before joining the Columbia in Kennewick. Other major rivers are the Clark Fork/Pend Oreille River, the Spokane River, and, many major tributaries of the Snake River, including the Clearwater River, the Salmon River, the Boise River, and the Payette River. The Salmon River empties into the Snake in Hells Canyon and forms the southern boundary of Nez Perce County on its north shore. The Port of Lewiston, at the confluence of the Clearwater and the Snake Rivers is the farthest inland seaport on the West Coast at 465 river miles from the Pacific at Astoria, Oregon.

Middle Fork Salmon River – ©Rex Parker, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The vast majority of Idaho’s population lives in the Snake River Plain, a valley running from across the entirety of southern Idaho from east to west. The valley contains the cities of Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello. The plain served as an easy pass through the Rocky Mountains for westward-bound settlers on the Oregon Trail, and many settlers chose to settle the area rather than risking the treacherous route through the Blue Mountains and the Cascade Range to the west. Idaho’s highest point is Borah Peak, 12,662 ft in the Lost River Range north of Mackay. Mountain ranges include the Sawtooth Range, the Bitterroot Range, the White Cloud Mountains, the Lost River Range, the Clearwater Mountains, and the Salmon River Mountains. Salmon-Challis National Forest is located in the east central sections of the state, with Salmon National Forest to the north and Challis National Forest to the south.

Bora Peak – ©G Thomas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Idaho has two time zones, with the dividing line approximately midway between Canada and Nevada. Southern Idaho, including the Boise metropolitan area, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Twin Falls, are in the Mountain Time Zone. Areas north of the Salmon River, including Coeur d’Alene, Moscow, Lewiston, and Sandpoint, are in the Pacific Time Zone.

Idaho’s climate varies widely. Although the state’s western border is about 330 miles (530 km) from the Pacific Ocean, the maritime influence is still felt in Idaho; especially, in the winter when cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation are at their maximum extent. This influence has a moderating effect in the winter where temperatures are not as low as would otherwise be expected for a northern state with predominantly high elevations. In the panhandle, moist air masses from the coast are released as precipitation over the North Central Rockies forests, creating the North American inland temperate rainforest.[40] The maritime influence is least prominent in the state’s eastern part where the precipitation patterns are often reversed, with wetter summers and drier winters, and seasonal temperature differences are more extreme, showing a more semi-arid continental climate.

Idaho can be hot, although extended periods over 37 °C are rare, except for the lowest point in elevations. Hot summer days are tempered by the low relative humidity and cooler evenings during summer months since, for most of the state, the highest diurnal difference in temperature is often in the summer. Winters can be cold, although extended periods of bitter cold weather below zero are unusual.

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 over 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, Grey Partridge, Chukar, Greater Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owl, White-throated Swift, Grey 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, Grey and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, Western Scrub and Pinyon Jays, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Virginia’s & Black-throated Grey 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.

Lucky Peak Reservoir – ©Fredlyfish4, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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.

To learn more about birding opportunities in southwestern Idaho, visit the Southwestern Idaho Birders Association (SIBA) website.

  • David Trochlell

    Boise, ID |

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 444

    (As at June 2024)

    State Bird: Mountain Bluebird Sialia currucoides

  • Avibase

    PDF Checklist
    This checklist includes all bird species found in Idaho , based on the best information available at this time. It is based on a wide variety of sources that I collated over many years. I am pleased to offer these checklists as a service to birdwatchers. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to report them.
  • Friends of Camas

    PDF Checklist
    Prepared by Idaho Bird Records Committee (IBRC)
  • Idaho Bird Records Committee

    PDF Checklist
  • Wikipedia

    Annotated List
    This list of birds of Idaho includes species documented in the U.S. state of Idaho and accepted by the Idaho Bird Records Committee (IBRC). As of January 2022, there were 433 species on the official list.
  • eBird

    PDF Checklist
    This checklist is generated with data from eBird (, a global database of bird sightings from birders like you. If you enjoy this checklist, please consider contributing your sightings to eBird. It is 100% free to take part, and your observations will help support birders, researchers, and conservationists worldwide.
Useful Reading

