9 Best Montana Birding Tours for Your Next Wildlife Trip

Montana birding tours offer a look into the state’s diverse ecosystems, providing a symphony of nature’s most beautiful sounds. With 433 bird species calling the state home at some point during the year, the witnessing opportunities are truly vast.

This guide takes you on a journey alongside renowned tour companies like Kaiyote Tours and Glacier Birding Adventures, illuminating their unique approaches to birding Montana. From multi-day adventures to educational trips focused on conservation, there is a tour style for every enthusiast.

Our list of Montana Birding tours is as much about exploring the outdoors as it is about understanding the role these feathery creatures play in our shared ecosystem. Let’s discover the joy that comes from observing Montana’s birdlife.

7 Key Takeaways on Montana Birding Tours

  1. Specialist birding tours in Montana, like those offered by Kaiyote Tours, Merlin Birding Tours, and Glacier Birding Adventures, are designed to provide unique and tailored experiences for bird enthusiasts.
  2. Tour operators, like Rockjumper and Naturalist Journeys, highlight the diverse birdlife of Montana and offer a blend of focused birdwatching and leisure activities in scenic natural settings.
  3. Montana Bird Advocacy and Wild Latitudes not only focus on birdwatching. However, they also emphasize environmental education and conservation and offer comprehensive wildlife experiences with expert guides.
  4. Red Hill Birding and Big Sky Safaris focus on specific seasons and Montana’s unique habitats. They offer tours that provide enriched birding experiences in stunning summer landscapes and abundant wildlife areas.
  5. Birding tours are led by knowledgeable guides who facilitate close encounters with various bird species, and wildlife. They offer insights into Montana’s rich natural heritage, suitable for birders of all levels.
  6. Popular birding areas like National Wildlife Refuges, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park provide a variety of ecosystems to observe an extensive range of bird species in their natural habitats.
  7. Whether in alpine regions, wetlands, or specific birding habitats, Montana’s diverse landscapes offer a rewarding birding experience for enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Best Montana Birding Tours

A woman uses binoculars to observe birds during Montana birding tours.

Birdwatching tours in Montana offer a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the state’s diverse natural spaces. These tours, led by expert guides, take you to some of the best birding spots. They ensure you catch glimpses of native and migratory species in their habitats.

With its diverse habitats, scenic landscapes, and abundant wildlife, here are the top recommendations for birding tours across Montana.

1. Kaiyote Tours

A small brown bird perched atop a wooden birdhouse roof during Montana birding tours with Kaiyote Tours.
source: facebook.com

Kaiyote Tours is all about creating unforgettable wildlife experiences in Montana. Their Southwestern Montana Multi-day Tour is a dream for bird watchers, especially with the Lewis & Clark Birding Trail as part of the adventure.

This 8-day birding tour kicks off in Bozeman, starting your Montana birding exploration right after landing at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. From there, you’ll be taken to your initial night’s stay in or near Bozeman to rest up for the exciting days ahead.

Here’s a glimpse of the schedule of Kaiyote Tours’ 8-day Montana Birding Tour:

  1. Day 1: Bozeman – Upon your arrival at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), transportation will be provided to take you to your lodging location for the first night, which will be either in Bozeman or in its vicinity.
  2. Day 2: Birding Bozeman – Brings you right into birding paradise in Bozeman, with highlights like the Gallatin Valley before ending amid the natural wonders at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park.
  3. Day 3: Lewis and Clark Caverns – Starts with riparian areas along the Jefferson River — an early morning treat for serious bird enthusiasts.
  4. Day 4: Bannack – The distance between the campsite and the next destination at Bannack State Park is 95 miles (153 km). The plan is to take the scenic route and make stops at Ennis Lake and other places along the Madison River.
  5. Day 5: Bannack – Bannack is situated in a convenient location that provides easy access to several great birding spots, such as Clark Canyon Reservoir and other prime locations in Dillon.
  6. Day 6: Canyon Ferry and The Missouri River – For higher elevation birds and breathtaking landscapes, you’ll journey through Deer Lodge to the Missouri River reservoir in Helena.
  7. Day 7: Canyon Ferry and The Missouri River – Focusing on the Missouri River’s picturesque spots and the Helena locations, ensuring you get the best of both worlds — valley and mountain bird sightings.
  8. Day 8: Drop off in Bozeman – Later in the day, you will be transported to Bozeman airport to catch your flight back home.

