Located in the western United States, Colorado is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes and outdoor recreation opportunities. Colorado's diverse habitat includes mountains, plains, forests, and wetlands, and as a result, it is home to a wide variety of bird species. The exact number of bird species in Colorado varies slightly depending on factors such as migration patterns and occasional rare sightings. However, based on the most recent data available, there are approximately 500 species of birds recorded in Colorado.

These include resident birds that breed and roost in Colorado year-round, as well as migratory birds that pass through the state during spring and fall migration. With a wide variety of bird species, including songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and shorebirds, Colorado is a popular destination for birdwatchers and ornithologists.

Featured Bird Species

1. Small Birds

American Dipper

The American Dipper is a small, plump bird with grayish-white plumage. They have a relatively long dark bill and short but sturdy legs. One of their distinguishing characteristics is their tendency to bob up and down or "dip" their bodies, which is where they get their name. This bird usually inhabits forested areas near fast flowing streams and rivers, especially in mountainous areas. They are very well adapted to aquatic life and can often be seen diving underwater to swim for food. They have waterproof feathers and specialized snouts, which allow them to feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and small fish below the surface.

American Dippers are native to western North America, from Alaska and Canada down through the western United States into Mexico, and parts of Central America. They usually nest in natural caves or crevices near waterfalls or cliffs, but may also utilize man-made structures such as bridges or culverts. The female lays a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks.

American Dipper

Whited-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches are small with a short tail and large head. They have a bluish gray back, a white face, and a black cap on their head. Their underparts are white with a distinctive black stripe over their eyes. This bird usually inhabits deciduous forests, mixed woodlands and wooded suburbs. They prefer mature forests with lots of trees for foraging and nesting.

White-breasted Nuthatches are known for their distinctive foraging behavior as they climb up and down tree trunks and branches in search of food. They have strong feet and sharp claws that grip the bark of trees and probe for insects and spiders hidden in crevices. They also eat seeds and nuts and may store food in crevices for later consumption.

White-breasted Nuthatches are widely distributed throughout most of North America, from southern Canada all the way to parts of Mexico in the United States. They are non-migratory and can be found in their favorite habitats throughout the year. They usually nest in tree cavities, often using old woodpecker holes or natural hollows. The female lays a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks. During a breeding season, they may breed multiple broods of chicks.

Whited-breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped chickadees have rounded bodies, relatively large heads, short necks, and long tails. They have black caps and bibs on their heads and throats that contrast with their white cheeks and underparts. The back and wings are gray and the bill is short and stout. Despite their small size, they are known for their bold and curious behavior.

Black-capped chickadees inhabit a variety of wooded habitats, including deciduous and mixed forests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas. They are also common in riparian areas and forest edges. They are highly adaptable birds and can be found in both urban and rural environments. This bird is very active and likes to be acrobatic, often weaving between branches or hanging upside down while foraging. Their diet is varied and includes insects, seeds, berries and suet. The Black-capped Chickadee is known for its distinctive calls, including its eponymous "chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee" call, which varies in intensity and is a form of communication within its social group.

Black-capped chickadees are native to North America, with a range spanning most of Canada and the northern United States. They are non-migratory and roost throughout their range year-round. These birds usually nest in tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, or nest boxes. Females build nests from moss, plant fibers, and other materials, and both parents work together to incubate the eggs and care for the chicks. During a breeding season, they may raise multiple broods of chicks.

Black-capped Chickadee

2. Medium-size Birds

Lark Bunting

Male Lark Buntings are particularly distinctive during the breeding season, with a black body and wings, contrasting with white patches on the wings and a large white patch on the outside of the tail feathers. Outside of the breeding season, both males and females are duller in plumage coloration, showing streaks of brown and aqua blue. Lark buntings inhabit open grasslands, prairies, and sagebrush steppes. These birds forage on the ground, feeding primarily on seeds, insects, and sometimes small fruits. Outside of the breeding season, they often flock together, sometimes mixing with other species of buntings and sparrows.

Lark buntings breed primarily in the central and western United States, from the Great Plains states north into Canada and south into northern Mexico. In winter, they migrate to southern Texas and northern Mexico. During the breeding season, males perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females. They nest on the ground, usually hidden in grass or brush. The female lays a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks.

Lark Bunting

Brown-capped Rosy Finch

The Brown-capped Rose Finch is a relatively small and robust finch. They have a distinctive brown cap on their head that contrasts with their rose-pink body feathers. Their wings and tail are darker in color and their beak is relatively short and conical. They have three recognized subspecies, each with slightly different plumage colors.

These finches typically live in alpine and subalpine habitats, including rocky slopes, talus fields, and alpine meadows. They are well adapted to harsh, cold conditions and can be found at elevations above timberline. Brown-capped roseate spoonbills often forage in groups, searching for seeds, insects, and other small invertebrates on the ground or in low vegetation. They also patronize bird feeders in alpine areas during the winter when natural food sources are scarce.

Brown-capped rosy finches breed in the mountainous regions of western North America, including the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and the Cascade Range. They can also be found in parts of Alaska and northern Canada. During the winter, they may migrate to lower elevations, but are still usually found in the mountains. These finches usually nest in rock crevices or on cliff ledges, constructing cup-shaped nests out of grasses, mosses, and other plant material. The female lays a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks.

Brown-capped Rosy Finch

Gray Jay

The gray jay is a medium-sized bird with a rounded body, short tail and relatively large head. Their feathers are soft and fluffy and predominantly gray, with the lower half of the body being light gray and the wings and tail dark gray. Their head may be slightly darker in color and their bill is short and stout. Gray jays live primarily in boreal and subalpine forests, inhabiting a variety of coniferous and mixed woodlands. They are well adapted to cold climates and are usually found in the company of spruce, fir, and pine forests.

