Colorado Birdwatching: 10 Must-See Birds

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Colorado is home to more than 400 bird species. All you need to be a birder in Colorado is a field guide and a pair of binoculars. For those looking for unique Colorado birds, the 10 described below are the most popular with experienced birdwatchers. Visit the Colorado Birding Trail site for information on where you might spot these birds.

Northern Goshawk

Rare and regal, this short-winged forest hawk inhabits lowland pine forests. To see one, try the Arkansas River Valley or the canyons of the South Platte River.

Cinnamon Teal

This magnificent duck is coated from bill to tail in a maroon-colored sheen. You'll see it migrating through Colorado in spring and fall in numerous areas statewide.

Gunnison Sage Grouse

One of the rarest birds in North America, this bird species consists of a breeding population in the Gunnison River drainage that has distinctly evolved from the sage grouse. Two other members of the grouse family that are also worth seeing are the lesser and greater prairie chickens.

White-Tailed Ptarmigan

Few animals sum up the majesty of the tundra like the camouflaged white-tailed ptarmigan. Test your spotting acumen with these birds on Guanella Pass — they’ll see you, but you might not see them.

Mountain Bluebird

Blend the deep azure of the Rocky Mountain sky with the slate cobalt color of a snow-fed stream, and you’ll be pretty close to the glorious blue of the mountain bluebird. Look for these meadow dwellers in spring, summer and fall.

Western Tanager

Arguably the show stealer in Colorado's birdwatching scene, Western tanagers usually appear as a fleeting flash of gold, black and deep crimson in summer. Their habitat includes the lower mountains, willow-lined streams and wooded urban parks.

Sandhill Crane

Tall, slender and steely eyed, sandhill cranes are one of the state’s most majestic birds. Follow their throaty calls to the San Luis Valley in spring and fall or Steamboat Lake State Park in summer.

Burrowing Owl

Taking up residence in prairie dog colonies across Colorado, these yellow-eyed and fluffy owls can be seen most commonly on the eastern plains.

Hooded Merganser

With their fan-shaped head, elegant white-on-black stripes and striking yellow eye, this species of diving duck possesses a rare splendor. Catch sight of these bashful beauties on the South Platte River in the middle of Denver in winter.

Calliope Hummingbird

While their more aggressive relatives duke it out for a spot at the feeder, these tiny and passive hummingbirds can be seen sneaking a sip of nectar in late summer and early fall. But keep your eyes peeled. These 0.1-ounce gems are very rare.

3 Birds You've Always Wanted to See in the Wild (and Can in Colorado)

Bald Eagle
Our national bird is a rare resident of Colorado, but a common visitor in winter when it migrates through the state. Barr Lake State Park near Denver, the South Platte River Valley, and Shadow Mountain Reservoir near Granby are all reliable places to see this majestic bird, but the stretch of the Dolores River from Cortez up to Rico in southwest Colorado may hold your best odds.

Wild Turkey
This beloved gobbler — which almost became the national bird — also calls Colorado home. Look for them in gambel oak forests near the Spanish Peaks, Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the foothills outside Pagosa Springs. They can also be found on the plains near Julesburg and Fort Morgan

Peregrine Falcon
Sleek, nimble and unspeakably fast, this icon of the Arctic can be found in Colorado during its migration. While sightings are rare, they have been known to breed in the Front Range foothills and lower mountains.

A Calliope hummingbird along a Colorado birding trail
Calliope hummingbird along a Colorado birding trail

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