Kaiyote Tours suggests car camping as the best way to experience the tour, ensuring you get close to as many bird and wildlife spots as possible. Their comfortable camping gear makes nights under Montana’s starry sky a delight.

2. Merlin Birding Tours

A brown and white bird with its beak open perched on a branch during Montana birding tours with Merlin Birding Tours.
source: facebook.com

Merlin Birding and Nature Tours prioritize quality by crafting intimate experiences for you, limiting each tour to 12 participants. Their direct approach means you get more for your money, with their owner-guides leading the way.

Merlin Birding Tours aims to showcase a wide range of birds and habitats while also highlighting cultural and historical landmarks, making your adventure even richer. Their care goes beyond the experience; they’re also dedicated to offsetting their travel carbon footprint.

Every tour fee includes this cost and contributes to local conservation efforts. Plus, their partnership with Montana Audubon, a key bird conservation group, shows their commitment to sustainable birding and a deep love for Montana’s natural beauty.

Here’s a quick look at what Merlin Birding Tours offers compared to other options:

AspectMerlin Birding Tours
Group SizeKept small (around 12 participants)
GuidesOwned and led by guides for a more direct, owner-guided experience
Special EmphasisIncludes cultural and historical highlights alongside birding for a well-rounded trip
Sustainability FocusCarbon offsets included in tour fees and contributions to Montana Audubon illustrate their sustainable values

With Merlin, you’re not just birdwatching, you’re joining a mindful venture that respects both the environment and the local communities.

3. Glacier Birding Adventures

A brownish-gray bird perched on a branch during Montana birding tours with Glacier Birding Adventures.
source: facebook.com

Glacier Birding Adventures is all about sharing Montana’s breathtaking vistas and diverse wildlife species. These personalized tours let you tailor your adventure, focusing on the birds and animals you’re most excited to see.

It’s owned and operated by Joshua Covill, who has been an integral part of Montana’s birding community for years. Not only that, the tours are priced per group, making them a great choice for families, friends, or solo travelers eager to explore together.

Here is how the pricing works with Glacier Birding Adventures:

Half-dayUp to 5 hours$200
Full-dayUp to 10 hours$300
All day11 or more hours$400

Carpooling is suggested to be mindful of the environment and maximize your experience. It not only reduces the number of vehicles traveling but also fosters a shared and memorable experience among participants.

Glacier Birding Adventures presents a platform to immerse yourself in Montana’s natural beauty and its amazing wildlife, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and bird lovers.

4. Rockjumper

A colorful bird with a distinctive black eye stripe perched on a branch during Montana birding tours with Rockjumper.
source: facebook.com

Rockjumper stands out with its birding adventures that span the globe, including an epic Montana & Wyoming: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem tour. They understand that Yellowstone Park is a huge draw for birders, but the real magic extends far beyond its boundaries.

This specific tour is a dream for bird watchers, carefully balancing bird-spotting with plenty of time for nature photography or exploring local culture. Here’s a peek at what Rockjumper has in store over the 7-day itinerary:

DayActivitiesOvernight Accommodation
1Kick-off in Bozeman, then a scenic drive to Livingston.Livingston
2Morning Prairie Birding at Cottonwood Reservoir and Shields Valley, evening in Gardiner.Gardiner
3Paradise Valley birding, afternoon Yellowstone wildlife, overnight in Gardiner.Gardiner
4All-day wildlife and birds trip to Yellowstone National Park, camp in Cooke City.Cooke City
5Lamar Valley all-day wildlife and bird adventure, overnight in Cooke City.Cooke City
6Cross Beartooth Pass to Red Lodge.Red Lodge
7Birding stops at West Rosebud and Bridger Creek, and returns to Bozeman.Bozeman

This tour is designed for every pace, promising an adventure that blends the thrill of spotting rare birds with the joy of taking it all in. There’s no rush, just the subtle call of nature and the camera-ready beauty of Montana and Wyoming.

5. Montana Bird Advocacy

A bird gliding against a clear sky during Montana birding tours with Montana Bird Advocacy.
source: facebook.com

Organization NameMontana Bird Advocacy
Year Established2017
LocationMissoula, Montana
FocusBirding tours and conservation advocacy

Montana Bird Advocacy stands out as a beacon of dedication in the realm of birding tours. Starting in 2017 in the heart of Missoula, they’ve spread their wings to not only showcase Montana’s avian wonders but also to create a global community passionate about bird conservation. 

