Colorado is a great state for birding, with over 400 species being known to make their permanent or temporary home in the Centennial state. While the record for most birds in one state goes to Alaska, with 530 species, keep in mind that the United States is home to just over 600 species – so Colorado definitely qualifies as a birding paradise!
In this article we’re going to cover the most common birds, and some of the most commonly sought after birds that you can look for in the Centennial state, when you feel like sharing a little quality time with your fine, feathered friends. Without further ado, let’s discuss some amazing birds to keep an eye out for the next time you’re in Colorado!
Bird Species Of Colorado
Below, we have listed some of the most common species located and searched for in Colorado. There are too many species to mention, so we have created a shorter list, as well as included links below that groups each type of bird in Colorado, where you can learn more about each specific species or type of bird.
Reaching up to 11 inches in length and with a wingspan between 12.2 and 15.8 inches, the American Robin is the largest of the North American Thrushes and a sight to behold. Males have dark gray backs, with medium length, pointy-tipped grey wings, and long tails that are gray on top and white on the undersides.
The underbelly and breast are a deep tangerine orange and this bird has a black head and throat, with a white eyering and a medium-length, straight bill with a slight curve on the upper side. Females look quite similar, though their head coloration will contrast less, being paler than the males.
Tips To Find
American Robins may be found at lower elevations during the winter, but in spring they like to head up into the mountains to make a nest and have a little privacy. Listen for a call that sounds like ‘cheer up! Cheer up!’ when you are looking for them and while they won’t eat most foods in your feeder, you can sometimes lure them in by putting a nail halfway-into a tree and hanging an orange half from it – these birds simply love yummy fruits!
While they are the largest of Nuthatches, these no-necked songbirds are still a bit on the wee side, with a maximum length of approximately 5.5 inches from tip to tail. Their wingspans can be close to twice as much, up to 10.6 inches wide. The plumage of these birds is a delight, with their gray backs and short, gray wings and tails, which will show some black edging and a little white edging as well, along with a thin, white wingbar that you can spot if you have a good view of the bird.
The underbelly and breast are snowy white, but look for a brown or rust-colored mark at the rump. Facially, these are white, with a thin, black line arching back from the eyes, and a black cap that carries down to the nape of the neck. These birds have long, straight black bills, and often a bit of white is seen in the lower bill.
Tips To Find
Nuthatches get their name from a useful little habit of theirs, which is using their powerful bills to lodge nuts deeply into the bark of their favorite trees for later enjoyment when it’s cold and food is in short supply. Look for them in the deciduous forests of Colorado though they will also visit places such as parks, having little to no fear of humans.
Add a little suet or peanut butter to your feeder if you have one, and one of the little guys or gals might just come to you!
One of our favorites, the Downy Woodpecker is smallest Woodpecker in North America. Measuring in between 5.5 to 6.7 inches in length, these little guys and gals have wingspans that may be up to 11.8 inches wide! Their plumage is also quite a treat.
Downies have white backs, with medium-length wings which are solid black at the shoulders, but below this they sport an eye-catching checkerboard pattern of black and white. They have short, stout, and notched tails which are black on top and white below, and you’ll often see these tails pressed against the bark as if holding the bird in place.
The underbelly and breast of these woodpeckers is like freshly driven snow and that white carries up the throat and into the face, where it’s the dominant color, but you’ll notice some black coloration even more in the form of a distinctive ‘bandit mask’. You’ll also see black mustache lines that carry down to the rear-base of the neck, moving across the bird’s back to the other side. This bird also has a black cap, but if you see a red dot at the back then you are looking at a male Downy! Finally, these birds have skinny, straight black bills.
Tips To Find
Most commonly found in Western Colorado, Downies still find there way to lots of places throughout the state, with the Estes and Aspen Parks being particularly popular with these little birdy-banditos! Keep an eye out for them but if you have a feeder at home, then consider adding a Hummingbird feeder to lure a Downy into coming to you. These little guys and gals just so happen to have a sweet tooth, and they are known for disappointing Hummingbirds looking for sugar water in many a backyard – but didn’t come fast enough to beat the Downy.
