What I like Wednesday: Colorado Birds

Ptarmigan

Birds. They’re a part of our every day life. They greet us in the morning with their cute little chirps (or maybe their annoying, never ending cries). They fly above us and we search the trees to spot them or their nests and those precious eggs. Sometimes they poop on us. Birds are these fascinating creatures because they can fly… and we can’t. But also because they come in such variety and color that it’s fun to see how many different species we can spot.

Colorado has a ton of birds – just check out Colorado’s bird Wikipedia page to browse the list of over 500 species found here. Intimidated? I definitely was. I am in no way a bird expert, I just like looking at them. So in order to have a somewhat decent post about all the birds I’ve loved seeing over the years here, I used information from Birds of Colorado Field Guide which is a book you can find free at your library. All quotes below are from that book. All images are either taken from me or are free for use, linked at the end.

Black-billed Magpie

Ok, so I’ve seen many birds while living in Colorado. Some are not as interesting as others. If you’ve lived in Colorado for even just a week you’ve probably seen a Red-winged Black Bird or the Black-billed Magpie. These birds are all over the place, which generally makes me like them less and feel less excited when I see one. But they still deserve a minor shout out for finding their niche in the world. With that said, I generally prefer brighter colored birds like the American Goldfinch. I’ve been seeing these birds at my parents’ house recently and I love watching them. It’s their bright yellow bodies that really make me smile. The fact that nature and evolution decided that bright yellow feathers meant survival is incredible to me. Also, I like that we can attract them to our yards with bird seed and water.

Hairy Woodpecker

While not bright yellow, Elisabeth recently spotted a wood pecker in the tree across from our balcony. I think it was a Hairy Woodpecker but it’s hard to be sure because the little guy preferred the side of the tree we couldn’t really see. We definitely heard him though and caught glimpses. Let’s assume it was a Hairy Woodpecker, did you know that they are “responsible for eating many destructive forest insects?” How awesome is that. Beware pine beetle, this bird is coming for you! (I don’t actually know if this woodpecker eats pine beetles, but I definitely hope so.)

I’ve also been lucky enough to see a White-tailed Ptarmigan in the wild when I was hiking Mt Ida years and years ago in the Rocky Mountains (see first picture). I almost didn’t spot it because it blended in so well with the rock, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve never seen one since. Perhaps it’s time to get myself back to Mt Ida. The National Park Service has an article about this bird from July 2020. Not surprisingly, this bird is under review for protection because of its dwindling numbers. Less snow and warmer days coming earlier cause the ptarmigan to not change from its winter white to its camouflage brown quickly enough and it is more at risk of getting eaten from predators. It breaks my heart that global warming causes so many species to suffer.

Hummingbird

I’ve also seen a bird of prey in a pine tree near my apartment. I can’t even start to guess what kind it was though, my eyes weren’t good enough to spot all the details. But I’ve seen three birds of prey flying around in circles over the park last year, you could hear their quintessential call. And of course there’s my hummingbird feeder which has attracted a whopping one hummingbird. But in the past, with previous feeders and in previous locations, I’ve seen many hummingbirds, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird most frequently. They also have their classic sound, although I imagine it’s the sound of their wings that we’re always hearing. Ze Frank did an interesting YouTube video about hummingbirds you should check out to learn all about this fascinating little creature.

I really enjoyed flipping through the Colorado bird book and browsing through random websites. I got to see birds I had never seen before or didn’t know lived in Colorado like the Cedar Waxwing with its masked face and bright yellow tail or the Bearded Kingfisher with its large messy head. You know I’m gonna be on even more of a lookout now for all the species. Special mention to the snowy egret with its striking yellow feet and the American White Pelicans with their up to 9 foot wingspan (you can see these around Washington Park). Whatever birds you end up seeing here, I hope you take a moment to study and appreciate them. They’re pretty neat.

Image links: Black-billed Magpie, Hairy Woodpecker

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