Colorado harbors a diverse array of avian species. In this piece, we will explore some of the most familiar and well-known birds in the state, particularly those that frequent residential areas. While some of these bird species are permanent residents of Colorado, others migrate in and out in accordance with the changing seasons. Join us as we delve into 28 backyard birds in Colorado, gaining insights into each species.
Following this exploration, I will guide you on ways to attract these birds to your yard. Additionally, I will provide a concise overview of the 10 distinct types of bird feeders you can employ for this purpose. To enhance your birdwatching experience, I will also highlight a few popular birdwatching locations and organizations dedicated to birding in Colorado.
How many wild bird species inhabit Colorado?
Determining the exact number of bird species in North America or the United States, let alone in an individual state like Colorado, poses a challenge. According to Wikipedia, the official state list comprises at least 514 species. However, conflicting sources suggest varying counts, with one claiming 2,059 species in North America and an older source stating 914. While the precision of these figures may be questionable, they offer a general estimate of the species diversity.
For the purpose of this article, our focus will be on some of the preferred backyard species found in Colorado.
28 BACKYARD BIRDS IN COLORADO
Below, we will examine 28 species of backyard birds in Colorado, including both year-round residents and migratory ones. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights some of the more notable and easily recognizable backyard birds in Colorado, many of which you may encounter at your bird feeders. Let’s dive in!
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in
White-breasted nuthatches are prevalent feeder birds commonly found in most backyards within their range. Named for their habit of concealing nuts and seeds beneath tree bark, they employ their sharp beaks to extract the seed from the shell. These birds exhibit superior vertical walking abilities on trees compared to many other bird species. Identified by a thick black stripe atop their heads, flanked by white on either side and on their bellies, they feature mostly gray and black wings.
White-breasted nuthatches are year-round residents throughout Colorado.
Nuthatches readily visit most seed feeders. Offering them mixed seed blends, black sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet is recommended. Their behavior typically involves seizing a seed and promptly flying off to consume it or stash it in a nearby tree.
2.black – billed magpie
Scientific name: Pica hudsonia
Length: 17.7-23.6 in
Weight: 5.1-7.4 oz
Wingspan: 22.1-24.0 in
The striking black-billed magpie possesses the size of a crow but the form of a jay. Characterized by a black head, chest, and back, contrasted with a bright white shoulder and sides, these birds feature metallic blue hues along their wings and a lengthy tail. Their varied diet includes fruit, grain, insects, small mammals, carrion, and eggs. Notably, they can be observed inspecting the backs of large mammals like moose or deer, searching for ticks. These bold birds are often perched in trees or on fence posts and are known for their vocal nature, especially when in groups.
Black-billed magpies can be found year-round throughout Colorado.
While they have a preference for open rangeland, black-billed magpies may visit backyards. Attract them with sunflower seeds, peanuts on a platform feeder, suet, or by providing fruit such as orange halves.
Scientific name: Passer domesticus
Length: 5.9-6.7 in
Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in
Generally regarded as pests, house sparrows are one of the few wild bird species in the U.S., alongside starlings, that can be legally trapped and humanely killed. Introduced in New York in the 1800s, they have proliferated across the country. Primarily brown, with black and brown streaking on their wings and a buffy chest, they exhibit aggressive behavior, particularly around nests.
House sparrows are found throughout Colorado all year.
Considered invasive like European starlings, house sparrows pose a threat to native species and have a broad dietary range.
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
Length: 4.3-5.1 in
Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in
Goldfinches rank among my favorite feeder visitors, especially when adorned with bright yellow feathers in the spring and summer. During this period, they exhibit predominantly yellow or “gold” plumage, with black-tipped wings, and males sport a black cap atop their heads. Winter sees a molt, transforming their vibrant yellow to a more subdued brownish or olive tone. Identifiable year-round by the black on their wings and finch-like beaks.
Goldfinches are mostly observed in winter in Colorado, although they often linger all year in areas along the northern and eastern border.
Thistle feeders are preferred by goldfinches, but they may also consume sunflower chips. A thistle feeder offers the best chance to attract them.
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Length: 9.8-11.8 in
Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 in
Another well-known North American bird species is the blue jay. Featuring a large blue crest atop their heads, predominantly blue feathers along their back and wings, a black ring around their neck, and a white breast and belly, they display black stripes and barring on their wings and tail. Both females and males share identical coloration. Blue jays emit loud, metallic calls and are often the first to signal nearby birds of a potential threat like a hawk.
Blue jays are year-round residents in the eastern portion of Colorado, but are less common west of Denver.
