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Bird Checklists of the United States

Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Medicine Lake, Montana


Welcome to Medicine Lake and your National Wildlife Refuge System!

Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge is situated in the transition zone between the tall grass prairies of North Dakota and the short grass prairies of central Montana. The varied habitat, which includes marshes, native grasslands, and shrublands, provides nesting areas for a myriad of waterfowl, shorebirds, and small passerines. The Refuge is also an important flyway migration stop for "far north" nesters such as whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, tundra swans, and boreal forest nesting warblers.

The following bird list contains 228 species sighted on the Refuge since 1935, including 106 species that have been known to nest on the Refuge. Any season of the year is excellent for bird watching, except during the winter months when northeast Montana can be quite inhospitable. Spring migration of most birds is well under way by mid-May and fall migration generally starts around September 1.

How to use your checklist.

To be sure of correct identification, most birders rely heavily on one of the popular "field guides" to birds, such as those sponsored by the National Audubon Society. These guides usually have colored illustrations, interesting facts and descriptions of all species presented. The order in which the descriptions appear is generally the same as that used in this leaflet.

Seasonal appearance of each bird at Medicine Lake during Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter is indicated by the columns of the checklist labeled Sp, S, F, W.

The abundance of each bird is designated in the shaded areas by the letters a, c, u, o, r, - abundant, common, uncommon, occasional, or rare.


Birds known to nest on the refuge are indicated by a "*".
Birds known to have nested on the Refuge but considered rare nesters are indicated by a "#".
The relative abundance of each species for each season is coded as follows:

Sp - March-May
S - June-August
F - September-November
W - December-February

a - abundant: certain to be seen, very numerous
c - common: certain to be seen in suitable habitat
u - uncommon: might see in suitable habitat
o - occasional: seen only a few times each season
r - rare: seen at intervals of 2 to 5 years


