American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) Pelecanidae

Yellowstone River, Saugus, MT
13 May 1975
prep. Larry DePute; photo. Robert Niese

Unlike their brown counterparts, the American White Pelican is an overland migrant, spending its winters in the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico before flying thousands of miles to breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States. To facilitate this epic travel, these birds have an 8-10 foot wing span, the second-largest of any bird in North America. Now that we have fully articulated this massive specimen, we’re not entirely sure what to do with it… He can hardly fit through doorways!


Ovis canadensis “Bighorn Sheep” Bovidae, male, 3 years old

Wild Horse Island, Flathead Lake, MT
September 27, 1961
col. Wesley Woodgerd (photo Robert Niese)

Bighorn Sheep were first transplanted to Wild Horse Island in 1939 and, from a herd of only 8 breeding adults, the population grew to be more than 200 strong. By the 60s and 70s, when Wesley Woodgerd was studying their herds, the maximum number of sheep recorded on the island at one time exceeded 240 individuals. This deformed young male was born around a time when the herd was likely suffering greatly from inbreeding depression which may have contributed to its odd schnoz. Alternatively, without any predators on the island, perhaps this individual was injured at a young age and managed to survive and develop this malformity from its wounds. Learn more about the Wild Horse Island Bighorn Sheep here.

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) Phasianidae

No Data Available
Specimen courtesy of the Slater Museum
Photo by Robert Niese

Pheasants are native to Asia, but they have been introduced by European hunters to nearly every continent as a game bird. Here in North America, they have done particularly well and stable populations can be found throughout the plains and northern states and Canada. In spite of being considered a pest in much of their range, the males have strikingly ornate plumage and they are loved by millions (they even have their own advocacy organization!).

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) wings, Picidae

No Data Available
Specimens courtesy of the Slater Museum
Photo by Robert Niese

Northern Flickers occur in two color morphs across the US. In the west, they are predominantly “red-shafted,” while in the east they are predominantly “yellow-shafted.” Here in western Montana, we have mostly red-shafted, but there are a few areas that are chock-full of “orange-shafted” hybrids (the wing in the upper right is a hybrid). There are extensive hybrid zones throughout BC and AB as well.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) wing, Corvidae

No Data Available
Specimen courtesy of the Slater Museum
Photo by Robert Niese

The wings of Black-billed Magpies are quite striking. The deep black feathers covering most of their bodies are actually startlingly iridescent and starkly contrast with the white windows on their outer wing feathers. This contrast could be utilized as a form of visual communication during flight.