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In the past week, flocks of American tree sparrows have returned to the ranch. Like the northern shrike, rough-legged hawk, lapland longspur, and the snow bunting, American tree sparrows breed in the far north and fly south to overwinter in Montana. They are recognized by their rusty-red cap and eyestripe and their bicolored bill. American tree sparrows forage in small flocks, searching shrubs and the ground for seeds, berries, catkins, and insects. On the MPG Ranch, you are most likely to see American tree sparrows in areas with shrub cover, including the Bitterroot River floodplain and shrubby draws. They will move from shrub cover along the floodplain to feed in nearby fields of crested wheatgrass and weeds.

About the Author

Kate Stone

Kate graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology in 2000. She pursued a M.S. in Forestry at the University of Montana where her thesis focused on the habitat associations of snowshoe hares on U.S. National Forest land in Western Montana. After completing her M.S. degree in 2003, Kate alternated between various field biology jobs in the summer and writing for the U.S. Forest Service in the winter. Her fieldwork included projects on small mammal response to weed invasions, the response of bird communities to bark beetle outbreaks and targeted surveys for species of concern like the black-backed woodpecker and the Northern goshawk. Writing topics ranged from the ecology and management of western larch to the impacts of fuels reduction on riparian areas.

Kate coordinates bird-related research at the MPG Ranch. She is involved in both original research and facilitating the use of the Ranch as a study site for outside researchers. Additionally, Kate is the field trip coordinator and website manager for the Bitterroot Audubon Society. She also enjoys gardening and biking in her spare time.

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Northern Saw-Whet Owl