The Pawnee National Grasslands is the finest remaining example of short-grass prairie in the Great Basin. Most birders come to the Pawnee Grasslands to find the resident breeding species including Ferruginous and Swainson’s Hawks, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Mountain Plover, Say’s Phoebe, Rock Wren, Lark Bunting, McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Brewer’s and Cassin’s Sparrows.
You can see a full list of our target species by clicking the image.
Itinerary: From our Longmont base it takes about 45 minutes to reach the western edge of the Pawnee Grasslands. Within the vast grasslands (a combination of public and private land), there are small variations in terrain and vegetation which are favored by different species. We'll do a lot of driving while we scan both the nearby fencelines and scattered treetops as well as watching the sky for circling raptors. The longspurs (when present) tend to flush up from the roadsides and disappear back into the grasses. And when we look to the west, we'll see the snow-capped Rocky Mountains on the horizon! You can read more about the history and background of the grasslands here.
When to Visit: Pawnee National Grasslands can be visited any time of year but the best birding is when the summer resident birds are active from April through August.
Difficulty: With so much territory to explore, most of our birding is done from the road either using our vehicle as a blind or with short walks out on to the prairie.
Travel Notes: The Pawnee Grasslands are roughly 5,000 feet above sea level and most visitors won't feel any effects of altitude. Spring and summer days can be very hot and there is little shade so sunscreen and sun protection is critical. Summer afternoons can bring passing rainstorms. There are few services available in the grasslands and we typically bring a picnic-style lunch and plenty of fluids to drink. We also will plan carefully to make regular restroom stops.