The focus of Montana Bird Advocacy goes beyond just watching birds. It’s about understanding and preserving their habitats, ensuring a vibrant ecosystem thrives for generations.

Every journey with them isn’t just an adventure but also an educational experience. Whether they are leading tours to Montana’s majestic landscapes or to tropical paradises, the core remains the same — to educate and advocate for the conservation of birds.

Through their efforts, they aim to enrich our understanding of native bird species, especially those less documented. They pinpoint critical habitats to shed light on the challenges these areas face and strive to update us on the current status and biology of local bird populations. 

6. Wild Latitudes

A western meadowlark with its beak open perched atop a branch during Montana birding tours with Wild Latitudes.
source: facebook.com

Tour ProviderWild Latitudes
OwnersSteve Robertson and Ivan Phillipsen
Tour NameWild Latitudes Montana Birding and Wildlife Tour
Tour FocusMontana birding and wildlife
ExpertiseOver 30 years of combined experience

Wild Latitudes, owned by Steve Robertson and Ivan Phillipsen, is a standout choice for those who want an all-encompassing wildlife experience while focusing on birding. With over 30 years of experience leading tours that celebrate nature, these two guides bring a wealth of knowledge and passion to every trip. 

Although birding is their primary focus, Steve and Ivan ensure that their tours offer a diverse and enriching experience by embracing all facets of wildlife. Their Montana birding and wildlife tour is a prime example of this commitment.

Here are some tour highlights that reflect their dedication to exploring the natural world:

  • Special Grassland Birds – Unveiling the charm of special grassland birds like the Upland Sandpiper and Chestnut-collared Longspur on Montana’s Glaciated Plains.
  • Glacier National Park – Getting on a journey to Glacier National Park, where the hopes are high for encounters with iconic species like the Black and Grizzly Bears and Mountain Goat, alongside an array of boreal bird species.
  • Buffalo Jump State Park – Observing the graceful flight of raptors, combined with glimpses of Prairie Dogs, at Buffalo Jump State Park.
  • Big Mountain – Soaring to new heights, both literally and metaphorically, by taking the ski lift to the apex of Big Mountain, which looms above the Flathead Valley.
  • National Bison Range – Gaining intimate encounters with Bison, Elk, Pronghorn, and various other wildlife at the National Bison Range.

Wild Latitudes’ approach to wildlife tours ensures that every participant not only deepens their birding skills but also walks away with a greater appreciation for nature’s interconnected beauty.

7. Red Hill Birding

A bird with dark plumage speckled with shades of pink and brown perches atop a stone during Montana birding tours with Red Hill Birding.
source: facebook.com

Birding Tour CompanyRed Hill Birding
Tour NameRed Hill Birding Summer Birding Tour
Tour FocusSummer birding tour in Montana
Highlighted SpeciesBaird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Dusky Grouse, Mountain Plover, Black Rosy-Finch

Red Hill Birding is your ticket to nature’s live gallery in the heart of Montana. Their summer birding tour captures the essence of Montana’s natural beauty during the breeding season. It’s like exploring a landscape that’s like a wildlife wonderland, where every glimpse is a magical encounter.

They make sure you keep your binoculars busy with birds that are both expected and thrilling to find, like Baird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, and the majestic Dusky Grouse. And just when you think it can’t get any better, say hello to Mountain Plover and Black Rosy-Finch, extending the excitement of your experience.

What sets this trip apart is its canvas, Montana in the summer season, big, bold, and breathtaking. The grandeur of the Rocky Mountains serves as a backdrop while you explore a variety of habitats. 

To top it all off and round out your summer adventure, you’ll get to visit Yellowstone National Park. Not only does it feature a stunning variety of birds, but you’ll also witness herds of majestic bison and other beautiful, large mammals, adding an unforgettable element to your Montana summer birding. 

8. Naturalist Journeys

A nuthatch perches amid pine needles during Montana birding tours with Naturalist Journeys.
source: facebook.com

Tour ProviderNaturalist Journeys
Group SizeLimited to 8-10 people
Experience FocusComprehensive wildlife experience in Yellowstone National Park

Naturalist Journeys opens the door to a rich tapestry of adventures in the wild and untamed territories of the American West. For over 40 years, their expertly crafted Yellowstone wildlife tours have been the standard for those seeking not just landscapes but depth in experiences. 

