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

Krider's Red-tailed Hawk
 The anemic race of the Eastern Red-tailed Hawk subspecies is called "Krider's" Red-tail and it is rarely reported on the Chico. Today there was a juvenile (banded tail) perched by Holmes ranch house.  This race's characteristics are a mostly white breast and belly and a mostly white face with much white on the back too.  
Posted by Bill M. on 03/22/2016

The Smallest Thrasher
 Migration is often a slow event with a few birds here and a few birds there.  Sage Thrasher is a common spring and fall Chico migrant, but you won't find them in the woods.  On their breeding grounds in mostly big sagebrush habitat, they are conspicuous, especially in an undulating flight where males can circle as many as 10 times before landing and raising both wings above their heads (bilateral wing display). On the Chico, however, although birds may be paired already, their activities mostly include walking on the ground in search of insects or perching on wires or cactus (photo from Sunday). Sage Thrasher is the smallest thrasher and when discovered in 1834 by John Townsend in Wyoming, he called it "Mountain Mockingbird" because it sang constantly for a few minutes straight before stopping, something Northern Mockingbirds do.  If it came to a vote, I think Mountain Mockingbird is a better name for this species. 
Posted by Bill M. on 03/14/2016

Welcome to the Chico
 Probably the most common breeding bird on the Chico is the Horned Lark.  The name comes from the male's "ears" which are really occipital tufts it can raise or lower and just visible here on the top back of this lark's head. Horned Lark is one of the earliest breeders on the Chico and they start to get interested in breeding in January, the males singing from either the ground or from the air (or from perches like the metal cowboy).  The advantage of prairie birds singing in flight is their songs travel much further from the sky (sing from as high as 250 meters) than from on the ground.  Females build a nest on bare soil and while building, they add either pebbles, dung, or clumps, in what has been described as an entrance to the nest.  In winter and early spring, this is sometimes the only bird species encountered on Chico's grasslands.    
Posted by Bill M. on 03/11/2016

Cow Bird
 There is only one species of cowbird in Colorado, Brown-headed Cowbird, the well known brood parasite. But, this isn't one of them.  This is the non-native, European Starling. There are about 75 starling species in the world but none of them are native to North America.  Like cowbirds, European Starlings take advantage of grazing livestock whose feeding habits stir up insects while they graze.  Also, insects hide out in thick fur so cattle tolerate and even encourage a visit by birds looking for food there.  In Africa, there are two species of birds called oxpeckers who forage frequently on grazing wildlife, the birds often seen on the animals' heads.  A flock of starlings was feeding on and underneath a cattle herd at headquarters pond yesterday. Very soon the starlings will pair and head to tree cavities to breed, actively keeping later migrant, native breeders, out of the tree cavities. 
Posted by Bill M. on 03/10/2016

 Black-tailed jackrabbit is a common mammal on the Chico.  They can run 30 miles per hour and jump 20 feet in length.  When there is plenty of food available they are capable of having 3-4 litters per year any time of the year.  The female will place each of her young at a different location to ensure a higher survival percentage. Their ears are long but the leg length stands out and is a good way to separate a dessert cottontail from a black-tailed jackrabbit. Here out in the sand.

On 3 March Sage Thrashers were in most of the cholla cactus locations on the Chico, one of the early bird migrants.  During some years a few pairs remain to breed, but most continue north and west.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/04/2016

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