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montana bird distribution -- MBD

Montana Bird Distribution OVERVIEW

The Montana Bird Distribution (MBD) database contains information on the distribution and seasonal occurrence for each species of bird found in the state. The database is housed at the Montana Natural Heritage Program (MNHP) and is a cooperative project of Montana Audubon, the MNHP, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP).

Information from MBD database is used extensively to help us manage and conserve our birds, determine Montana's Species of Concern, inform MNHP and FWP's Field Guide, and is presently being used in writing the Birds of Montana Book Project.

For Rare Birds: the Bird Records Committee evaluates all reports of rare birds in Montana. Information about this committee, its role in rigorously reviewing records and the role of birders in understanding bird distribution is all HERE.

For online submission of general bird sightings, there are two methods for birders to share observations with the MBD. Additionally you can submit spreadsheets or paper copies of your sightings. These methods are detailed BELOW.

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Montana Bird Distribution - Current EDITION RELEASED IN June 2012MBD cover

The 7th edition of P.D. Skaar’s Montana Bird Distribution was released in June 2012. This book is an excellent companion to a field guide because it shows where birds are found in Montana: for every bird species ever observed in the state, maps show breeding and wintering areas. The new edition contains maps for 427 bird species observed in the state. For more information about this book, including sample pages, click HERE.

With this book, comes a new 2012 Bird Checklist. Paper copies of the checklist are available from the Montana Audubon office. However, if you want a copy immediately, download it HERE.

Purchasing Montana Bird Distribtion:

The 7th edition of P.D. Skaarr's Montana Bird Distribution is available for purchase. This new edition costs $15, plus $5 shipping and handling ($20 total). There are several ways to order the book:

  • Order by Mail. Send Montana Audubon a check for $20, to PO Box 595, Helena, MT 59624.
  • Order by Credit Card. Order a book by credit card by clicking HERE. Fill in the "Amount" of $20. Under "Gift Designation," select Montana Bird Distribution Book.
  • Wholesale Orders. Book stores can order books at wholesale prices. To receive an order form, send an email to

For more information about this project, contact Janet Ellis, Montana Audubon's Program Director, at 406-443-3949 or

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How to Submit Bird Records for montana bird distribution:

If you want to contribute bird observation records to Montana Bird Distribution, including future editions of the book, you can enter records online, enter them into a spreadsheet, or mail us a paper copy of your records:


  • Simple Animal Observations. A simple web-based data entry tool is available for general entry of bird sightings. This form can be used from any web browser, computer platform, or connection speed. To use this form (or check it out), click HERE.

  • eBird. Users can enter bird data through eBird, a cooperative project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. eBird is an internet-based checklist program that allows birders to post sightings, keep track of their bird lists, manage their personal records, and explore bird observations being reported by other birders. It also has a variety of informative reports available. eBird data will be incorporated into the MBD database at approximately annual intervals.
  • Natural Heritage Program - MapViewer and Natural Heritage Tracker. Both of these web applications can be used to view bird records via a dynamic map interface. Both applications also allow the user to see detailed information associated with individual records. The Natural Heritage MapViewer is based on newer technology, compatible with PCs and Macintosh computers, accessible from all web browsers, and compatible with slower internet connections. This application also allows users to generate bird lists for each QQLL. Observations can be entered in MapViewer under the “Generalized Observation” task option by clicking on the “Add an Animal Observation” link under the Tools menu. The Natural Heritage Tracker is based on older technology, is only compatible with PC computers and Internet Explorer, and requires a high speed internet connection; this application is intended to be phased out over the next few years. Observations can be added under the “Add Animal Observation” tab.


  • Adopt a small area called a quarter-quarter latilong (QQLL) and complete a simple Excel spreadsheet: Learn more about this easy to use system HERE. This simpler spreadsheet should be submitted by email to Janet Ellis at

  • Download a detailed Excel spreadsheet from the Natural Heritage Program: Use the spreadsheet located HERE to enter your bird sightings. Instructions on how to submit these records electronically can be found on the Tracker website.

  • Submit written records to: Montana Audubon PO Box 595 Helena, MT 59624. One simple way to record your handwritten records is to print a copy of the simple QQLL spreadsheet (see above), and use that spreadsheet to write in your records.

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