Blue jays favor platform feeders, peanut feeders, and feeders with large perches. Offer them black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts.
Scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri
Length: 11.8-13.4 in
Weight: 3.5-4.9 oz
Wingspan: 17.3 in
Steller’s jay presents a striking appearance with its large size, brownish-black upper half, and vibrant blue lower half. These jays boast a sizable crest that they can flick and showcase dramatically during courtship or aggression. While their primary habitat is evergreen forests, they are also known to frequent campgrounds, parks, and backyards within their range.
Steller’s jays can be found year-round, primarily in the western half of Colorado.
To attract Steller’s Jays to bird feeders, provide peanuts, large seeds, and nuts.
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Medium to large-sized woodpeckers, Northern Flickers are commonly sighted in backyards across the United States, although they are not frequent visitors to feeders. Renowned for their vibrant colors, they feed primarily on insects, exhibiting a unique behavior of foraging on the ground instead of trees, unlike other woodpeckers. Recognizable by the black spots on their bellies, solid black bib, barred black and gray wings, and a light brown and gray head, males sport a distinctive “mustache” absent in females.
Colorado is home to two color varieties, the “yellow-shafted” and the “red-shafted.” The main distinction lies in the color underneath the wings and tail, as well as the mustache color in males. Hybrid varieties, resulting from occasional interbreeding, may display a combination of both traits.
Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout Colorado.
While Northern Flickers may not frequent feeders like other woodpecker species, they do visit suet feeders. Observing them digging around leaf piles for insects is also possible.
Scientific name: Spinus pinus
Length: 4.3-5.5 in
Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-8.7 in
Pine Siskins, diminutive members of the finch family characterized by sharply pointed beaks, exhibit brown and white streaks, resembling female house finches. However, they can be distinguished by the yellow (varying in brightness) along their wings and sides of their tails. Considered nomadic, their erratic winter movements follow favorable seed crops, with a preference for conifer seeds.
Pine Siskins can be found in the Rockies year-round, primarily in the eastern part of the state during winter.
These finches readily visit nyjer (thistle) feeders and may also consume millet or hulled sunflower.
Scientific name: Sturnella neglecta
Length: 6.3-10.2 in
Weight: 3.1-4.1 oz
Wingspan: 16.1 in
Breeding adult Western Meadowlarks display heavily streaked wings and back, bright yellow chest, throat, and face, a distinctive white eyebrow, and a black bib. Immature and non-breeding birds feature a paler yellow hue and lack the black chest patch. Known for their melodious “flutelike” song, often sung from perches on fence posts, they are typically found in flocks, feeding on insects and seeds in grasslands, meadows, and pastures.
Western Meadowlarks are year-round residents in Colorado.
If you reside near open habitats, Western Meadowlarks may visit your yard for seed, preferably on a platform feeder or directly from the ground. Hulled sunflower and cracked corn are suitable offerings.
10.dark- eyed junco
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in
The Dark-eyed Junco exhibits various color variations across the U.S. In Colorado, common varieties include gray-headed, Oregon, and pink-sided, while less common species include red-backed, slate-colored, Cassiar, and white-winged. Distinguished by their pale pink beaks and roundish body shape, they typically have darker heads and backs and lighter bellies.
Dark-eyed Juncos are primarily observed in the eastern half of Colorado in winter, while some may remain in the western half year-round.
Juncos readily visit yards but prefer to feed on seeds dropped by other birds on the ground underneath feeders. They favor mixed seeds.
Scientific name: Poecile gambeli
Length: 4.3-5.5 in
Weight: 0.4 oz
Mountain Chickadees, recognized by their tiny size and rounded bodies, are easily identified by their “black cap” and black throat. Sporting solid white cheeks, gray wings and backs, and fluffy, light underbodies, they are distinguished from black-capped chickadees by the white stripe above the eye. Thriving in evergreen forests in mountainous regions, they are a year-round presence in the Rockies.
Chickadees visit most seed feeders, showing a preference for mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds. In winter, they also readily consume suet.
12.woodhouse’s scrub jay
Scientific name: Aphelocoma woodhouseii
Length: 11.0-11.8 in
Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays, larger than robins with a long and lean shape, feature blue heads, wings, and tails with a gray back. Notably, they possess shaggy white feathers at the throat and a light gray chest and belly. Inhabiting pinon-juniper and oak-pinyon forests, they are comfortable around people, often seen in golf courses, parks, and suburbs.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays are found throughout western and central Colorado, less commonly in the eastern part of the state.
