We use the best available science to ensure the survival of Montana's birds and other wildlife.
Fall of 2016 was the 26th consecutive season of raptor migration monitoring along the Bridger Mountains. That’s a lot of time with thousands of eagles and other birds of prey sighted and recorded. The project was outlined in Bird Watching Magazine.
We monitor fall raptor migration at a site 15 miles NE of Bozeman. This is the most important Golden Eagle population monitoring site in the Western US. Montana Audubon began to run this project, in collaboration with HawkWatch International, in 2009. The long-term data collected enables scientists to learn more about raptor migration patterns as well as regional and continental population trends. The Bridger project is also designed to monitor widespread environmental changes, using these apex predators as barometers of ecological health.
Final reports for each year of study can be found below.
Come visit the monitoring site: Our raptor watchers enjoy having visitors, and if you’re a hawk migration enthusiast, you could help give our folks a much deserved day off!
Directions: Follow Bridger Canyon Road to the entrance to Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Follow the only road (it turns to dirt) past the ski lodges for ~ 1.5 miles to the parking area (and locked gate). Hike to the crest of the ridge (and the top of the ski area) generally paralleling the chairlift, following the footpath or preferably the jeep road. Near the top of the ridge the jeep road ends; follow the trail for another half-mile to the top of the ridge. The viewing point is the concrete helipad atop the Bridger Ridge, 200′ north of the ski hut where the trail crests the ridge. The total hiking distance is about 2 miles (and 2200′ elevation gain).
Bridger Project Overview:
The purpose of this project is to continue the long-term monitoring of migratory raptor populations using the Bridger Mountain Flyway, with an emphasis on Golden Eagles. This project was begun by HawkWatch International (HWI) in 1991, and has continued each season since.
During the past decade the Golden Eagle counts have declined. These declines have been corroborated by eagle counts taken at several other sites in western North America. The specific cause of these eagle declines is presently unknown, but is possibly due to deleterious changes in habitat and the associated prey base. More study is needed to determine the cause of the population decline, as well as its severity and extent. Annual scientific counts in the Bridgers are essential to assess population trends of this widespread, top-of-the-food-chain, avian predator.
Funding: Funding for the Bridger count has been generously provided by Bridger Bowl Ski Area, the US Forest Service (Gallatin National Forest), NaturEner USA, Sacajawea Audubon Society (Bozeman-based Audubon chapter), and individual Montana Audubon donors. If you would like to contribute, please, call our office at 406.443.3949.
Montana Audubon is helping compile all known Golden Eagle nest locations. If you are aware of any active Golden Eagle nests, please fill out a simple report and submit to the Montana Natural Heritage Program – simple options for reporting are clearly described HERE.
OR you can get information directly to us: simply record date, activity, and location. You can “pin” it on google earth and send us the spatial information, or we can send you a map of the area and you can make your mark. Of course you can also use a GPS device and record the approximate location.
The Montana Bird Conservation Partnership has initiated a working group to address research and monitoring needs, potential declines, and threats to Golden Eagles in our state. Nest site locations will help us conserve these eagles, especially with regards to energy development in our state.
Thanks to members of the Montana Bird Conservation Partnership