Two distinct ecosystems, the Rocky Mountains and everything in the state east of the Rocky Mountains provides the basis for explaining Colorado’s wonderful bird diversity.
The grasslands east of the Rockies are the final stretch of the great Midwestern plains. Colorado’s state bird celebrates that plains heritage. The male Lark Bunting is a sparrow of the plains that turns into an elegant looking black feathered wonder during the breeding season. It resembles the female with a more dull grayish set of feathers during the non-breeding season.
The area is also a great place to see many of the so called high-priority grassland birds indigenous to the area. Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Golden Eagles, Burrowing Owls, Mountain Plovers, Prairie Falcons, McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Vesper, Grasshopper, Cassin’s and Brewer’s Sparrows all make a home in the area.
Of course Colorado birds also means Rocky Mountain birds. Depending on the source, the general region hosts approximately 270 species of birds.
In addition to all of the winter ski tourism, the Rocky Mountain National Park provides the gateway for much of Colorado birding, at least on the tourist end. Visitors to the area soon discover that birding the Rockies can also be organized into a few locations around the Rocky Mountain National Park, including the Arapaho National Recreation Area, and the towns of Estes Park and Granby.
Many of the park’s bird species are your basic hardy mountain birds accustomed to living among the aspens, ponderosa pines, and alpine tundra. It’s a great area for easterners to add to their bird list by seeing species such as Clark’s Nutcracker (pictured), Gray Jays and Mountain Chickadees. These are easy to see perching birds that true to their name, perch on tree branches seemingly waiting to be photographed.
Tourists might also want to keep their eyes on the ground. A few gamebirds such as the White-tailed Ptarmigan, Gunnison Sage Grouse and the Dusky Grouse (pictured) often walk the grounds, and can be fairly easy to spot and photograph.
Experts suggest that visitors with more than a day trip in mind might want to check out these five nearby birding hotspots.
- Lake Estes
- Upper Beaver Meadows
- Cub Lake Trail
- Trail Ridge Road
- Colorado River Trail or Coyote Valley on the West Side
Summer is a great time to catch a peak at the always flashy looking Western Tanager. They can be found in residential areas and parks perching on trees.
Gratography members are invited to post their stories and pictures of Colorado birds. Register today.