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On May 17, 2012, I discovered a black-throated sparrow. There are only ten reported observations in Montana. Two of those were in Missoula County, from 1968 and 1975. This male was singing from the tops of thick bitterbrush shrubs. It was still there when I returned three hours later to take photos.

Rare black-throated sparrow found on the ranch.

Black-throated sparrows breed south of Montana. There are a few populations in south-central Washington and central Oregon. Their main range is southern Idaho down through Nevada and Utah.

Rare black-throated sparrow close up.

No evidence of breeding has occurred in Montana. Maybe he traveled with a female, or maybe he is singing in vain.

About the Author

Eric Rasmussen

Eric received a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana in 2000, and soon after volunteered for his first bird research job in the arctic tundra of Alaska. Afterwards he worked for nine years, mostly in western Montana, on bird-related research projects for the U.S. Forest Service.

In 2010, Eric was hired by MPG Ranch as the Bird Research Technician and now conducts breeding bird surveys, raptor migration surveys, and winter bird surveys, as well as participating in other ranch projects such as owl and raptor banding and community field trips. In his free time, Eric enjoys searching for wild mushrooms, playing ultimate Frisbee, and backcountry skiing.