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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Animal / Plant / Lichen Field Guide Help

The Field Guide help is divided into sections. Overview covers the background and history of this guide. How to Use the Guide covers navigation and search topics. The last two topics [Guide Contents, Additional Media] highlight the information sections of the Detailed Species page.


The Heritage Program zoologists, working in partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) recently completed a major upgrade to the on-line “Animal Field Guide”, a joint project of the two programs. This encyclopedic website combines information from the Heritage Program databases and MFWP to provide extensive, detailed profiles of nearly 650 species of vertebrate animals in Montana, including fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

The Field Guide offers a broad range of information, including species description and recognition, range, habitat, reproduction, food habits, ecology and management, and references. Photos, Montana range maps, and in some cases sounds, are also provided. Users can view lists of species by animal group or search by name.

How to Use the Guide

The Animal Field Guide was designed to be easy to use and to explore. We encourage you to take some time to look around the site and see all of the wonderful animals that call Montana home.

Finding an Animal
Search by Name
The Montana Online Field Guide is searchable by using the Species Lookup (located at upper right of the page). Type a common or scientific name and the search results will provide all animals matching the search query. It is also possible to search for multiple animals of a particular group. For example, typing BLUEBIRD will return all animals with bluebird in the name.
Search by Grouping
The organisms in the Montana Online Field Guide are currently organized in an increasingly more specific navigation tree, similar to the standard scientific hierarchy of animal classification (Kingdom - Phylum - Class - Order - Family - Genus - Species). The major vertebrate taxonomic groups (Classes), as well as Insects, are listed first at the “base” of the tree. Selecting a Class will branch the tree into more specific sub-groups (Orders) within the Class. Continuing this approach will lead to an individual Montana animal (Species), the “highest” branch on the tree. Sub-groups are labeled with the more commonly used name as well as the scientific name (ie. Shorebirds - Order Charadriiformes, Plovers - Family Charadriidae, Killdeer - Species Charadrius vociferus). It is also possible to move back down the tree, as well as return to the top, by using the navigation pathway located in the upper right-hand corner under the photo banner. Click to any level previously selected to return to that step in the process. This method allows for easy movement between animals of interest.
Navigating the Guide

Navigation of the Online Field Guide can be accomplished by either using the back and forward buttons on your browser or by the “hotlinked” navigation pathway found under the photo banner. Either method will allow movement back and forward to previously observed pages.

Guide Contents

Below are brief descriptions of the topics found in the Animal Field Guide. If a heading is missing from the page you are viewing, it means there is no information available for that topic.

Montana Species of Concern
Any species, designated by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFP) and Montana Natural Heritage Program (MTNHP) as having particular threats, declining population trends, or restricted distribution warranting special attention. A detailed explanation of the state/global codes is available, as well as an explanation of the agency status codes.
General Description
The basic physical characteristics of a species in all life stages (adult, subadult, juvenile, larva, etc) including size, shape, color, vocalization, etc.
Diagnostic Characteristics
The unique physical aspect(s) of a species separating it from a closely related species or a species similar in appearance.
The distribution of a species on the landscape.
The seasonal movement of a species between different necessary locations/habitats to fulfill biological requirements.
The natural location or environment where an organism resides.
Food Habits
The learned or acquired food preferences a species uses in its normal diet.
The relationship and interaction of a species with its environment/habitat.
Reproductive Characteristics
The physical attributes describing aspects of a species’ life cycle.
The development and implementation of strategies designed to conserve a species or its natural habitat.
Threats or Limiting Factors
The environmental or human-based cause(s) restricting a species’ success or presence in its habitat.
Citations and Sources
The professional references gathered and used to present the scientific information.
Additional Media

Included with each species account is an additional media section where other resources pertaining to the species is available for view or download. Types of media include maps of the species’ range in Montana, photographs, illustrations, as well as some sound files of calls and songs.

Range maps
Range maps for birds were created from the quarter latilong system developed by P. D. Skaar for his Montana Bird Distribution. If a species has ever occurred in a particular quarter latilong it is highlighted in pink. The range maps for all other species were created from existing observation data, including MTNHP observation databases and GAP analysis modeling of habitat and known habitat for each species.
Species photos, habitat photos, nest photos, and photos of tracks have been provided by professional and amateur photographers throughout the state. Additional photos are being added to the Field Guide continually.
Species illustrations of raptors, upland game birds, big game, and others are now available on the Field Guide. Montana Outdoors and The Field Guide to Montana Fishes provided these excellent illustrations.
Sound files
Over 150 sound files (.wav) of bird songs and calls from the Borrer Laboratory of Bioacustics and amphibian calls from the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network are available now. Additional calls are continually being added.