These jays visit backyard feeders for sunflower seeds, peanuts, and other nuts, with increased frequency in winter when their diet includes more insects.
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in
The House Finch, identified by its scientific name Haemorhous mexicanus, is a frequent visitor to backyard bird feeders across both the eastern and western regions of the United States. Attracting these birds is relatively simple, often resulting in group visits to your feeders. Males exhibit mostly streaked brown plumage with red markings on the head and chest, while females are uniformly brown.
House Finches are year-round residents throughout Colorado.
Similar to other finches, House Finches are often spotted at thistle feeders. They are more inclined to visit seed feeders compared to Goldfinches, making black sunflower seeds an effective lure.
14. mourning dove
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 in
Weight: 3.0-6.0 oz
Wingspan: 17.7 in
Sized similar to pigeons, Mourning Doves are commonplace in backyards, often perching on telephone wires or congregating in trees. While occasionally seen on tray feeders, they more commonly forage on the ground. Identified by predominantly gray plumage with black spots on top, a pale peachy underside, and pink legs.
Mourning Doves are year-round inhabitants throughout the entire state of Colorado.
Doves frequently visit seed feeders but prefer scavenging on the ground for fallen seeds. Using a ground feeder with a mixed seed blend or scattering seeds on the ground is an effective way to attract them.
15. european starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
Length: 7.9-9.1 in
Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Introduced to the U.S. in the 1890s, European Starlings, scientifically known as Sturnus vulgaris, have become invasive, dominating the country and causing harm to other bird species. Recognizable by their mostly dark plumage with white specks on their backs and wings, they feature yellow beaks and feet. In certain lighting conditions, they can display a purple and green iridescence.
Unfortunately, European Starlings are found year-round in every one of the lower 48 states, including Colorado.
Considered an invasive species, it is not recommended to intentionally attract European Starlings due to their disruptive behavior. They are likely to appear regardless of attempts to attract them.
16. black-capped chickadee
Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus
Length: 4.7-5.9 in
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in
Black-capped Chickadees, characterized by their small size and distinctive “black cap” and bib, have rounded bodies. Solid white cheeks, blackish-gray wings and backs, and fluffy light underbodies set them apart from other chickadee species. Unlike the mountain chickadee, they are common visitors to bird feeders, displaying bold behavior for their size.
Black-capped Chickadees can be found year-round throughout Colorado.
These chickadees readily visit most seed feeders, showing a preference for mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds. Their bold nature often makes them among the first to explore new feeders in a yard.
17. red-winged blackbird
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Length: 6.7-9.1 in
Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Among the most prevalent birds in North America, male Red-winged Blackbirds are unmistakable with their red and yellow “shoulders” contrasting against their black bodies. Females, in contrast, exhibit mostly brown plumage with light streaks. As a polygynous species, males may mate with up to 15 different females. Unfortunately, they can form flocks that quickly consume seed at feeders.
Red-winged Blackbirds can be found throughout Colorado all year.
These birds visit various feeders and consume both seed and suet.
18. hairy woodpecker
Scientific name: Leuconotopicus villosus
Length: 7.1-10.2 in
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in
Hairy Woodpeckers, distinguished by their larger size and longer beak, closely resemble Downy Woodpeckers with similar markings. While they share comparable features, Hairy Woodpeckers, like Downy’s, are commonly found in the same geographical regions. However, Hairy Woodpeckers tend to visit feeders less frequently than their Downy counterparts.
Hairy Woodpeckers are found throughout Colorado all year.
Although not as frequent as Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers will visit suet and seed feeders.
19. white-crowned sparrow
Scientific name: Zonotrichia leucophrys
Length: 5.9-6.3 in
Weight: 0.9-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 8.3-9.4 in
White-crowned Sparrows, spending summers in northern regions and migrating south across the U.S. during winter, are easily recognizable with their bold black and white striped heads. While their heads feature distinctive markings, the rest of their face, chest, and belly maintain a plain buffy brown-gray. These sparrows often forage in fields and along roads, and while they visit bird feeders, they typically remain on the ground to pick up spilled seed.
White-crowned Sparrows can be found year-round in the western half of the state and may only be present during winter in the eastern half.
These sparrows readily visit feeders, favoring sunflower, millet, and mixed seed blends.
20. american robin
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 in
Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Commonly observed in backyards, American Robins are often seen hopping on grass in search of worms and invertebrates. Although occasional visitors to bird feeders, they do not typically consume seeds. Recognizable by their bright red round bellies and yellow beaks, these birds may retreat to wood during winter but usually remain in the state.
