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Glacier's Birds of Prey

Glacier’s Birds of Prey

Dave Shea, M.S.

Raptors have been immortalized as symbolic heralds in literature, served as important indicators in uncovering the effects of pesticides on wildlife, and they patrol our skies connecting us to an ancient, evolutionary past. During our two days together, we will discuss the life histories, habits, physical characteristics, distribution, and management policies of Glacier’s full suite of birds of prey. We will focus, in particular, on the Bald Eagle population in the Park, and why it has risen and fallen dramatically in recent years.

*Note:  One night of lodging at Field Camp is included in the course fee.  If you do not require lodging, call the registrar at 406-755-1211 to subtract $32 from your course fee at the time of booking.*

Meeting Place: Glacier Park Field Camp Meeting Hall

Accommodations: Additional lodging can be purchased for $32/person/night at the Glacier Institute Field Camp on a bluff overlooking the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.  Facilities include bunkhouses, a community bathhouse, a classroom, a library and a kitchen.  Please call the registrar at 406-755-1211 to book lodging.

Food: Students are responsible for all of their own food. Please bring a sack lunch for each day in the field.  We may eat lunch out at a restaurant on the second day if the group is interested. For students staying overnight at camp, we have a kitchen in which you can cook meals and space available for food storage.

Equipment: Please see basic gear list. Please bring binoculars, field notebook and camera, if you wish. Your favorite field guides are helpful and if you have a spotting scope you are welcome to bring it along. Weather can be varied so please be prepared with appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes or hiking boots.

Physical Requirements: Moderate hikes, on- trail or off-trail, less than three miles with up to 1,000 feet elevation gain.

Transportation during course: We will be traveling in a Glacier Institute vehicle.

Weather: This course will not be canceled due to inclement weather. 

Recommended Reading:

We will provide Glacier Park bird checklists and other handouts during the course and display several pertinent books for further reference.  The following field guides will provide helpful background information:

A Field Guide to Western Birds, R.T. Peterson, 1990.

A Field Guide to Hawks#35, Peterson Field Guide Series.

Tentative Itinerary:

Saturday:  We will spend the morning in camp looking at slides and specimens, and getting an overview of raptors in general and Glacier’s birds of prey in particular.   Further morning activities will include a visit by a local raptor rehabilitator with several live birds. In the afternoon, we will travel to the foot of Lake McDonald and make our way from there down lower McDonald Creek (approximately 2 1/2 miles) to the site of the former annual Bald Eagle congregation. Once there, we will look at feeding and roosting sites. We’ll also look at fish, flora, beaver work and other signs of wildlife, and have plenty of time for birding and photography. As an alternative, we may drive up the North Fork to Polebridge and look for nesting Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owls.  Dinner is on your own at Field Camp.

Sunday:  We’ll meet at 8 AM at the Field Camp and travel to the east-side of the Park and around the outer roads (approximately 200 miles round trip).  We’ll spend the day looking at nesting and migrating raptors such as Eagles, Ospreys, Harriers, and Red-tailed, Ferruginous, and Swainson’s Hawks. We’ll also look at other east-side bird sites including prairie habitat and glacial potholes. We’ll return to West Glacier by 5 PM.