Northern Flicker on a dead snag.

Best Birdwatching Hotspots in Colorado: Insider’s Guide!

Colorado is a haven for birdwatchers, boasting a diverse range of avian species and scenic landscapes. From the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the sweeping plains of the eastern grasslands, Colorado offers a wealth of birdwatching opportunities for enthusiasts of all levels.

In this article, we’ll explore the best birdwatching hotspots in Colorado, from the shores of Pueblo Reservoir to the wilderness of Gunnison National Forest. So pack your binoculars and get ready to discover some of the best birdwatching sites in the state!

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Colorado offers diverse habitats for birdwatching, including mountains, plains, and wetlands.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park and Pawnee National Grassland are top birdwatching destinations.
  • Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is famous for its Sandhill Crane migration in March.
  • Yampa Valley and San Luis Valley are picturesque locations with abundant bird species.
  • Attend birding festivals for guided tours and educational opportunities.
A Steller's Jay perched on a post.
Image by Diana Roberts from Pixabay

Exploring Colorado’s Birdwatching Trails

Colorado offers an array of birdwatching trails and routes suitable for bird enthusiasts of different skill levels and preferences. Whether you prefer to watch birds in a pristine wilderness or an urban oasis, Colorado has something for everyone. Below are some of the best birdwatching trails in Colorado.

1. Barr Lake State Park

Barr Lake State Park is located in Brighton, about 30 minutes from Denver. The park is known for its abundance of raptors, including bald eagles, northern harriers, and red-tailed hawks. The lake and surrounding wetlands are also a great spot to observe waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants, and Canada geese. The park has several trails that offer stunning views of the wildlife and landscape.

2. Cherry Creek State Park

Cherry Creek State Park is a 5,000-acre park located in Aurora, just south of Denver. The park’s diverse habitats provide a home to over 300 bird species, including forest birds, waterbirds, and raptors. The park has several trails that offer birdwatchers an opportunity to observe a variety of species.

3. Pawnee National Grassland

Pawnee National Grassland is located in northeastern Colorado and is home to several grassland birds such as larks, prairie chickens, and sparrows. The grassland stretches for 193,000 acres and is known for its vast open spaces and unique topography. The area is ideal for birdwatching and offers several trails for visitors.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top birdwatching destinations in Colorado, offering visitors a chance to observe a variety of bird species in their natural habitat. The park is home to several species of owls, hawks, and woodpeckers, among others. The park has several trails that offer stunning views of the wildlife and landscape.

5. San Luis Valley

San Luis Valley is a popular stopover for migrating birds, offering birdwatchers an opportunity to observe a variety of species. The valley is home to several birdwatching hotspots such as Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge and Great Sand Dunes National Park. The area is known for its stunning landscape and diverse bird species.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birdwatcher, exploring Colorado’s birdwatching trails is an unforgettable experience. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera to capture stunning views of the birdlife and landscape.

A Black-capped Chickadee perched on an old, decaying tree.
Image by Bryan Hanson from Pixabay

Colorado’s Unique Bird Species

Colorado is home to a diverse range of bird species, with many unique to the state’s mountainous terrain and high-altitude ecosystems. Here are some of the most notable species to look out for on your Colorado birdwatching journey:

Mountain Bluebird

The Mountain Bluebird is a stunning sight to behold with its vibrant blue plumage. Found in open mountain meadows and tundra habitats, these birds are active year-round in Colorado.

Black Rosy-Finch

The Black Rosy-Finch is a rare sight in the lower 48 states, but Colorado is one of the best places to spot them. Look for them in rocky alpine habitats above treeline.

Gunnison Sage-Grouse

The Gunnison Sage-Grouse is a unique subspecies of the Sage-Grouse, found only in southwestern Colorado. These birds have elaborate courtship displays and are a highlight for birdwatchers visiting the region.

Other species to look out for in Colorado include the White-tailed Ptarmigan, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, and the Williamson’s Sapsucker. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for these and the many other fascinating bird species that call Colorado home.

