Birding Opportunities

Due to its unusually large geographic expanse which encompasses several altitudinal life zones and a great variety of habitats, the AVAS chapter area offers outstanding birding opportunities. An example would be the grouse species which range from the high altitued White-tailed Ptarmigan to the Lesser Prairie Chicken of the southeastern plains. Our checklist for the Pueblo area alone contains over 400 species, over a fourth of which may be seen at any time during the year.

Spring migration is an exciting time in riparian zones and urban park areas because of the good number of warblers and other passerines which pass through. Notable species include: Wilson's, Virginia's, MacGillivray's, Black-throated Gray and Townsend's Warblers plus an occasional Hepatic or Summer Tanager among many other migrants. Any rare warbler could turn up, especially in the Lamar area.

Summer nesting species include Mandarin and Wood Ducks in Pueblo's City Park. Pueblo Reservoir has nesting Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants, Barn Owls and Ospreys. In the Arkansas River valley, Mississippi Kites are common from Pueblo to Lamar.

The Pinon-juniper/Cholla habitat in southeastern Colorado has nesting species such as: Solitary Vireo, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-chinned Hummingbird and Say's Phoebe. The same habitat in Pueblo West and at Pueblo Reservoir has Bushtits, Plain Titmice, Canyon Towhees, Scaled Quail, Curve-billed Thrashers and Roadrunners year round. On the plains one can find Swainson's and Ferruginous hawks as well as Burrowing Owls, Long-billed Curlews, Mountain Plovers, Lark Buntings, Grasshopper and Cassin's Sparrows. Look for Lewis' Woodpeckers in foothill and plains canyons.

In the mountains one can find Flammulated Owls, Three-toed Woodpeckers, Western Tanagers and a variety of flycatchers. Spotted Owls can be heard in canyons of the Wet Mountains but are difficult to find. Mountain grassland and sage country contain Sage Thrashers as well as Brewer's and Sage Sparrows. By scrambling, ten members of the Corvid family can be seen in a single day. Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees are numerous in the Gamble Oak groves.

Fall brings a return of many of the migrants. Six grebe species may sometimes be viewed on the prairie lakes and reservoirs, white-faced ibis are on the move as are some thirty species of ducks and geese. The Sandhill Crane migration in the San Luis Valley is spectacular. Snowy and the rare Piping Plover head south along with other shorebirds. Other birds such as the Mountain and Western Bluebird simply move down in altitude.

In winter four loon species have been seen on the Pueblo Reservoir as well as gull species from either coast. An occasional Jaeger or Scoter appears on the reservoir and when ice is present many Bald Eagles congregate. Greater numbers of eagles winter in the San Luis Valley. In the mountains, pygmy nuthatches are common as are Red Crossbills and all varieties of Rosy Finches. The Corvids are still there to be seen.

Because of the long distances to be traveled to see some of these species, birders are encouraged to enjoy what a given section of our area has to offer. Pursuing a must-see list may produce more frustration than birds.

For more information concerning upcoming birding field trips, visit the Monthly Calendar.

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