Birding at the Chico

The Chico Basin Ranch is a major flyway for migratory birds, due to the abundant springs, lakes and bird habitat on the ranch. The ranch works closely with Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and has over 300 birds on the ranch bird list. Many people come to the ranch in the spring and fall to bird.

Bill Maynard is one of birders that comes most frequently. When we asked him if he would keep the ranch birding journal, he was pleased and agreed to do it. Thank you Bill! Bill has taught high school biology, worked as a naturalist for the National Park Service and as a biologist for a variety of government agencies. He has also worked for the American Birding Association at their national headquarters in Colorado Springs. 

Click Here to download the Ranch Bird Checklist

Click Here to download the Birding Trail Map (4mb PDF)

Click Here to download the Ranch Dragonfly and Damselfly Checklist

Accipiter I.D.
This winter all three species of U.S. accipiters are being seen on the Chico.  Starting at the top, Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest.  To separate it from the middle bird, Cooper's Hawk (inappropriately called "chicken hawk"), Sharp-shins or Sharpies have very thin legs (tibia tarsi), a small head and eye, a rounded head, a shorter tail, and in flight their heads project just beyong the leading edge of their wings.  Additonally, in flight, look for its tail tips to be straight across, as compared to the tail of a Cooper's Hawk which usually appears rounded, with more white on the tips, in flight. 

Cooper's Hawks are larger, with a dark cap, larger head and eye, thcker legs, and in flight they often show a rounded tail tips, oftern appearing fan-shaped. 

The big bird at the bottom is a Northern Goshawk, a very large bird.  When perched, it can be immediately identified by looking at the wavy tail bands, unlike the straight-patterned tail bands in the other two species. 

All three accipiters are forest hawks, and as such they are able to use thier broad wings and long tails to manuever expertly through a forest with dense trees,  unlike the big buteos like Red-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks, which often perch waiting for prey to come by.  All accipiters are able to persue their prey, mostly birds, through the trees.  Females are larger than males and as such they exploit different sized prey and can then lay large eggs.  A large female Sharp-shinned Hawk is still smaller than a small male Cooper's, but I.D. should be made after careful examination of all of the characters mentioned.  The  bottom species is an immature bird, but the other two birds are adults as told by their blue-gray backs and orange-barred breast feathers.
Posted by Bill M. on 01/28/2009

Winter Bird Count
The annual Chico Basin Ranch winter bird count was conducted by 7 birders on January 14.  Skies were clear and temperatures ranged from a low of 24 degrees to a high of 42.  Vounteer counters were Brandon Percival, Mark Peterson, John Drummond, Ken Pals, Bob Bonestroo, Saraiya Ruano, and Bill Maynard.  Species in caps indicate birds that are unusual in winter on The Chico.  This photograph is of a 1st winter Northern Goshawk, the bird we saw was a gray adult.

Forty-four species were found with the big miss being Scaled Quail, normally a common bird on the ranch.

Mallard - 32
Green-winged Teal - 2
Northern Harrier - 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1
Cooper's Hawk - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 4
Ferruginous Hawk - 2
Golden Eagle - 3 adults
American Kestrel - 5
Prairie Falcon - 4
Virginia Rail - 2
American Coot - 6
Wilson's Snipe - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 1
Great Horned Owl - 8
Long-eared Owl - 5
Ladder-backed Woodpecker - 6
Downy Woodpecker - 3
Northern Flicker - 12 (Red-shafted)
Loggerhead Shrike - 1
Blue Jay - 12
Black-billed Magpie - 14
Chihuahuan Raven - 5
Common Raven - 7
Horned Lark - 216
Marsh Wren - 3
Townsend's Solitaire - 1
American Robin - 105
Curve-billed Thrasher - 6
European Starling - 1520
American Tree Sparrow - 265
Song Sparrow - 26
White-crowned Sparrow - 29 
Dark-eyed Junco (form ?) - 20
     Oregon - 6
     Pink-sided - 40
     Slate-colored - 1
Lapland Longspur - 52
Red-winged Blackbird - 84
Western Meadowlark - 7
House Finch - 51
Pine Siskin - 3
American Goldfinch - 1
House Sparrow - 30

Posted by Bill M. on 01/16/2009

Winter White-crowned Sparrows
One of the common wintering sparrows on the plains, found in rank fields or brush piles, is White-crowned Sparrow.  Not all White-crowned Sparrows look exactly alike.  There are five different subspecies but some are separable with a little work.  The two subspecies that occur in Colorado are the breeding Mountain White-crowned Sparrow and the wintering Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow.  On adult birds, bill color and the coloration of the lore, the area in front of a bird's eye, is used to separate the Colorado subspecies. 

Added to the confusion are 1st winter birds that really don't look much like the adults.  1st winter birds are often just called sparrows or LBJs, little brown jobs, by the uninitiated, but separating the subspecies gives the hard core something to study in the winter and because subspecific identification requires a careful look, this type of study makes the observer a better birder. 

From the top, juvenile (1st winter) Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow (note the brownish crown, adult Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow (note the white lore and the smaller orange-yellow bill, Mountain White-crowned Sparrow (note dark lore with larger pinkish bill).
Posted by Bill M. on 01/03/2009

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