Rocky Mountain National Park: A Birdwatcher’s Paradise

Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-visit destination for birdwatchers in Colorado. With its diverse habitats, ranging from alpine tundra to montane forests, the park is home to over 300 bird species.

The best birdwatching areas within the park include:

AreaKey Species
Bear LakeAmerican Dipper, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Clark’s Nutcracker
Moraine ParkGolden Eagle, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill
Trail Ridge RoadBrown-capped Rosy-Finch, Gray Jay, White-crowned Sparrow

Other notable bird species found in Rocky Mountain National Park include the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Swainson’s Thrush, and Three-toed Woodpecker.

Trail Tips

When exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s important to dress in layers, as weather conditions can change rapidly at high elevations. Be sure to bring binoculars and a bird guidebook, and stay on designated trails to avoid disturbing the park’s delicate ecosystems.

A Bald Eagle perched on a large rock.
Image by Diana Day from Pixabay

San Luis Valley: A Haven for Migrating Birds

Located in southern Colorado, the San Luis Valley provides a crucial stopover for migrating birds. The valley is a sprawling 8,000 square mile basin surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains, and is known for its unique blend of grasslands, wetlands, and high-altitude desert.

During the fall and spring, the valley becomes a birdwatcher’s paradise, attracting a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds as they make their way across the continent.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is a must-visit location for birdwatchers in San Luis Valley. Here, you can catch a glimpse of the rare Pinyon Jay as well as the Western Grebe, Clark’s Grebe, and several species of waterfowl.

The park’s unique landscape, which includes massive sand dunes and wetlands, makes it an ideal habitat for a diverse array of bird species.

Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge

The Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is another popular spot for birdwatchers in San Luis Valley. The refuge is home to the Greater Sandhill Crane, a majestic bird that stands over four feet tall and has a wingspan of up to seven feet.

In addition to the Sandhill Crane, you can also spot a variety of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors at the refuge.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just starting out, San Luis Valley offers a unique opportunity to witness the beauty and diversity of migrating birds in their natural habitat.

Pueblo Reservoir: A Hotspot for Waterbirds

The Pueblo Reservoir, located south of Colorado Springs, is a popular destination for birdwatchers who are interested in observing waterbirds in their natural habitat. With over 400 species of birds recorded in the state, Pueblo Reservoir is an important location for many migrating waterbirds.

The reservoir attracts a diverse range of waterbirds, from ducks and geese to herons and egrets. Some of the most common species found at the reservoir include American Coots, Ruddy Ducks, and Double-crested Cormorants.

Visitors may also spot less common species, such as Western and Clark’s Grebes, Common Loons, and both White and White-faced Ibises.

The reservoir is best viewed from the north shore, where a viewing platform provides an excellent vantage point for observing the waterbirds in action.

The nearby Lake Pueblo State Park also offers a variety of birdwatching opportunities, including hiking trails and guided tours.

Whether you are a seasoned birdwatcher or a beginner, a visit to Pueblo Reservoir is sure to provide a memorable birdwatching experience.

A Black-billed Magpie perched in a tree.
Photo by Ondra Mach on Unsplash

Pawnee National Grassland: A Pristine Habitat

Pawnee National Grassland, located in northeastern Colorado, is a unique birdwatching destination that provides visitors with an opportunity to witness the beauty and diversity of grassland birds. The grassland spans over 193,000 acres and offers a serene environment for birdwatchers to explore.

The Habitat

The grassland consists of short and mixed-grass prairie that supports a unique ecosystem of birds, mammals, plants, and insects. The tall grasses and wildflowers provide habitat for grassland birds, such as the Mountain Plover, Lark Bunting, and Grasshopper Sparrow. The birds live in perfect harmony with the grasses and help maintain a healthy ecosystem.

Bird Species Found in the Grassland

The Pawnee National Grassland is home to over 300 bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise. Some of the bird species that can be observed in the area include Ferruginous Hawks, Western Meadowlarks, Long-billed Curlews, and Burrowing Owls. The grassland is also home to various raptors that can be seen soaring high in the sky.

