Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced birder, chances are you’ll spot a few feathered friends at State Parks and Wildlife Areas across Colorado, which feature a variety of habitats, from plains to mountains to wetlands. Linda Groat, a Mueller State Park staffer and birding enthusiast for 30 years, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s bird conservation coordinator, David Klute, offer up some helpful tips to make the most of your Colorado summer birding experience.
1. Patience is a virtue
The first step in a successful birding venture is to take your time getting outdoors, and once you're outside … slow down. Be ready to sit still, listen and watch. It may take a few minutes, but once you've acclimated to your surroundings, you might just spot a bird.
2. The early (or late) bird gets the worm
Get outside during the hours of high bird activity or while birds are feeding. In the summer, birds are busiest in the early morning or at dusk. Birds are not as active during the day, as they are finding respite from the hot summer sun or tending to their young.
NOTE: If you find yourself birding between late spring and early summer, you will likely see birds more active during the day.
3. If it looks like a duck …
Know a bird’s visual characteristics. Bird identification guides can be very helpful. Scan through a few and determine which birds you hope to spot. Take a mental snapshot: know where a bird’s patches of color generally appear, its size and shape, and whether it’s long and pointy or short and plump.
4. If it sounds like a duck …
Similar to physical appearance, posture and voice can help identify a species, too. A variety of applications are available for download on smartphones and desktops, helping birders learn a species’ song — or even identify a song as it’s being heard in the field.
5. Know the nest
For birders trying to catch a glimpse of a bird outside of breeding season, it’s incredibly helpful to know a specific birds’ ideal habitat. Habitats are part of an ecosystem and are made up of living and nonliving matter. Factors like moisture, temperature, presence of other wildlife and types of plants, trees and shrubs can provide clues about a bird’s given habitat. According to Klute, “Distinguishing between a Sage Shrubland and Juniper Woodland can help birders deduce what species are likely in the area and provide a starting point when referencing field guides by Audubon, Sibley and Peterson, websites like BIRDNET, cobirds.org and others, for further identification.”
Fun fact: Colorado has eight ecosystems, according to the Colorado Birding Trail and Denver Museum of Natural History.
6. Respect the rules
CPW reminds every wildlife watcher to respect animals and never chase, feed, handle or disturb wildlife. Back off if the animal changes behavior while viewing. And finally, always leave your pets at home.
7. Be prepared
As with any outdoor activity, dress appropriately and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Protect yourself against insects, bring enough water and use a trail map to know the exact route and distance back to a shelter.
Article based on content provided by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife; photos courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.