Sugar water isn’t your only option, however, as you can make Hummingbirds and Downies both happy by adding peanut butter or a little suet to the same feeder – just keep an eye on your sugar water levels anyways, as Downies really seem to love the stuff.
The Lark Bunting is the Colorado state bird that naturally lies in prairie lands. There is a healthy population in Colorado due to the large amounts of quality habitat. Lark buntings generally feed at low elevations on insects and seeds. Most are around 6 inches in length making this a relatively small bird.
Tips To Find
These birds can easily be spotted at low elevations near grasslands. They also nest in grassland areas. Male Lark Buntings are black with a white patch on their wings. Females are often mostly brown with white bellies.
The Gray Jay is a beautiful bird often also referred to as Canada Jays. They eat just about everything from insects, to fungus, to seeds, to rodents, and are commonly stealing food from hikers. As forest dwellers, they thrive in the Colorado Rockies and across large portions of the U.S.
Tips To Find
Gray Jays are really common among hikes through forest areas. They often nest on the south side of slopes in trees near the middle, or lower half of trees frequently. So when hiking through forested areas, keep your eyes peeled. They will gravitate towards high traffic hiking trails as they are pretty friendly towards people and ready to nap snacks.
American Dippers are a unique but amazing bird that feeds on aquatic insects, and nests above the banks of streams and rivers. The utilize moss, grass, leaves, and bark to build dome like nests often between 6 and 20 feet above the river for protection. They also feed on small flying insects near streams, occasionally small fish, and fish eggs.
Tips To Find
Find streams and rivers in Colorado, and you’ll often find American Dippers flying around, playing in the water, or nesting above. You can often find them bobbing in water in search for food.
Golden Eagle’s are some of the largest birds you will ever come across with wing spans up to 7 feet wide. Often perched most of the day, these animals most frequently feed on small living mammals, like prairie dogs, squirrels, and rabbits. They have the capability of going after larger prey, and also will scavenge meals if an opportunity arises.
The large hooked beak, large size, and gold feathers on the nape of the neck make these birds pretty easy to recognize.
Tips To Find
Golden eagles are primarily in the western mountains of Colorado as well as the canyon areas of southeast Colorado. They often nest on cliffs or high up in trees in areas where they can find prey and scavenge. There is also some breeding known in northeastern Colorado, but this is not where the most dense populations are.
Types Of Birds In Colorado
Below we have broken down the types of birds in Colorado. Clicking the links will take you to a Wikipedia link with the specific species within each of these categories.
- Ducks, geese, and waterfowl
- New World quail
- Pheasants, grouse, and allies
- Pigeons and doves
- Nightjars and allies
- Rails, gallinules, and coots
- Stilts and avocets
- Plovers and lapwings
- Sandpipers and allies
- Skuas and jaegers
- Auks, murres, and puffins
- Gulls, terns, and skimmers
- Boobies and gannets
- Cormorants and shags
- Herons, egrets, and bitterns
- Ibises and spoonbills
- New World vultures
- Hawks, eagles, and kites
- Falcons and caracaras
- Tyrant flycatchers
- Vireos, shrike-babblers, and erpornis
- Crows, jays, and magpies
- Tits, chickadees, and titmice
- Long-tailed tits
- Mockingbirds and thrashers
- Thrushes and allies
- Old World sparrows
- Wagtails and pipits
- Finches, euphonias, and allies
- Longspurs and snow buntings
- New World sparrows
- Yellow-breasted chat
- Troupials and allies
- New World warblers
- Cardinals and allies
Some Final Words
In this article, we’ve taken a closer look at a few of the most common and most sought after birds you can find in the Centennial state of Colorado. With a little over 400 species, even if you don’t spot any of these, you’re definitely going to see some beautiful birds – be they hawks overhead, songbirds close by that are eyeing your sandwich, or even waterfowl fishing up some lunch of their own.
That said, keep an eye out—the smallest woodpecker, the biggest Nuthatch, and the largest North American Thrushes are all waiting for you in the beautiful state of Colorado!
Want more birds added to the list? Send us a message and we will add them!
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about