1. Dark-eyed Junco

The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is such a popular winter bird that John J. Audubon called it the “little Snow-bird, which, in America, is cherished as the Robin is in Europe.” The junco is common across the continental United States, and in winters it is particularly visible in residential areas as the species forages for food at feeders, in yards, and on berries. It likes patchy woods, particularly evergreens, but bushes too. The colors of the plumage vary geographically, though Gallatin County gets flocks of mixed subspecies. The closely grouped Oregon, Mountain and Shufeldt subspecies have a sharp contrast between the dark head and brown back. In addition to those three subspecies, the slate-colored and the pink-sided juncos have been seen in the county.

2. American Dipper

The American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) is still often referred to by the name that John J. Audubon used: the water ouzel. Swimming and diving underwater, it is the only aquatic songbird in North America. The dipper lives year round near fast-moving creeks and streams in the Mountain West, from Mexico to Alaska, and from Ousel Falls in southern Montana to Ousel Peak in northern Montana. It feeds off aquatic insect larvae. “The Ouzel sings on through all the seasons and every kind of storm,” said the naturalist John Muir, and “his mellow, fluty voice is ever tuned to downright gladness.” The bird is sooty, slate, or gray in color, but along a tree-shaded creek the bird appears black.

3. Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) is widespread through North America. It is the only

Kingfisher species in Montana, and it is present year round in western Montana. As a migratory species, the kingfisher is more abundant here during the summer. Both male and female have a dark belt below a white collar, and the female has also a red belt across the breast. The Kingfisher eats small fish caught by diving into inland streams. John James Audubon found that “{span}the flesh is extremely fishy, oily, and disagreeable to the taste. On the contrary, the eggs are fine eating.” Both bird and eggs have been protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for a century now, but the population is still in decline.