Colorado ranges from dramatic red-rock canyons and frothing rivers to grasslands, reservoirs and lakes via the Rocky Mountains, a topography that draws in bird watchers after both bird variety and noteworthy landscapes. In many cases, the birding is also good around historic monuments and off mountain hiking trails making it simple to mix pleasure with, well, pleasure.
Destinations like Rocky Mountain National Park and the upper reaches of Pikes Peak are both good spots for observing bird species that flourish in montane environments. A number of designated wildlife trails, including Snowgoose Trail - a prime place to view migratory birds in droves - and Lizard Head Trail, link notable viewing locations, including public and guided tour only sites. The threatened Lesser Prairie Chicken makes a home in the southeastern corner of the state around Comanche National Grasslands, while in the southwest Four Corners region, pinyon-juniper woodlands, dramatic canyons and soaring Peregrine Falcons set the pace.
Waterbirds flock to the manmade reservoirs and playa lakes located east of Colorado Springs and south of I-70. In addition to huge numbers of migratory species like sandpipers, cranks, grebes, gulls and plovers, there is also a resident population of geese, both Ross’s and Snow. Keep an eye out in summer on a guided tour of Bowen Ranch and Sand Creek Battle Ground for Ferruginous Hawks, Burrowing Owls and Ring-necked Pheasants.
Comanche National Grasslands:
In and around Comanche National Grasslands the terrain varies from short-grass prairies to canyon-mesa, with the occasional pond or marsh. Watch for herons, solitary egrets, soaring American Kestrels and in spring, the mating Lesser Prairie Chicken.
Lizard Head Trail:
For a fine glimpse of bird life close to Telluride, head in summer up the road that runs to Rico, a surprisingly solitary route that leads past Lizard’s Head. Look for Purple Martins, Black Swifts and Williamson’s Sapsuckers in the aspen along the way.
Pikes Peak Trail:
Take in the well-known mountain face of Colorado Springs and do some birding in surprisingly varied habitats along this wildlife-watching trail. Look for Lazuli Buntings and Prairie Falcons in Garden of the Gods’ pinyon-juniper forest, migratory waterfowl and shorebirds at Big Johnson Reservoir and the likes of White-tailed Ptarmigan, Rosy-Finches and Dusky Grouse around the summit of Pikes Peak.
Rocky Mountains National Park:
280 bird species have been sighted in this national park since its founding in 1915, many of them at home in the higher-elevation habitats characteristic of this park like alpine tundra or spruce/fir forest. Keep an eye out for the Gray Jay, Blue Grouse, Mountain Chickadee, Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Tanager and other birds at home in this southern stretch of the Rocky Mountains.
Four Corners Country:
Try the Canyon of the Ancients Trail while in Four Corners country for a mix of national monuments, glowing red-rock cliffs and and bird species between riparian habitats like Lone Dome State Wildlife Area and the pinyon-juniper forest of Coalbed Canyon State Wildlife Area. Watch for nesting Peregrine Falcons from below in Dolores Canyon and find a good density of pinyon-juniper species in Squaw Canyon, the breeding ground of Gray Vireos.