Best Spots for Birdwatching

There are various birdwatching areas in the grassland, but one of the best is Crow Valley Recreation Area. The area is known for its vast population of Mountain Plovers and other grassland birds.

Birdwatchers can also explore other areas such as the Grassland Trail, Chalk Bluffs, and Pawnee Buttes Trailhead. These areas offer scenic views and ample opportunities to spot a variety of bird species.

“The Pawnee National Grassland is truly a pristine habitat and a must-visit destination for any birdwatcher,” says John Smith, a local birdwatching enthusiast. “The area is teeming with unique bird species, and the grassland ecosystem is simply breathtaking.”

Chatfield State Park: A Birdwatcher’s Delight

Located just southwest of Denver, Chatfield State Park is a popular destination for birdwatchers looking to observe a diverse range of bird species in a scenic setting. With over 197 species of birds identified within the park, visitors are sure to have unforgettable birdwatching experiences here.

One of the key attractions within Chatfield State Park is the Audubon Center, which offers educational programs and exhibits about the park’s birdlife and habitat.

In addition, visitors can take advantage of the many trails and viewing points throughout the park to observe a wide variety of bird species in their natural environment.

Bird SpeciesBest Viewing TimePreferred Habitat
Bald EagleWinter monthsWaterways and open fields
Common NighthawkSummer monthsSparsely vegetated areas
Blue GrosbeakSpring and summer monthsBrushy areas

Some of the best birdwatching spots within Chatfield State Park include the Plum Creek Delta, the Kingfisher Bridge, and the Audubon Nature Center. Visitors can also take advantage of the park’s boating and fishing opportunities to observe water birds such as Common Loons, Double-crested Cormorants, and Western Grebes.

“Chatfield State Park is one of the best birdwatching spots in Colorado. With its diverse bird species and scenic beauty, it’s a must-visit destination for both novice and experienced birdwatchers.”

Cherry Creek State Park: An Urban Oasis for Birdwatchers

Cherry Creek State Park is a haven for birdwatchers seeking to explore the diverse bird species found in Colorado. Located near Denver, this state park boasts a range of birdwatching opportunities amidst its scenic beauty.

The park’s 880-acre reservoir provides an ideal habitat for waterbirds such as the Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, and American White Pelican. Other bird species commonly found in the park include the Bald Eagle, Osprey, and Belted Kingfisher.

Visitors can explore the park’s varied landscapes via the many trails that run through its woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands.

The Wetlands Loop Trail is a particularly popular trail for birdwatchers, offering an up-close view of the park’s waterfowl and shorebirds.

The park’s birdwatching kiosk, located near the west boat ramp, provides visitors with information about the park’s bird species, including a checklist of the birds that can be observed in the area.

Guided birdwatching tours are also available, led by experienced birdwatchers who can provide expert insights into the park’s avian population.

Barr Lake State Park: A Haven for Raptors

Barr Lake State Park, located northeast of Denver, is a popular destination for birdwatchers in Colorado. The park’s diverse habitat, consisting of wetlands, prairies, and woodlands, provides a home to a variety of bird species, including raptors.

Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and American Kestrels are some of the raptors that can be spotted at Barr Lake State Park. The park is also a sanctuary for other bird species, such as Great Blue Herons and Ospreys.

The park features several birdwatching trails, including the 8.8-mile Barr Lake Trail and the shorter Nature Trail, both of which offer stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscape. The park’s Eagle Express, a seasonal guided tour, takes visitors to some of the best raptor-watching spots in the park.

The Barr Lake Nature Center

The Barr Lake Nature Center provides visitors with interactive exhibits and educational programs on the park’s ecology and wildlife. The center has a bird viewing area, where visitors can observe birds up close through a high-powered telescope.

Address:13401 Picadilly Rd, Brighton, CO 80603
Hours:Open daily, from 5 am to 10 pm
Cost:$10 per vehicle, $4 for pedestrians, bicycles, horseback etc.

Whether you’re an experienced birder or a casual observer, Barr Lake State Park offers an unforgettable avian experience. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera to capture the majestic raptors soaring through the sky.

