The ISR driver, running in the first group of the split qualifying session, which was expected to be slower due to track conditions, was a constant figure in the battle at the top of the times.
As the group A session reached its closing stages, veterans Bird and Jules Bianchi (Tech 1) made the fight for the quickest time an exclusive one between themselves. Bianchi was the first to set a time a long way clear of the rest of the field, but Bird then responded with two minutes remaining.
The Briton was on course to go faster again a lap later before having to back off for yellow flags at Rascasse, but he had time for one more lap and went one second faster than his former GP2 rival. Unaware of the size of his advantage, he continued to push and slid wide at Sainte Devote just seconds later, hitting the barrier with his left rear wheel.
Championship leader Robin Frijns (Fortec) got close to Bianchi to go third quickest in the group, with Tech 1's Kevin Korjus and Lotus's Marco Sorenson next up.
Bird then had to watch on as group B took to the track. The fight for top spot was a thriller, with Alexander Rossi and Kevin Magnussen leading the way throughout.
Quick times from Nico Muller (Draco) and Nick Yelloly (Comtec) got them in the hunt in the final seconds, but Muller's time at the top was brief as Magnussen went quickest, shortly before Rossi stole the place back at the death.
The Arden Caterham driver's time was 0.7 seconds adrift of Bird's best, meaning that the Briton took pole position, with the rest of group A lining up on the odd-numbered side of the grid.
Rossi will join him on the front row as group B takes the even-numbered positions, and behind them row two will be made up of Bianchi and Monaco rookie Magnussen (Carlin).
Frijns and Muller will share row three to make it three rookies in the top six, while Korjus and season-opener winner Yelloly are next up.
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