Their limited group sizes of 8-10 people offer an intimate setting for exploration, ensuring that every guest gets the full attention of their seasoned guides. For those keen on exclusive interactions with nature, this is a dream come true. 

One of their flagship offerings, the Yellowstone: Birds, Bears & Wildlife Tour, is a showcase of nature’s artistry and power. Here’s what you can expect on this tour:

  • The Yellowstone Ecosystem – Start by exploring the west side of the Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to a diverse range of wildlife, including Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and Moose in Red Rock Lakes NWR and Harriman State Park.
  • Madison River – Traverse the Madison River, a corridor teeming with Elk herds and birdlife, offering a remarkable entry point from West Yellowstone.
  • Bird Species – Encounter a variety of bird species, including the Mountain Bluebird and 3 species of Sapsuckers at their nest holes, with the possibility of witnessing the unique courtship displays of Ruffed or Dusky Grouse. Also delight in the sight of Osprey, Bald Eagles, and American Dipper.
  • Game Animals – In the expansive Lamar Valley, behold the majestic sight of hundreds of Elk with their young, as well as the surefooted Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep, completing this truly comprehensive wildlife experience.

Overall, the Yellowstone: Birds, Bears & Wildlife tour offered by Naturalist Journeys promises a truly immersive and unforgettable experience in one of America’s most iconic national parks.

9. Big Sky Safaris

A black and white bird gracefully soaring against a clear sky during Montana birding tours with Big Sky Safaris.
source: facebook.com

Company NameBig Sky Safaris
LeadershipRenowned biologist, writer, wildlife illustrator, and photographer
ExpertiseUnparalleled expertise with deep ties to Montana’s wildlife, including studies at the National Bison Range and Yellowstone National Park
Bird Species DiversityMajestic owls, eagles, chickadee species (Mountain Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee), Barrow’s goldeneyes, common goldeneyes, Trumpeter swans

Big Sky Safaris, led by a renowned biologist, writer, wildlife illustrator, and photographer, stands out as a top choice for birding tours in Montana. With deep ties to the state, including studies of wild birds at the National Bison Range and Yellowstone National Park, the expertise offered is unparalleled.

Montana’s diverse landscapes create a haven for birding enthusiasts of all levels. From the majestic owls and eagles often visible from the state’s highways to the captivating chickadee species, including the Mountain Chickadee and Black-capped Chickadee, the birding opportunities are endless.

One of the unique attractions that Big Sky Safaris offers is the chance to witness the seasonal abundance. You can witness Barrow’s goldeneyes outnumbering common goldeneyes. You also see the resurgence of the once-endangered Trumpeter swans, the largest waterfowl species native to North America. 

Guided by Big Sky Safaris, your birding experience is not just about observing, it’s about discovery and appreciation. The accuracy and knowledge brought by the team enhance every moment, ensuring you spot the most elusive species and gain a deeper understanding of Montana’s avian richness.

Best Montana Birding Areas

A small bird hangs upside down as it forages among the green leaves of a sunlit tree during one of the Montana birding tours.

Looking for the best spots for bird-watching in Montana? You’re in for a treat as the state is home to a variety of landscapes that attract a rich diversity of bird species.

These top birding areas are known for not only their scenic beauty but also the abundance of bird life, making them perfect for both beginners and seasoned birders alike. Let me guide you through the most promising areas to see your favorite feathered friends.

Montana National Parks

A forest with snow-capped mountains in the background at Glacier National Park, one of the best areas for Montana birding tours.

Bird SpeciesGlacier National ParkYellowstone National Park
Total Species260Nearly 300
Unique SpeciesHarlequin ducksRaptors, songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl
Regular CrowdBlue herons, tundra swans, Canada geese, great horned owlsBald eagles, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, hawks
Resident SpeciesBald eagles, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, hawksApproximately 150 species nesting within the par

Montana’s two major national parks, Glacier and Yellowstone, are a paradise for birders like us. Here’s why:

  • Glacier National Park – It is one of the best places to see Harlequin ducks in the lower 48 states. You can also spot blue herons, tundra swans, Canada geese, and great horned owls. The area is home to year-round residents like bald eagles, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, and hawks.
  • Yellowstone National Park – With its history of bird tracking dating back to its early days in 1872, it boasts a rich mix of raptors, songbirds, shorebirds, and waterfowl. What sets Yellowstone apart is its diverse landscape and elevations, creating homes for both resident and migratory birds alike.

