10 Birding Hotspots in Colorado

As some of you begin to get more comfortable with your birding skills you might be interested in venturing outside of the neighborhood to spot more of our feathered friends. I have summarized 10 birding destinations throughout the Colorado area that are prime for bird watching. The information collected has been provided by the Audubon Society. For more information please visit their website www.audubon.org

  1. ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK– This is one of the more popular national parks in the country and the scenery speaks for itself. RMNP is an ideal place for birding because it offers an array of habitats that attract many different bird species. The higher elevations of the park offer the chance to spot birds like the American Three-toed Woodpecker or a Pine Grosbeak. More birding opportunities can be had in the lower elevations as well. Here you should keep an eye out for the Pygmy Nuthatch, American Dipper, Mountain Bluebird and Western Taanger.  In a previous post I highlighted a winter season bird outing of my own around Cub Lake.
  2. COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT– Moving towards the west, Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, is a great location to identify bird species that don’t frequent the central and eastern areas of the box state. The climate in this region tends to be a little more arid so to increase your bird spotting chances visit locations that offer water and more vegetation. On the western slope you could find species such as the Golden Eagle, Broad-tailed Hummingbird or Ash-throated Flycatcher.
  3. BARR LAKE STATE PARK– Barr Lake, situated Northeast of Denver, provides a wide range of bird species that frequent the area. Distinct features such as the lake, cottonwood and juniper trees along with the prairie grasslands attracted both resident and migratory birds. Near the lake will increase the chances of seeing the American White Pelican or herons and egrets. Further out in the grasslands take notice of a Burrowing Owl or an Orchard Oriole.
  4. CHERRY CREEK STATE PARK– Not looking to travel far from the city? No problem! In the suburbs of Denver sits Cherry Creek State Park. This park is a fantastic location for birding and you don’t even have to venture into the wilderness to see a large variety of birds. Over 300 species have been recorded in the park. The four seasons boast different species but Bald Eagles can be spotted throughout the year. Ospreys will arrive in the spring and fall whereas the winter season occasionally brings in the Northern Shrike.
  5. MONTE VISTA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE– Nestled down in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, this refuge offers a unique opportunity. During the spring and fall migration, Sandhill Cranes will flock to the area. This particular bird is so popular and celebrated in the community that in March the city and refuge host a festival in its honor.
  6. CHICO BASIN RANCH– Chico Basin Ranch is located approximately 25 miles southeast of Colorado Springs. The ranch is privately operated so beware that an entrance fee does apply. In lieu of the fee many birders flock to the area because roughly 330 species have been recorded here. Chico Basin Ranch has also developed birding trails for visitors to maximize sighting opportunities. If you are planning a trip to the area look out for rare passerines. You could potentially spot a variety of eastern warblers such as Worm-eating, Golden-winged, Mourning, and Cape May.
  7. JOHN MARTIN RESERVOIR STATE PARK– This park is situated on the Arkansas River west of Lamar. The reservoir along with small ponds throughout the park invite a variety of ducks and other waterbrids. Landbirds in the park include Scaled Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, and the Greater Roadrunner. The best birding times are from the fall through the spring, in order to avoid the summer crowds.
  8. PAWNEE NATIONAL GRASSLAND– If prairie birds are what you are searching for, go no further. The Pawnee National Grassland is an exceptional location to hone in on these species. In this northeastern area you might see birds like the Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Say’s Phoebe, McCown’s Longspur, Lark Bunting, Vesper Sparrow, and Bullock’s Oriole. It should be noted that not all areas are open to the public, some lands are privately owned ranches and farmland.
  9. FOUNTAIN CREEK REGIONAL PARK– The city of Fountain, just south of Colorado Springs, hosts the regional park that attracts many migrant songbirds in the fall and spring seasons. A great place to start your birding adventure is at the nature center, from there begins the trailheads that take you through woodlands, ponds and creeks. During the summer you are likely to find the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Western Wood-Pewee, House Wren, and Lesser Goldfinch.
  10. COTTONWOOD CANYON– This distant area around the southeastern corner of Colorado holds interest for birders for a couple of reasons. One, the location provides species at the very edge of the range and two, this out-there location promotes regionally unusual or rare species. The beautiful and rugged terrain is painted in pinon pines, junipers, scrub oaks and cottonwood trees. Birders in the area often spot Wild Turkey, Mississippi Kite, Western Screech-Owl, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, and on occasion the Painted Bunting.