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

Sunday, Mar 14, 2010
The male Barrow's Goldeneye continues on the Chico Headquarters' Pond.  The scinetific name, Bucephala, refers to the bison-shaped head of this species.  The golden eye shows well in good light.  Like Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye, they nest in natrual tree cavities, often ones created by a large woodpecker.  I am always amazed at how a flying duck with webbed feet can fly into a the entrance of a nest cavity without a crash-landing.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/14/2010

Wintering Harris's Sparrow
John James Audubon named this large sparrow for his traveling companion, Edward Harris, on the 1843 Missouri River Expedition.  The male's quavering song is used to describe the bird's scientific name, Zonotrichia querula.  Harris's Sparrow is a rare winter visitor on the Chico.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/14/2010

Just Showin' Off
The Red-winged Blackbird is perhaps the most common species and the most studied bird in North America.  Assmebling in large winter flocks on the Chico (millions of birds in winter flocks in the southeast), males return to their cattail marsh breeding areas by March.   The cattail marshes on Headquarters and Rose Ponds have male Red-wings scattered across all of the good territories, each one flashing its red and orange epaulet, advertizing for females.  

Red-winged Blackbirds are polygynous, one male with multiple females, and up to 15 females have been reported from one male's territory.  However,  genetic studies have shown the females will often breed with more than one male, so sneaking around in the marsh is the norm.

Posted by Bill M. on 03/14/2010

Cedar Waxwings near The Casita

With yesterday's warm temperatures, a flock of Cedar Waxwings switched their diets from fruits (Russian olives) to insects.  About 20 birds perched low in the olive trees, hawking small flying insects close to the ground.

Upper photograph is of a first year bird because the "wax" is seen only on the tail tips.  After multiple years of ingesting lots of fruits, waxwings, and only waxwings, concentrate carotenoid pigments from the birds' diets in modified wing secondary feathers (see 2nd photogrph). The red tips are actually extensions of the birds' feathers.  The same carotenoid piegments will produce entirely red feather coloration in other bird species.  The waxwing yellow tail tips are yellow carotenoids and incoporated in the vanes of the waxwing tail feathers.  In the eastern states and provinces, an exotic honeysuckle species has become a common ornamental planting beging in the 1960s.  Cedar Waxwings like the honeysuckle fruits but the carotenoids in the exotic honeysuckles produces waxwing tails that are orange, not yellow in color.

Posted by Bill M. on 03/07/2010

New Ranch Bird

Common Goldeneye with Tundra Swan
Early spring migration is in progress! With most of the Chico lakes now being ice-free, waterfowl are pouring through in big numbers.  Saturday witnessed the first-ever record of Tundra Swan on the Chico with two first-of-the year birds on Headquarters Pond.  Tundra Swans are uncommon in Colorado, breeding in shallow arctic tundra ponds where they eat tubers of many plant species.  Their long necks enable them to reach into shallow water for their food at depths greater than dabbling ducks can, so they exploit deeper water than most non-diving waterfowl.  In winter, Tundra Swans appear mostly on both coasts.  Because most shallow Colorado lakes and ponds freeze by mid-December, few Tundra Swans spend the winter here. 

Another rare Chico migrant, a male Barrow's Goldeneye also appeared on HQ Pond and the first Cinnamon Teal of the season also put in an appearance.

Posted by Bill M. on 03/07/2010

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