It quickly becomes clear that both parks are not only breathtaking with their natural beauty but also vast sanctuaries for our feathered friends.

Montana Valleys and Mountains

A scenic vista showcasing the beauty of the valley and mountains of the Bridger Mountains, one of the best areas for Montana birding tours.

Montana’s birding charm isn’t just about the plains or wetlands. Its valleys and mountains are stepping stones for nature’s grand aerial shows. Here are the key spots that any birding enthusiast shouldn’t miss:

  • Flathead and Mission Valleys – These valleys host not only numerous resident bird species but also thousands of birds on their migratory journey through Montana. It’s a real treat for bird watchers, offering several locations ideal for adding new sightings to your life list.
  • Missoula Valley – This valley boasts a birding and nature trail, a dedicated space that lets birders, naturalists, and eco-tourists easily access prime birding zones. Sprawling from urban spots to more remote stretches, birding enthusiasts have an array of wildlife to explore.
  • Bitterroot Valley – Known for its diverse habitats, ranging from marshy lands to dense forests, the Bitterroot Valley’s birding areas cater to all preferences. Birders here get a mix of experiences, perfect for those looking to discover a variety of species.
  • The Bridger Mountains – October paints the Bridger Mountains as the epicenter for Golden Eagle migration, marking one of the largest spectacles in the lower 48 states. Bridger Bowl Ski Area presents a special viewpoint from the mountain peaks, offering a grandstand view for witnessing not just Golden Eagles but over a dozen other raptor species.

Montana’s valleys and mountains are awe-inspiring natural wonders and havens for birds. Whether you explore the Flathead or Mission Valleys, you will be rewarded with remarkable birding experiences that will create memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Montana NWRs and WMAs

Ducks swimming among tall reeds at Benton Lake, an area perfect for Montana birding tours.

Montana’s birding adventures often start at places rich in wildlife, like the National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). Here’s a look at some of the state’s top spots for birdwatching:

  • Freezout Lake WMA – This area is a key stopover for over 100,000 Snow and Ross’s geese during the spring and fall migrations, offering a spectacular sight for bird enthusiasts.
  • Benton Lake NWR – A short drive from Freezout, Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is home to a variety of nesting species including Short-eared and Burrowing Owls, White-faced Ibis, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and more. It’s also a prime spot to observe waterfowl and shorebirds.
  • Ninepipe NWR – A single observation point in the wetland areas of Ninepipe reveals a bustling scene of waterfowl, Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as several hawks and falcons. The view is enhanced by the stunning backdrop of the Mission Mountains.
  • National Bison Range – Adjacent to Ninepipe, the range offers a unique mix of grassland and higher-altitude bird species. Visitors can spot Grasshopper Sparrow, Gray Partridge, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Bluebird, and many more, making it a birding hotspot.

These spots aren’t just about watching birds. They offer a chance to see the interconnected beauty of Montana’s landscapes and its diverse avian population.

Montana Birding Tours Final Thoughts

A flock of ducks in mid-flight against a backdrop of a clear blue sky during one of the Montana birding tours.
source: flickr.com

Montana’s birding tours offer an exceptional way to gain insight into the state’s remarkable natural landscapes and witness its rich birdlife. With various specialized tours, from intimate experiences with Merlin Birding Tours to guided adventures with Wild Latitudes, there’s a tour for every bird enthusiast’s dreams.

These tours are crafted not only for birdwatching but also to instill a deep appreciation for conservation and environmental stewardship, making them an inspiring journey. Led by knowledgeable guides, they not only focus on the diverse bird species but also showcase Montana’s stunning habitats.

Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a new enthusiast, Montana’s tours promise unforgettable moments in nature. As you consider taking on one of these tours, remember that they offer more than just a look at birds. They provide a chance to connect with the natural world and be part of ongoing efforts to protect it.

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Written by:

Elizabeth Hawley
Hey, fellow travelers! I'm Elizabeth Hawley, stepping into the world in the hues of fall. For me, Montana is more than just a state; it's a muse. The golden aspen trees and russet landscapes in the fall have always fueled my creativity. Co-founding PocketMontana.com was a no-brainer, blending my love for art, photography, and Montana's ever-changing palette.

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