American Robins can be found throughout Colorado all year.
To attract American Robins, provide mealworms, native fruit-bearing plants, or a bird bath, as they do not frequently visit bird feeders.
21. red-breasted nuthatch
Scientific name: Sitta canadensis
Length: 4.3 in
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in
Red-breasted Nuthatches boast a dark gray back, rusty chest and belly, and a boldly black and white striped face. These agile birds are often spotted hopping on tree trunks and branches in search of insects beneath the bark. While residing in tree cavities, they may also use backyard nest boxes. The population of Red-breasted Nuthatches may migrate south during winters when conifer seed availability is limited.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are found year-round in the Rockies but typically only winter visitors to the eastern part of the state.
These nuthatches readily visit feeders, showing a preference for sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet.
22. song sparrow
Scientific name: Melospiza melodia
Length: 4.7-6.7 in
Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in
Song sparrows, widespread across North America, exhibit varied plumage across regions. In the east, their backs and wings are predominantly brown, featuring pronounced brown streaks on their chest and a white belly. Male song sparrows utilize their songs for both attracting females and defending their territory.
Song sparrows are year-round residents in the central and western parts of Colorado but are typically spotted in the eastern portion only during winter.
These sparrows occasionally visit bird feeders, enjoying mixed seeds and sunflower seeds.
23. common grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11.0-13.4 in
Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz
Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in
Although falling into the category of bully birds, common grackles display iridescent feathers that reveal hues of blue, green, brown, and purple in the right light. Often appearing black, these birds boast a long, narrow body and tail, along with a distinctive yellow-ringed eye. They may roost with other blackbirds, forming massive flocks numbering in the millions.
Common grackles are present throughout Colorado during the spring and summer.
Foragers by nature, grackles consume a wide range of foods, earning them a reputation as pests.
24. chipping sparrow
Scientific name: Spizella passerina
Length: 4.7-5.9 in
Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz
Wingspan: 8.3 in
Chipping sparrows display their crispest feathers in the summer, featuring a buffy gray breast, streaked brown and tan wings, a rusty red cap, and a black line through the eye with white above. During winter, their markings may appear less defined, with coloring trending more towards buffy-brown. Commonly found feeding on open ground, chipping sparrows are prevalent in the western half of Colorado during the spring and summer, with occasional sightings in the eastern half during the spring and fall migration.
Chipping sparrows frequent backyard feeders, particularly enjoying sunflower and mixed seeds scattered on the ground.
25. downy woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
Downy Woodpeckers are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders. As the smallest woodpeckers in North America, they are easily identified by their all-white underbodies, black wings with white spots, black and white striped heads, and the red spot on the back of their heads (found in males, while females lack the red spot). Although they closely resemble the Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpeckers are smaller.
These woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Colorado and are commonly spotted at various bird feeders. They readily consume mixed seeds, black sunflower seeds, and suet.
Scientific name: Psaltriparus minimus
Length: 2.8-3.1 in
Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz
Bushtits are small, plump birds with pale gray bodies, featuring either a light buffy brown or gray head with a tan cheek. Males have fully black eyes, while females have a white-ringed eye. They are often found in flocks, moving actively from branch to branch in shrubs and thickets, constantly searching for insects.
Bushtits can be found year-round in the south and west of Colorado but are less common in the north and east. These birds usually do not visit feeders, preferring insects. Planting native shrubs and trees that support their prey can help attract them to your yard.
27. spotted towhee
Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus
Length: 6.7-8.3 in
Weight: 1.2-1.7 oz
Wingspan: 11.0 in
The Spotted Towhee is a delightful backyard bird with a dark head, back, wings, and tail adorned with white wing spots, rusty sides, and a white belly. Males have black, while females have brown in their dark coloring. Expert foragers, towhees sift through leaf litter and vegetation for insects, seeds, and berries.
Spotted Towhees are present throughout Colorado, with varying seasonal patterns. While they may only be winter birds in much of the state, there are regions in the northern half where they appear in summer and areas in the southern half where they are present year-round.
These birds do not often eat directly from bird feeders but may search for seeds on the ground beneath them. Scatter mixed seeds on the ground or maintain brushy vegetation in the yard to attract them.
28. eurasian collared-dove
Scientific name: Streptopelia decaocto
Length: 11.4-11.8 in
Weight: 4.9-6.3 oz
Wingspan: 13.8 in
The Eurasian Collared-Dove, native to parts of Europe and Asia, established itself in the U.S. after escaping from a pet shop in the Bahamas during the 1970s. Resembling a mourning dove but with a chunkier body and longer tail, these doves lack the black spots on their back, featuring a plain back with a black stripe across the back of their neck.