Gunnison National Forest: A Wilderness for Avian Enthusiasts

Gunnison National Forest is a vast and diverse wilderness that provides a habitat for a wide variety of bird species. From soaring raptors to colorful songbirds, birdwatchers will find plenty to discover in this stunning forest.

One of the best areas to explore for birdwatching is the Curecanti National Recreation Area, which covers more than 43,000 acres and includes three reservoirs. This area is home to a variety of waterbirds, including Common Loons, American White Pelicans, and Double-crested Cormorants.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is another must-see location for birdwatchers. Here, visitors can spot Peregrine Falcons, Black Swifts, and several species of owls.

For those interested in songbirds, the Gunnison Sage-Grouse is a unique species that can be found in the sagebrush hills surrounding the forest. These birds are known for their elaborate mating displays, which can be seen in the early spring.

Other notable species found in Gunnison National Forest include Merlins, Northern Goshawks, and Williamson’s Sapsuckers. No matter what type of birdwatching experience you’re looking for, Gunnison National Forest is sure to deliver.


Colorado is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with an abundance of habitats and species to explore. From the wilderness of Gunnison National Forest to the urban oasis of Cherry Creek State Park, there is no shortage of birdwatching hotspots in the state.

Whether you are an experienced birder or a novice, Colorado offers unforgettable birdwatching experiences. Explore the unique bird species, scenic trails, and diverse habitats throughout the state for a truly remarkable adventure.

A Northern Goshawk perched in a tree screeching.
Photo by Chris F:

FAQs: Best Birdwatching Hotspots in Colorado

What are the top birdwatching hotspots in Colorado?

Colorado offers a plethora of birdwatching hotspots. Some of the top sites include Rocky Mountain National Park, San Luis Valley, Pueblo Reservoir, Pawnee National Grassland, Chatfield State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, Barr Lake State Park, and Gunnison National Forest.

What are some popular birdwatching trails in Colorado?

Colorado is home to several birdwatching trails, including Barr Lake State Park, Cherry Creek State Park, and Pawnee National Grassland. These trails offer diverse bird species and stunning natural landscapes.

What unique bird species can be found in Colorado?

Colorado is known for its unique bird species, such as the Mountain Bluebird, Black Rosy-Finch, and Gunnison Sage-Grouse. These birds have specific habitats and behaviors that make them a delight to observe.

What are the best birdwatching spots in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Rocky Mountain National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. Key areas within the park include Bear Lake, Moraine Park, and Trail Ridge Road, where bird enthusiasts can spot a wide variety of bird species.

Why is San Luis Valley important for birdwatching?

San Luis Valley serves as a crucial stopover for migrating birds. It offers key birdwatching areas such as Great Sand Dunes National Park and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge, where birdwatchers can witness an abundance of migratory species.

What can birdwatchers expect at Pueblo Reservoir?

APueblo Reservoir is renowned for its diverse waterbird population. Birdwatchers visiting this hotspot can enjoy observing various waterbird species and explore the best viewing points within the area.

What makes Pawnee National Grassland a unique birdwatching habitat?

Pawnee National Grassland offers a pristine grassland habitat, attracting unique bird species such as Mountain Plovers and Burrowing Owls. Birdwatchers can explore this natural area and observe these fascinating avian species.

What bird species can be found at Chatfield State Park?

Chatfield State Park is known for its diverse bird species. Birdwatchers visiting this park can witness a variety of birds while enjoying the park’s scenic beauty.

What are the birdwatching opportunities at Cherry Creek State Park?

Cherry Creek State Park, located near Denver, offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Bird enthusiasts can spot a wide range of bird species within this urban oasis.

Why is Barr Lake State Park a haven for raptors?

Barr Lake State Park is abundant in raptors such as Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks. Birdwatchers can enjoy observing these majestic birds in their natural habitat.

What makes Gunnison National Forest ideal for avian enthusiasts?

Gunnison National Forest is a wilderness that attracts a diverse avian population. Birdwatchers can explore this forest and discover a range of bird species in their natural habitat.


  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.