More than 450 species of birds inhabit Colorado's diverse landscape from the snow-capped Rocky Mountains to the dry grasslands of the short-grass plains.
Visitors can explore 27 designated birding trails and enjoy festivals celebrating avian species. A sampling of birding trails and festivals follow. For more information, follow the link at Omaha.com/living.
The Colorado Birding Trail is a major public and private initiative linking outdoor recreation sites into a network of bird and wildlife watching sites, as well as archaeological and paleontological features.
The Colorado Birding Trail features designated trails in three regions: Eastern Plains, Rocky Mountains and Western Colorado. For more information, including driving routes, maps and more, follow the link at Omaha.com/living.
Comanche Trail: This is quintessential Southeast Colorado, where the unspoiled views of prairie, hill and canyon country stretch miles, and the sounds of insects and wildlife hum softly. Lucky visitors can catch a glimpse of the lesser prairie chicken's mating ritual or see Cassin's sparrows skylarking. Comanche National Grassland is one of two nationally designated grasslands in Colorado.
Snow Goose Trail: The reservoirs, lakes and ponds near Burlington are home to many species of water and shorebirds. Mountain plovers, sandpipers, sandhill cranes and egrets are among the most-spotted birds during migration. Ring-necked pheasants, bald eagles, burrowing owls and great horned owls often can be spotted.
Greater Prairie Chicken Trail: Whooping, cackling and puffing out their necks as they leap into the air, the male greater prairie chickens aim to impress their female counterparts each spring in a distinctive mating ritual. They share the sandsage prairies of Yuma County with blue jays, cardinals and wild turkeys.
Spanish Peaks Trail: Both the birds and the scenery can be breathtaking along this trail, as it passes through almost every type of habitat Colorado offers. Water birds and dryland species share this land, where loons, swans, pygmy nuthatches and ptarmigan can all be found along the Highway of Legends Scenic Byway.
Headwaters Trail: This trail begins high in the Sawatch Range at the upper portions of the Arkansas River in central Colorado. In addition to spotting pinyon jays and ptarmigans, visitors will also pass by the highest peak in the state (Mount Elbert), the largest peak in the state (Mount Massive) and one of the most distinctive peaks in the state (Mount Princeton).
Black Swift Trail: Although known for being elusive, a black swift sighting is almost guaranteed during the summer in the heart of Colorado's majestic San Juan Mountains. The “coolest bird” only clings to vertical surfaces and typically builds its nest in close proximity to waterfalls, which makes for spectacular viewing opportunities.
Fruitgrowers Trail: One of the best places on the Western Slope to see water birds, the Fruitgrowers Trail is home to flocks of sandhill cranes, ducks and other shorebirds. Sagebrush flats and towering canyon walls house chukars, while American three-toed woodpeckers can be found among the spruce woods.
» Greater Prairie-Chicken Viewing Tour, Friday-April 21. The tours let viewers witness the mating ritual on the protected lands of the Eastern Plains.
• Karval Mountain Plover Festival, April 26-28. With half the population of mountain plovers nesting in Colorado, this festival provides optimum viewing opportunities on private ranch tours.
• Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde Birding Festival, May 8-12. Birdwatchers gather in Southwest Colorado in hopes of spotting more than 150 bird species on the Colorado Plateau. Spring migrants and early nesters are the main attraction at this event. Several of the birding field trips visit archaeological areas such as Mesa Verde National Park and the Ute Tribal Park.
• Yampa Valley Crane Festival, Sept. 6-9. The greater sandhill crane is an iconic species here. The festival will include daily crane viewings, expert speakers, films, art exhibits, workshops, family activities and more in celebration of the flock joining local birds to feed and rest as they journey south.
For more information, follow the link at Omaha.com/living or call 1-800-Colorado (1-800-265-6723).
— Staff writer Sue Story Truax