Eurasian Collared-Doves can be found in Colorado year-round. They visit backyards to eat seeds and grain, usually from platform feeders or scattered on the ground, with a particular fondness for millet.
Exploring Avian Wonders in Colorado
For those eager to explore the realm of birdwatching beyond the confines of their backyard, Colorado provides a plethora of options. The Audubon Society boasts numerous local chapters spread across the state, organizing meetups, workshops, field trips, and birding tours. Additionally, the Colorado Field Ornithologists offer abundant resources for those keen on delving into the avian world.
Whether you’re a resident or a visitor in Colorado, seeking to enrich your life list with new bird species, peruse the compiled list below featuring popular birding locations in the state.
COLORADO BIRDING SPOTS
For detailed insights into what each of these locations has to offer, visit birdwatchersdigest.org.
How to Invite Feathered Friends to Your Yard
If the idea of welcoming diverse bird species to your backyard sparks your interest, consider these five straightforward tips, beginning with the most apparent.
1.Install Bird Feeders
The most effective and straightforward method to entice birds is to set up one or more bird feeders. I recommend starting with a basic tube feeder, hopper feeder, platform feeder, or a window feeder. Refer to the suggestions below for each type.
2.Incorporate a Water Source
While a pedestal birdbath, such as the one available on Amazon, serves excellently, you can also use something as uncomplicated as a terra cotta flower pot saucer. Birds require water not only for bathing but also for drinking, and introducing a water feature to your yard enhances the likelihood of attracting birds. Consider adding a solar fountain, as the movement of water tends to further captivate these feathered visitors.
Numerous bird species readily occupy birdhouses if placed strategically and at the right time of year. Eastern Bluebirds, in particular, are highly sought after for this purpose. Installing a birdhouse in my backyard led to a mating pair of bluebirds inspecting it on the very day of installation.
Ensure your yard features trees, bushes, and shrubs where birds can swiftly navigate to when they sense danger. This serves as their primary defense against predators. If your yard lacks mature trees, especially in a new subdivision, consider incorporating landscaping features that create a safe haven for birds.
5.Integrate Native Plants
For birds that thrive on nuts, berries, and seeds, native plants producing these items significantly enhance your chances of attracting a variety of species. Avoid invasive and non-native plants, as they can be detrimental to native birds unaccustomed to these plant species.
Discovering Diversity: 10 Bird Feeders for Your Yard
Explore the variety of bird feeders commonly employed in yards to attract a multitude of feathered friends.
Named for the central compartment or “hopper” holding bird seed.
Typically house-shaped with perches on the sides.
Ideal for black sunflower seeds or mixed bird seed.
Recommended: Squirrel-proof hopper feeder.
Also known as tray feeders, open on top.
Can be hung or pole-mounted.
Suitable for various bird types.
Effective with black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed.
Clear plastic tube-shaped feeders.
Range in size from a few cups to 5 lbs or more.
Preserves seed freshness and dryness.
Suitable for black sunflower seeds and mixed seeds.
Recommended: Squirrel Buster’s reliable tube feeders.
Designed for suet cakes, a high-fat bird food.
Typically a wire cage, sometimes with a tail-prop.
Popular in winter, attracting woodpeckers.
Suggested: Suet feeder with a long tail prop.
Small feeders attaching to glass windows with suction cups.
Similar to tray feeders, easy to refill.
Popular for various birds, especially in smaller yards.
Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed.
Top choice: Highly popular window feeder on Amazon.
Specialized for thistle seed, attracting finches.
Often tube-shaped with tiny holes for seed extraction.
Attracts American Goldfinch and House Finch.
Recommended: Quality thistle feeder from Droll Yankees.
Tray feeders at ground level.
Appealing to birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos.
Attracts ground animals like squirrels and raccoons.
Suitable for black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed.
Consider: Ground feeder made from recycled plastic.
Specialty feeder for orioles.
Often orange with dishes for holding jelly.
Allows attachment of orange halves.
Explore: Simple oriole feeder with jelly trays.
Nectar feeders for hummingbirds.
Designed for sugar water extraction.
Attracts Downy Woodpeckers and other species.
Affordable and simple options available.
Tube-shaped with metal wire mesh.
Spaced holes for whole unshelled or shelled peanuts.
Attracts birds like Blue Jays.
Squirrel-proof option: Squirrel Buster’s peanut feeder.
Diversify your yard and attract a spectrum of birds with these distinctive feeder options.