Fall Birding in Colorado
Visiting birders to Colorado tend to fall into two main categories:
Many come in April for a Colorado “Chicken Tour” to enjoy the grouse, prairie-chickens, and ptarmigan. Another major wave of birders visit in the breeding season (May-July) for the great variety of Colorado specialities. But the fall season also offers tremendous birding opportunities. Rocky Mountain National Park by Andrew E. Russell via Flickr
Cassin’s Vireo – An Exercise in ID
Cassin’s Vireo is an interesting bird here in Colorado. In 1997, the American Ornithologists Union determined that the former Solitary Vireo was actually three separate species and now we have Blue-headed Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, and Cassin’s Vireo. The default breeding species among this trio in Colorado is the Plumbeous but Cassin’s does migrate through Colorado in the spring in fall. There are many more Colorado reports in the fall compared to the spring but definitive
Who Was Woodhouse?
Nice video of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay in Colorado by Colette Micallef
One of the birds we typically encounter on our Colorado birding tours is Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. But who in the heck is Woodhouse?
Samuel Washington Woodhouse was a surgeon-naturalist from Philadelphia who accompanied a U.S. Army survey expedition in the U.S. Southwest in 1849-1851. During the expedition, Woodhouse collected four species new to science, Cassin's Sparrow, Black-capped, White-throated Swift, and another bird which became known as Woodhouse's Jay. In 1931, the American Ornithologists' Union decided that Woodhouse's Jay was the same species as the Western Scrub Jay but in 2016, this decision was reversed and Woodhouse's bird is again considered a separate species and also gained a hyphen in the official name: Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay.
Some interesting tidbits:
- Woodhouse was seriously injured at least twice during the expedition. First, Woodhouse was bitten by a rattlesnake and lost the use of one hand for months. And just a few weeks later, he was shot in the leg with an arrow by a Yavapai Indian.
- One of the expedition members collected a falcon that Woodhouse initially identified as a Peregrine Falcon. The specimen was later re-identified as a Prairie Falcon which had by then been described for science by others; thus, Woodhouse missed out on the discovery of another new bird species!
- Just to keep things interesting for birders, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay itself is made up of at least seven recognized sub-species!
Our Disappearing Great Plains
9 Favorite Colorado Birding Resources
There are many excellent resources for learning about Colorado’s great birding opportunities. Here is a list of 9 of my personal favorites. I don’t intend this to be an exhaustive list–just a sampling of the books and online resources I use most often. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the knowledgeable and friendly Colorado birders who have welcomed me and willingly shared their time and expertise. Thank you all! NOTE: Although