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

Great-tailed Grackles
In 1900 Great-tailed Grackles barely ranged into Texas but today they have been recorded in 28 states and three Canadian providences. They have responded to irrigation projects and spread into new areas every year.  From a breeding standpoint, the mating system of the Great-tailed Grackle is polygynous, with members of both sexes frequently unfaithful to their mates. Their territories are small, a male will defend one to several trees where the females usually nest (or at Chico in a cattail marsh). It takes 3 years before an adult male will acquire a territory whereas females usually breed in their 2nd year. Great-tailed Grackle bonds are fleeting and females may switch nesting areas and social mates during or between breeding seasons.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/28/2014

Triploid Checkered Whiptail

With 87,000 acres the Chico is always producing surprises.  On Chico Creek I found this whiptail, my first on the ranch.  A couple of interesting facts about this lizard, the species is the result of hybirdization between a female Western Whiptail (only in southwestern CO) and a male Mexican species, Cnemidophorus septemvittus which created a  Triploid Checkered Whiptail.  They were thought to occur only as far north as Pueblo Chemical Depot.  ALL of the members of this species are females and they reproduce by parthenogenisis. An advantage of this reproductive method is that it takes only one individual to colonize a new area.  All of the Triploid Checkered Whiptails have three times the normal number of chromosomes. Research is being conducted on other parthenogenic lizards.

Posted by Bill M. on 06/23/2014

Seek And You Will Find
Although bird migration is over for another month, there are charismatic species that breed here on the Chico.  Everyone likes Burrowing Owls but in Colorado they need prairie-dog colonies in order to take over an abandoned burrow for nesting.  Recently, I was walking in a large yucca grassland looking for birds that haven't yet been detected on the Chico when a Burrowing Owl starting flying in circles around me giving its alarm call. I saw a few owl pellets on the top of a prairie-dog burrow and knew why it was upset, young in the burrow.  It should be a few more weeks when young owls venture out into view if you can find an active prairie-dog town.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/17/2014

Yellow-headed Blackbird
This male Yellow-headed Blackbird has selected the exact same spot to attract a mate as it has for the past three years. The spot has bulrushes not cattails and it only about 20 feet from the shoreline.  Here you see a great look at the white in his wings.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/07/2014


All North American birds molt after the breeding season even if for some reason they do not molt.  Killdeer are early breeders and if you can look past their incessant shrill calling, especially when near to their young, you might see that they are already molting wing feathers.  This post breeding season molt, called prebasic molt, occurs in stages.  If all wing feathers were dropped at the same time the bird would not be able to fly.  See if you can detect the two, newer, shorter and darker feathers on each wing.  Most or all of the wing feathers will be replaced soon. Older feathers often have chips and nicks while new feathers are often edge with light colors.  If you are not sure about the new feathers, count in from the outer primary 8 and 9 feathers, the inner most primaries.

Posted by Bill M. on 06/07/2014

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