These birds are known for their bold and opportunistic behavior. They are very intelligent and resourceful, often scavenging for food and stealing caches from other animals. Gray jays also have a habit of hiding food, storing excess food in hidden places for later consumption, especially during the winter months when food is scarce.

The gray jay is found in northern North America, from Alaska and Canada to the northern United States. It is also found in parts of Europe and Asia. In North America, they roost throughout their range throughout the year. Gray jays usually breed in the spring and early summer, building massive nests of twigs, moss, and lichen in the branches of trees. Females lay a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks.

Gray Jay

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized songbird with a unique appearance. They have silky, brownish-gray feathers on their back, a yellowish belly, and a black mask over their eyes with white edges. Their most distinctive feature is the waxy red tip on the secondary feathers, which gives them their name, with the wax tip being more pronounced in adults.

Cedar Waxwings frequent a variety of habitats including woodlands, orchards, suburban areas and riparian zones. They are particularly fond of fruit trees and shrubs, and may congregate in flocks where food is plentiful. These birds are mainly frugivorous, i.e. they feed mainly on fruit. They have a unique habit of passing berries to other birds in the flock, a behavior known as "gift-giving". They also eat insects, especially during the breeding season, when protein is needed to raise the chicks.

Cedar waxwings breed throughout much of North America, stretching from southern Canada to the United States and northern Mexico. They are migratory birds, with northern populations migrating south for the winter. Some populations in milder climates may roost year-round. Cedar waxwings usually nest in trees, often choosing dense foliage for concealment. Females build nests from grasses, twigs, and other plant material, and both parents work together to incubate eggs and care for the chicks.

Cedar Waxwing

3. Large Birds

American Kestrel

The American kestrel is the smallest falcon species in North America. They have a small body with long pointed wings and a narrow tail. Male kestrels have bright plumage that includes a blue-gray head and wings, rust-red back and tail feathers, and distinctive black markings on the face. Females are slightly larger, with lighter plumage coloration and brown streaks on their underparts. Both males and females have distinctive black markings around the eyes, giving the appearance of a masked face. The American Kestrel is a versatile bird with a wide range of habitats including open grasslands, farmlands, savannas, deserts, and urban areas. They often perch on power lines, fences, or other elevated structures to hunt prey.

American kestrels are primarily diurnal and prey on small mammals, birds, insects, and other invertebrates. They usually hunt from a perch, scanning the ground for movement before swooping down to capture prey with their sharp talons. American kestrels are known for their ability to hover in mid-air while hunting, a behavior that is aided by their rapid wingbeat and keen eyesight. American kestrels are found throughout North and South America, from the arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska all the way to Central and South America. They are migratory birds, with northern populations migrating south for the winter to escape harsh weather conditions.

American Kestrel

Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is a medium-sized bird with a stocky body, large head, and long, straight bill. They have blue-gray plumage on the upper body, a white collar around the neck, and a broad blue-gray band on the breast. Both males and females have this band, but females also have a reddish-brown band on their abdomen. They have a fluffy crest on the head and a white spot on each side of the neck. Belted kingfishers usually inhabit the vicinity of bodies of water, including rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, and shorelines. They prefer habitats with clear water and steep earthen banks where they can perch and feed on fish. These birds are skilled hunters and specialize in catching fish.

They often perch on tree branches, rocks, or other high places overlooking the water, searching for prey. Upon spotting a fish, they dive headfirst into the water, splashing and capturing the fish with their sharp beaks. They may also eat other aquatic prey such as crustaceans, amphibians and insects. Belted kingfishers are found throughout North and Central America, traveling from southern Canada down through the United States into Mexico and Central America. They are non-migratory birds, with some individuals residing in their range throughout the year, while others may make short winter migrations to warmer areas. Kingfishers usually excavate nests in earthen embankments near bodies of water. The female lays a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks.

Belted Kingfisher

Black-billed Magpie

The Black-billed Magpie is a medium-sized bird with a long tail and black and white plumage. They have a black head, neck and breast and metallic blue-black wings and back. They have a white belly and white patches on their main feathers that are clearly visible in flight. They also have a long black bill, hence the name 'black-billed' magpie. They are a highly adaptable bird and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including open woodlands, agricultural areas, parks and urban environments. They are especially common in areas where trees and shrubs are scattered and where they nest.

Black-billed magpies are known for their intelligence, boldness and curiosity. They are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on a variety of foods including insects, small mammals, seeds, fruits and carrion. They are also notorious for their habit of foraging in human populated areas and may become accustomed to human presence.

Black-billed magpies are native to western North America, from Alaska and Canada all the way to parts of Mexico in the western United States. They are also found in the Great Plains and some parts of the Midwest. They are sedentary birds, which means they do not usually migrate long distances. Magpies are monogamous birds and usually mate for life. They usually build large, conspicuous nests in trees or bushes with twigs, sticks, and other plant material. The female lays a clutch of eggs and both parents work together to incubate and care for the chicks.

Black-billed Magpie

With its diverse habitats and abundance of bird species, Colorado offers birdwatchers and nature lovers endless opportunities to explore and discover the fascinating world of birds. Whether you're marveling at the aerial acrobatics of an American kestrel hunting for prey, admiring the striking plumage of a black-billed magpie, or listening to the lilting song of a cedar waxwing in the treetops, Colorado's birds have something for everyone.
May 14, 2024 — Stella Huang

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