LOONS Sp S F W ___ Common Loon o - o -
GREBES Sp S F W ___ Pied-billed Grebe* c c c - ___ Horned Grebe* c c u - ___ Eared Grebe* a a u - ___ Red-necked Grebe r r r - ___ Western Grebe* a a u -
PELICANS, CORMORANTS Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican* a a a - ___ Double-crested Cormorant* a a a -
BITTERNS, HERONS, IBISES Sp S F W ___ American Bittern* c c c - ___ Great Blue Heron* c c c - ___ Great Egret r - - - ___ Snowy Egret r - - - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron* c c u - ___ White-faced Ibis r r - -
SWANS, GEESE, DUCKS Sp S F W ___ Tundra Swan (whistling swan) c - c - ___ Greater White-fronted Goose u - a - ___ Snow Goose u - c - ___ Ross' Goose o - o - ___ Canada Goose* a a a o ___ Wood Duck o r o - ___ Green-winged Teal* a c a - ___ American Black Duck o r o - ___ Mallard* a a a r ___ Northern Pintail* a a c - ___ Blue-winged Teal* a a c - ___ Cinnamon Teal* o r r - ___ Northern Shoveler* a a a - ___ Gadwall* a a a - ___ American Wigeon* c c a - ___ Canvasback* c u c - ___ Redhead* c c c - ___ Ring-necked Duck# u r u - ___ Lesser Scaup* a a a - ___ Oldsquaw - - r - ___ White-winged Scoter - - r - ___ Common Goldeneye u - u - ___ Barrow's Goldeneye r - o - ___ Bufflehead# c r u - ___ Hooded Merganser o - o - ___ Common Merganser u - u - ___ Red-breasted Merganser o - o - ___ Ruddy Duck* a c a -
VULTURES, HAWKS, EAGLES, FALCONS Sp S F W ___ Turkey Vulture o o o - ___ Osprey r - r - ___ Bald Eagle u - u o ___ Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk)* c c c o ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk o - o - ___ Cooper's Hawk o - o - ___ Northern Goshawk o - o o ___ Swainson's Hawk* c c c - ___ Red-tailed Hawk* u u u - ___ Ferruginous Hawk* o o o - ___ Rough-legged Hawk o - o u ___ Golden Eagle# u u u u ___ American Kestrel# u o u - ___ Merlin u o u - ___ Peregrine Falcon o o o - ___ Prairie Falcon u u u u ___ Gyrfalcon - - r r
PARTRIDGES, PHEASANT, GROUSE Sp S F W ___ Gray Partridge* c c c c ___ Ring-necked Pheasant* a a a a ___ Sharp-tailed Grouse* c c c c
RAILS, CRANES Sp S F W ___ Yellow Rail r r r - ___ Virginia Rail* o u u - ___ Sora* u c c - ___ American Coot* a a a - ___ Sandhill Crane c r c - ___ Whooping Crane r - r -
SHOREBIRDS, GULLS, TERNS Sp S F W ___ Black-bellied Plover o - o - ___ American Golden Plover (Lesser Gol-Pl.) r - o - ___ Semipalmated Plover u - o - ___ Piping Plover* u u r - ___ Killdeer* a a c - ___ Black-necked Stilt r - - - ___ American Avocet* c a c - ___ Greater Yellowlegs c u c - ___ Lesser Yellowlegs c u u - ___ Solitary Sandpiper u - u - ___ Willet* c c u - ___ Spotted Sandpiper* c c u - ___ Upland Sandpiper* c c c - ___ Whimbrel r - - - ___ Long-billed Curlew# o r o - ___ Marbled Godwit* c a c - ___ Hudsonian Godwit o - - - ___ Ruddy Turnstone r - o - ___ Red Knot u - u - ___ Sanderling c u u - ___ Semipalmated Sandpiper u - o - ___ Western Sandpiper u - u - ___ Least Sandpiper u - u - ___ White-rumped Sandpiper o o - - ___ Baird's Sandpiper u - u - ___ Pectoral Sandpiper u - u - ___ Dunlin o - o - ___ Stilt Sandpiper u o u - ___ Short-billed Dowitcher o - o - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher u c u - ___ Common Snipe* u u u - ___ Wilson's Phalarope* c u c - ___ Red-necked Phalarope u o o - ___ Franklin's Gull* c a a - ___ Bonaparte's Gull o o o - ___ Ring-billed Gull* a a c - ___ California Gull* a a c - ___ Glaucous Gull r - r - ___ Caspian Tern# u o u - ___ Common Tern* c u u - ___ Forster's Tern* c u u - ___ Black Tern* u u u -
DOVES Sp S F W ___ Rock Dove* u u u u ___ Mourning Dove* c c c -
CUCKOOS Sp S F W ___ Black-billed Cuckoo* u u - -
OWLS Sp S F W ___ Eastern Screech-Owl r - r - ___ Great Horned Owl* u u u u ___ Snowy Owl o - o u ___ Burrowing Owl* u u o - ___ Long-eared Owl r - - - ___ Short-eared Owl* c c c o
GOATSUCKERS, SWIFTS, HUMMINGBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Common Nighthawk* u u o - ___ Chimney Swift r - - - ___ Ruby-throated Hummingbird - r - -
KINGFISHERS, WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher* o o o - ___ Red-headed Woodpecker r r r - ___ Downy Woodpecker r - r o ___ Hairy Woodpecker r - r o ___ Northern Flicker# u u u r
FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Western Wood-Pewee o o - - ___ Willow Flycatcher o u - - ___ Least Flycatcher u u - - ___ Say's Phoebe u u - - ___ Western Kingbird* a a o - ___ Eastern Kingbird* a a o -
LARKS, SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark* a a a c ___ Purple Martin r r - - ___ Tree Swallow* u o u - ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow* u o u - ___ Bank Swallow* a a u - ___ Cliff Swallow* a a u - ___ Barn Swallow* c c u -
JAYS, MAGPIES, CROWS Sp S F W ___ Blue Jay - - r - ___ Black-billed Magpie* c c c c ___ American Crow* u u c -
CHICKADEES, NUTHATCHES, CREEPERS Sp S F W ___ Black-capped Chickadee o o o o ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch - - r r ___ Brown Creeper u r r -
WRENS Sp S F W ___ House Wren* u u o - ___ Sedge Wren* o o o - ___ Marsh Wren* c c c -
KINGLETS, BLUEBIRDS, THRUSHES Sp S F W ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet - - r - ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet o - o - ___ Eastern Bluebird o - o - ___ Mountain Bluebird u - - - ___ Townsend's Solitaire r - r - ___ Veery o o o - ___ Swainson's Thrush u - o - ___ Hermit Thrush r - - - ___ American Robin* c c c -
THRASHERS, PIPITS Sp S F W ___ Gray Catbird* u u o - ___ Brown Thrasher* c c o - ___ American Pipit (Water Pipit) o - u - ___ Sprague's Pipit* o o o -
WAXWINGS, SHRIKES, STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ Bohemian Waxwing o - o u ___ Cedar Waxwing u - o u ___ Northern Shrike o - o - ___ Loggerhead Shrike* o o o - ___ European Starling* u u u o
VIREOS Sp S F W ___ Solitary Vireo o - o - ___ Warbling Vireo o o o - ___ Red-eyed Vireo o o o -
WOOD WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Orange-crowned Warbler o o - - ___ Nashville Warbler o o - - ___ Yellow Warbler* u u o - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler o o - - ___ Black-throated Green Warbler - r - - ___ Common Yellowthroat* u u o - ___ Wilson's Warbler o o - - ___ Blackpoll Warbler o o - - ___ Black-and-white Warbler o r o - ___ American Redstart* u u o - ___ Ovenbird o o o - ___ Northern Waterthrush o - o - ___ MacGillivray's Warbler r r - - ___ Yellow-breasted chat* u u o -
GROSBEAKS, BUNTINGS, SPARROWS Sp S F W ___ Rose-breasted Grosbeak o o - - ___ Black-headed Grosbeak r - o - ___ Lazuli Bunting r r r - ___ Dickcissel r r - - ___ Rufous-sided Towhee o o - - ___ American Tree Sparrow c - c o ___ Chipping Sparrow* u u - - ___ Clay-colored Sparrow* a a u - ___ Brewer's Sparrow* u - u - ___ Field Sparrow o - o - ___ Vesper Bparrow* u u u - ___ Lark Sparrow* o o o - ___ Lark Bunting* c c - - ___ Savannah Sparrow* a a u - ___ Baird's Sparrow* c c u - ___ Grasshopper Sparrow* c c u - ___ Le Conte's Sparrow* u o u - ___ Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow* o o o - ___ Fox Sparrow o - o - ___ Lincoln's Sparrow u - u - ___ Song Sparrow* c c c - ___ White-throated Sparrow u - c - ___ White-crowned Sparrow c - u - ___ Harris' Sparrow u - u - ___ Dark-eyed Junco u - a u ___ McCown's Longspur u u u - ___ Lapland Longspur - - o - ___ Chestnut-collared Longspur* a a c - ___ Snow Bunting - - c c
MEADOWLARKS, BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES Sp S F W ___ Bobolink* u c o - ___ Red-winged Blackbird* c c c r ___ Western Meadowlark* a a a - ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird* a a c - ___ Brewer's Blackbird* c c u - ___ Common Grackle* u u u - ___ Brown-headed Cowbird* a a c - ___ Orchard Oriole r - - - ___ Northern Oriole* u u o -
FINCHES, WEAVER FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Pine Grosbeak - - r - ___ Purple Finch - - - u ___ Common Redpoll u - - u ___ American Goldfinch* o o o - ___ Evening Grosbeak - - r r ___ House Sparrow* c c c c

For additional information contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge
                 223 North Shore Road
                 Medicine Lake, Montana 59247
                 Telephone: 406/789-2305
This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1988.  Birds of the Medicine Lake National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1988.  Birds of the Medicine Lake National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govmedicine.htm  
     (Version 1996).

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