Montana Winter Raptor Workshop: Jan 09—13, 2015

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Please contact us if you would like more information on upcoming departures for this tour.

Departs: Missoula
Tour Limit: 13
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Itinerary: PDF (97.6 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Denver Holt

Denver Holt is a wildlife researcher and graduate of the University of Montana. He is founde...


Ron Rohrbaugh

Ron Rohrbaugh is Assistant Director of the Conservation Science Program at the Cornell Lab o...

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Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk— Photo: Greg W. Lasley

A highly scenic and educational tour emphasizing identification, biology, and habitats of diurnal birds of prey; chances for many species including accipiters, both eagles, Rough-legged Hawk, a range of Red-tailed morphs, and Gyrfalcon.

Western Montana boasts one of the largest populations of wintering birds of prey in the western United States. North of Missoula, the Mission Valley is a significant concentration area for these birds. Thirteen species of diurnal raptors winter in the valley including Northern Goshawk; Bald and Golden eagles; Northern Harrier; Red-tailed, Rough-legged, and, occasionally, Ferruginous hawks; Gyrfalcon; and others.

On this short trip, we will travel with renowned owl researcher Denver Holt, observing the marvelous diversity of birds of prey that reside each winter around Missoula and in the Mission Valley. As opposed to a general birding trip, this tour will focus on a specific group of birds: raptors, in which we will seek an array of accipiters, harriers, buteos, eagles, and falcons, emphasizing identification, biology, and adaptations. Many of these species present keen identification challenges, and our time in the field will afford plenty of practice separating species, sub-species, and confusing look-alikes.

We will explore the considerable plumage variation of Rough-legged Hawks, and work on identifying males, females, and immature birds. Red-tailed Hawks are common as well, and present a variety of color variations. We will search for “Harlan’s,” “Rufous,” “Brown,” and “Western” morphs of this species. This area also hosts up to five species of falcons and three species of accipiters, each presenting their own identification pitfalls.

Our focus on raptors will not stop us from noting other wintertime specialty birds; possibilities exist for seeing Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Shrike, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, Common Redpoll, and Pine Grosbeak. Complementing our birding, the snow-capped Mission Mountains present an exquisite scenic backdrop.

Good to very good accommodations and cuisine; cold days with winter weather possible.