Bird Watching in Vail, Colorado

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Welcome to ThinkVail – we hope you find this article about bird watching in Vail, Colorado helpful.

Bird watching, or birding is a fun, recreational outdoor activity where you observe birds in their natural habitat. You can view birds with the naked eye, or get a closer view with binoculars, scopes, telescopes and cameras. Another important component of bird watching is actually listening for and identifying bird calls, as many species are easier to detect and identify by ear than by eye.

The Vail Valley and Colorado, in general, boasts a big, diverse selection of bird species year-round. The summer comes alive with hundreds of birds but even the cold winter offers quite a lot of birds due to the fact that the area enjoys a variety of elevations, terrain, vegetation and habitats.

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Vail Valley Birding


Colorado Bird Species

Here is just a quick list of the most popular birds found in the vail valley year-round and seasonally.

  • grey jay
  • golden eagle
  • pine grosbeaks
  • Cather finches
  • red crossbills
  • bald eagle
  • red tail hawk
  • brown-capped rosy-finch
  • house finch
  • kingfisher
  • dusky grouse
  • sage grouse
  • white-tailed ptarmigan
  • stellar’s jay
  • American dipper
  • red shafted flicker
  • hermit thrush
  • western tanager
  • mountain bluebird
  • black-billed magpie
  • Clark’s nutcracker
  • American kestrel
  • great horned owl,
  • downy woodpecker
  • pygmy nuthatch
  • spotted towhee
  • ruby-crowned kinglet
  • broad tailed hummingbird
  • American tree swallow
  • pine siskin
  • dark eyed junco
  • house sparrow
  • black capped chickadee
  • mourning dove
  • great blue herons
  • American robins
  • Canadian goose and many, many more

For a complete list of all the birds in Colorado and their migration dates visit the website: Birds of Colorado

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Local Vail Valley Bird Watching Spots:

  • Vail Mountain
  • Beaver Creek Mountain
  • Arrowhead Ski Resort
  • Eagle River
  • Avon Water Treatment Plant
  • Piney Lake
  • Shrine Pass Trail
  • Lake Dillon
  • Eagle Trail

Colorado Birding Trail

The Colorado Birding Trail links 54 trails and more than 800 outdoor recreation sites, both public and private, to create a convenient designated driving route that is perfect for birding. Each driving route has a unique trail name and is composed of several watchable wildlife sites. Some trails include hiking or walking paths or platforms to observe wildlife and beautiful views. Choose from trails in the Eastern Plains, the Rocky Mountain and western Colorado.

Vail is located near the Eagle Trail of the Rocky Mountain section of the Colorado Birding trail. The Eagle Trail starts west of Vail Pass and continues through Glenwood Springs and follows the river and the Interstate. The trail boasts 12 beautiful sites with amazing birding opportunities. Visit their website for more information: ColoradoBirdingTrail.com

  1. Veltus Park
  2. Hanging Lake
  3. Dotsero Ponds
  4. Deep Creek Recreation Area
  5. Colorado River Ranch
  6. Trail Gulch Road
  7. Derby Mesa
  8. Catamount Recreation Site
  9. Gypsum Ponds State Wildlife Area
  10. Cottonwood Pass Road
  11. Brush Creek Ranch
  12. Sylvan Lake State Park

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Local Birding Guided Hikes

Birding can be difficult, especially for the novice. If you hire a knowledgeable guide you will greatly increase you chance of seeing a variety of birds as well as more difficult to identify birds. Tell your guide which birds you really hope to see and they will do all they can to find the right habitat and increase your chance of adding birds to your life list.

Walking Mountain Science School

Walking Mountain Science School offers a variety of birding tours during the summer season

  • Nature Discovery Center— is a local natural history museum located on Vail Mountain, with free discovery walks to introduce visitors to local wildlife and birds.
  • Evening Beaver Pond Tours begin at Vail Nature Center with educational activities and a drive to a beaver pond with an active lodge. The tours are available on Mondays and Wednesday evenings, mid June through early September.
  • Custom Private Birding Tours for groups and birding tours all year round.

Paragon Guides

Paragon Guides has been the Vail valley’s premier guide service since 1978. They operate throughout the White River National Forest of the central Rocky Mountain region and along the 10th Mountain Division Hut System. They offer private day tours and multi-day tours for hiking, mountain biking and backcountry skiing but they know the area and the birds that live and migrate here. Paragon’s guides are carefully chosen on the basis of their outdoor background, personalities, and genuine love of the wilderness. Visit their website to find out more ParagonGuides.com

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Essential Birding Gear

Birding does not require much in the way of gear but there are a few things that will make your birding experience so much better.

  • Brimmed hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • A field guide like the Audubon Society Field Guide
  • Life list- A list you keep of all the bird species you’ve seen at least once in your life.
  • Birding vest
  • Comfortable, appropriate footwear

Helpful Birding Apps

Audubon Birds of North America

This free app is complete field guide to over 800 species of North American birds, right in your phone. Designed for all experience levels, it will help you identify the surrounding birds, while keeping track of all the birds you’ve seen. This is ideal for beginner birders. Click here for the Audubon Birds of North America App

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eBird by Cornell

The eBird mobile app makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field, and seamlessly links these observations with eBird–a global online database of bird records. It keeps track of every bird you have ever seen and organizes the data any way you want to search. Includes, stats, history and life lists. Its very easy to use and is helpful for finding nearby birding hot spots.

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Raptor ID

Raptors can be hard to identify. The Raptor ID app is the first raptor identification app designed for mobile devices. Created by HawkWatch International it specializes in the 34 raptor species in North America.

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Local Birding Events

Great Back Yard Bird Count Annual Event – more than 160,000 people of all ages and walks of life worldwide join the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds.
For at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, simply tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see. You can count from any location, anywhere in the world. Create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon.

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Colorado Day (first Monday in August)

Colorado State Parks celebrate by offering free entrance to all 41 Colorado State Parks. A great way to get out and explore one of the many beautiful state parks in Colorado that you may have not visited in the past. Each park boasts an amazing array of birds to add to your Life List.


Yampa Valley Crane Festival – Steamboat Springs (late-August to early-September)

The Greater Sandhill Crane is an iconic species of the Yampa Valley. In late summer and early fall, hundreds of cranes from the Rocky Mountain flock join the local birds to rest and feed before continuing their journey south. The festival includes daily crane viewings, expert speakers, live raptors, films, art exhibits, workshops, family activities and more.

For more information visit the Yampa Valley Crane Festival at www.coloradocranes.org.

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Find more Colorado Birding Festivals at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website


See Also: Hut Trips near Vail, CO


Comments

We hope you found this article about bird watching in the Vail valley helpful. Have you been birding in the Vail valley? What is your favorite area and favorite bird? What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to do to add a particular bird to your life list? We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and of course, favorite stories. Thanks for sharing.

We work hard to ensure all information is correct but if there is an error or details have changed since the writing of this article please let us know in the comments below. Thank you!



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