  • A Birder's Guide to Idaho

    | Edited by Dan Svingen & Kas Dumrose | ABA | 1997 | Spiralbound | 339 pages, 11 line illustrations, 86 maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9781878788146 Buy this book from
  • Birds in Place

    | (A Habitat-based Field Guide to Birds of the Northern Rockies | by Radd Icenoggle | Farcountry Press | 2003 | Paperback | 384 pages | Out of Print | ISBN: 9781560372417 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Idaho

    | Field Guide | By Stan Tekiela | Adventure Publications | Edition 2 | 2022 | Paperback | 324 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781647551483 Buy this book from
  • 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 | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780964081062 Buy this book from
  • Idaho Birds

    | A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species | By James R Kavanagh | Waterford Press | 2002 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9781583551028 Buy this book from
  • National Audubon Society Regional Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain States

    | (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado) | by Peter Alden & John Grassy | Alfred A Knopf | 1998 | paperback | 448 pages, 1,500 colour photos, maps | ISBN: 9780679446811 Buy this book from
  • Intermountain Bird Observatory (was Idaho Bird Observatory)

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite 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.
  • Audubon Society in Idaho

    The usual list of local chapters.
  • Coeur D'Alene Audubon Society

    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

    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 Bird Records Committee

    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.
  • Idaho Birds

    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.
  • Idaho Young Birders Club

    The Idaho Young Birder's Club (IYCB) is a project of GEAS, run by high school and college students. We offer birding field trips, visit conservation organizations, and hold classes and workshops about birds, birding, conservation, and advocacy.
  • Nature Conservancy in Idaho

    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

    The Palouse Audubon Society has been serving the Palouse region since 1973. We are a chapter of the National Audubon Society covering Latah and Nez Perce counties in Idaho, Asotin, and Whitman counties in Washington. Our membership includes those who join and support our local chapter, as well as those who belong to National Audubon and live in the area we serve.
  • Portneuf Valley Audubon

    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

    Facebook Page
    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

    Facebook Page
    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.

Abbreviations Key

  • *Protected areas of Idaho

    InformationSatellite View
    This category includes articles on protected areas within the U.S. state of Idaho. This includes federal, state, local and privately controlled/owned areas.
  • Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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

    WebpageSatellite View
    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.
  • Idaho's Wildlife Conservation and Management

    WebpageSatellite View
    Wildlife Management Areas improve and maintain wildlife habitat for both game and nongame species and provide access for disabled hunters, fishermen, and wildlife watchers.
  • NC Morrison Knudsen

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite View
    Cougar Bay attracts migrating and nesting waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, songbirds, moose, beaver, otter and deer.
  • NWR Bear Lake

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebpageSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • 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.
  • Idaho Rare Bird Alert

    News & Sightings
    The report below shows observations of rare birds in Idaho. Includes both unreviewed and reviewed/approved observations.
  • Inland Northwest Birders Group

    Facebook Page
    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: Complete archives are available to subcribers.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Bird Tours

    Tour Operator
    This trip is designed to allow us the opportunity to seek out the recently split crossbill species, Cassia Crossbill, which is found only in a localized area of Southern Idaho.

    Tour Operator
    Cassia Crossbill and Southern Idaho
Trip Reports
  • 2019 [09 September] - Pat Lueders - Yellowstone in the Fall

    PDF Report
    Our journey to Yellowstone National Park, Montana, and Idaho had a great beginning with our visit to the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center in Jackson, Wyoming. Located at the National Elk Refuge, we birded around the surrounding wetland and grassland habitat, quickly finding a Wilson’s Warbler, and Blue & Green-winged Teal. American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, and Common Merganser were swimming in Flat Creek
  • 2021 [07 July] - Nick Bray - Mid-West

    PDF Report
    EPIC MID-WEST USA CLEAN-UP TOUR REPORT Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho & Utah! 21st June - 5th July 2021
  • 2021 [08 August] - Jeff Hopkins - Utah & Idaho

    PDF Report
    This is a report from a trip to Utah and Idaho I just completed with Pitta Nature Tours. This was my first trip after Covid hit, and let me tell you, it was great to be traveling with other birders again.
Other Links
  • Digital Atlas of Idaho Birds

    These pages are designed to help you identifying species of birds…
  • Idaho Birding Trail

    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

    including notes on, e.g. Idaho State Parks Good for Birding…
  • Idaho's Fish & Game

    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

    Birding Trails in Southeast Idaho…
  • Bryce W Robinson - Ornithologi

    The creative study of birds through art, photography, and writing…
  • Kathleen Bowman - Birds of the Air

    Welcome to my blog. I am the owner/photographer of Shekinah Photography… Last update April 2017
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Larry Thorngren - The Wild Photographer

    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…

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