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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



Barn Owls
 Although Barn Owls nest upon the rafters of old barns their true nest site is the open cavity in large trees, usually where a limb has broken off.  Barn Owls are in a different family than the true owls with longer legs and serrated middle toes. In the world there are 11 species, only one species in North America. They are one of the most abundant owl species in the world but because they hunt only at night the are often not seen unless a day roost is known. Barn Owls hunt in open prairies and marshes and catch rodents almost exclusively.  Their heart-shaped face and orange feathering is distinctive. Their calls are loud screeches unlike the hoots of typical owls. Like the typical owls, the leading edge of their flight feathers are saw-toothed which enable them to have a silent flight. It was the Barn Owl that was used in experiments in the 1960 to learn that owls hunt by using their keen hearing and not by using their sight.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/21/2017

Bot Flies - Bird Food
 Other than entomologists, almost nobody likes flies.  But some fly species are extremely specialized and some are colorful.  The largest bird family in the world is called Tyrant Flycatchers although the members of the family eat many more species of insects than just flies. One of a group of flies of interest is called bot flies and a bumblebee mimic.  This deer bot fly is an adult and it has no visible/usable mouth because it only lives a short time and only to breed.  The adult female needs to find a host, a deer or elk, and she lays her eggs in the deer's nostrils where they hatch. The larvae then move through the throat to the base of the tongue where they mature.  When the time is right the larvae are coughed to the ground where they mature in the soil and eventually hatch into an adult like this one and the cycle starts anew. Deer bot fly adults are thought to be the fastest flying insect, capable of speeds up to 40 mph. This one did not fly and was probably at the end of its life. 
Posted by Bill M. on 03/06/2017

Tundra Swans
 Formerly called Whistling Swans, Tundra Swans are very rare on the Chico but five were present on 5 March, three adults (right) and two immature birds (left). Immature birds, ones entering their first summer are slightly smaller and have gray in their plumage.  Tundra Swans nest in arctic Canada and Alaska near the coast and populations mostly winter on the east and west coasts of the U.S., rare in the interior.  In 2010, two migrant birds were at the big headquarters pond too, but one day later in March. These are large birds with a body length 52 inches and with a wingspan of 83 inches and males weighing 16 pounds.   
Posted by Bill M. on 03/06/2017

Ring-necked Pheasants
 One of the few times I saw a hen pheasant actually watching at a pair of drakes showing off their colorful plumage.  Although non-native in North America, Ring-necked Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota. Striking is the difference in size between the males and females. This introduced species is now found in most of the U.S. and Canada except in the southeastern states. In spring the red bare skin around the pheasants' eyes becomes engorged and turns a brilliant red.  
Posted by Bill M. on 03/03/2017

King of the Ducks
 Named by Alexander Wilson, Aythya valisineria, the species name is also the species name for the plant wild celery, a favored food item of Canvasbacks.  Canvasback, the name given to this duck because of its pale gray back and white sides with a wavelike pattern resembling canvas fabric.  A close look will show one of the males with mud on its face obtained from its foraging habit of diving in shallow waters for roots, tubers, and the basal parts of aquatic plants but they also eat aquatic insects. This species is a favorite of duck hunters and chefs and males weigh and average of 2.75 pounds. Chico birds are on their way north, a flock of about 30 at Upper Twin Pond.
Posted by Bill M. on 03/03/2017

   
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