Colorado: Spring 2016

Spring 2016: 1 Mar–31 May

Dean Shoup

Recommended citation:

Shoup, D. 2021. Spring 2016: Colorado. <> North American Birds.

The spring season began with most of the region out of drought status, with just a few small areas abnormally dry. As the season progressed, moderate drought conditions in the southeast were present by late March into mid-April. By the season’s end, the southeast and most of the state were out of drought status, except a small area in the southwest. Temperatures were near to above average for the state overall for the period. Precipitation was above average; the nearby states of Wyoming and Nebraska were much above average. The season was marked by a general sense of disappointment with many typical passerine migrants being reported in low numbers. The season did have its share of rare birds though, including a first state record, a third state record and possibly a fourth. A Couch’s Kingbird accepted by the Colorado B.R.C. was a first state record. A Hooded Oriole became the third accepted record of its kind. Also very rare for the state, a King Rail was reported; if accepted, it would be the fourth record for Colorado. Other highlights around the state were Eurasian Wigeon, Neotropic Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Hudsonian Godwit, Laughing Gull, Iceland Gull (Kumlien’s), Arctic Tern, Lesser Nighthawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Alder Flycatcher (five reports), Vermilion Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Lucy’s Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Purple Finch, Eastern Towhee, Hepatic Tanager, and Scarlet Tanager.


Jessie Barry, Kara Carragher, Coen Dexter, David Dowell, John Drummond, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Lisa Edwards, Norm Erthal, Ted Floyd, Austin Hess, Jon Horn, Marshal Iliff, William Kaempfer, Joey Kellner, Doug Kibbe, Nick Komar, Dave Leatherman, Tim Lenz

Contributors (cont.)

Satoko Lincoln, Bill Maynard, Dan Maynard, Stephany McNew, Timo Mitzen, Steven G. Mlodinow, Gwen Moore, Nick Moore, Duane Nelson, Rob Norville, Stanley Oswald, Brandon K. Percival, Mark Peterson, Alan Reed, Sue Riffe, Jared Del Rosso, Dean Shoup, Dave Silverman, Jill White Smith, Jane Stulp, David Suddjian, Paul Tennery, Janeal W. Thompson, David Wade, Glenn Walbek, Chris Wood, Brenda Wright.


Cherry Creek (Cherry Creek Reservoir and S.P., Arapahoe), C.B.R.C. (Colorado B.R.C.), C.F.O. (Colorado Field Ornithologists), Chico (Chico Basin Ranch, El Paso/Pueblo), C.U. (Colorado University, Boulder), C.S.U. (Colorado State University, Larimer), E.L.C. (Environmental Learning Center, Larimer), J.M.R. (John Martin Reservoir, Bent), Last Chance (Last Chance Rest Area, Washington), Plains (Colorado’s e. plains).


A pair of Trumpeter Swans appeared at Roaring Fork Golf Club, Pitkin 30 Mar–1 Apr (RN). Tundra Swans were reported at three different locations: five at Elevenmile S.P., Park 22 Feb–5 Mar (DSu, SGM, DD); three in Garfield 4 Mar (SR, GM); one at Schaefer Res., Lincoln 22 Apr–9 May (WK, m.ob.). As more awareness is being placed on identifying and documenting Mexican Duck in Colorado, four reports from astute observers were good for the state: three near Creede Mineral 10 Apr (MP); one at Monte Vista N.W.R., Rio Grande 10 May (MI) was maybe better entered as Mallard x Mexican, showing signs that it was not 100% pure; two at Lake Maria, Huerfano 12–13 May (TL, CW, JB), which were exhibiting pair-like behavior; and a single bird at Box Springs Pond, Crowley 13 May (TF). A male Eurasian Wigeon was seen at Pastorius Res., La Plata 3 Mar–1 Apr (Riley Morris, m.ob.). Three White-winged Scoters at Trinidad Lake S.P., Las Animas 20 Mar (PT) were a good find. Long-tailed Duck showed nicely around the state, including three at Chatfield S.P., Jefferson and South Platte Res., Jefferson/Arapahoe 19 Dec–5 May (JK, m. ob.); and others in Washington, Logan, Mesa, Adams, and Alamosa (m.ob.). Two species of loon were represented with four reports of Red-throated Loon in Mesa, Arapahoe, Larimer, and Bent 17 Mar–9 May (m.ob.), and one of Pacific Loon at Big Johnson Res., El Paso (MP, m.ob.). Red-necked Grebe reports were few with only two reported in the state, with one at J.M.R. 19–21 Apr (DN, JWT) and one in Pagosa Springs, Archuleta 31 May (SL).

Always a good find in Colorado, Neotropic Cormorant were reported at two locations: one at Chipeta Lake SWA, Montrose 17–19 Mar and 24–28 May (CD, BW, AR, JH, m.ob.); and one at Lower Latham Res., Weld 18 Apr (SGM). Also rare to the state is Brown Pelican, with four reports, none on the same day, creating a curious notion that maybe one bird was moving around a lot, although these could very well be different individuals. One was at Lake Beckwith, Pueblo 5–7 Apr (DSi, m.ob.), one at Lake Hasty, Bent 14–24 Apr (JWS, m.ob.), one at Walden Ponds, Boulder 26–27 Apr (J. Rutenback, R. Martinez), and one at Ireland Res. #5, Weld 28 Apr (George Mayfield, Karen Drozda). Least Bittern was amazingly first detected by ear at Thurston Res., Prowers 7–14 May(JB, CW, m.ob.) and later one at Walden Ponds, Boulder 18–21 May (Jeff Parks, m.ob.). One Little Blue Heron was the only one of its kind found during the spring season at Holbrook Res., Otero 11–14 Apr (SO, m.ob.). Glossy Ibis was reported throughout the state in La Plata, Bent, Lincoln, Pueblo, Weld, El Paso, Logan, Prowers, Jefferson, and Morgan from 15 Apr–20 May (m.ob.). A high count of 250 Turkey Vultures were at Waneka Lake, Boulder 29 Mar (TF). Broad-winged Hawk was widely reported in 26 counties, mostly from the Front Range to the e. plains, 12 Apr–29 May, with one notable exception being the higher elevation report from Gilpin (ph. DK). Reports of Black Rail in the state were made in Pueblo, Otero and Prowers 9–29 May (SGM, et al.). The more unexpected and rare was the report of a King Rail at Brett Gray Ranch Lincoln 9 May (SGM).

A nice assortment of shorebirds were reported from around the state at an unusually high 25 different locations in 17 counties from 24 Apr–28 May, including Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, Snowy Plover, Piping Plover, and Whimbrel. The highlight perhaps was two American Golden-Plovers at Sheridan Lake, Kiowa 5 May (Peter Burke). Hudsonian Godwit was found in three different locations: Holbrook Res., Otero 18–19 Apr (SO, SM, BKP); Behrens Res., Weld 16 May (SGM, KMD, JK); and Verhoeff Res., Bent 25 May (DN, JWT). Other shorebirds present included Ruddy Turnstone in Bent, Crowley and Weld 25 Apr–14 May; Dunlin in Otero, Moffat, and Alamosa 19 Apr–14 May; and Short-billed Dowitcher in Adams, Logan, Baca, and Sedgwick from 24 Apr–8 May. Also, a lone Red Phalarope was at Timnath Res., Larimer 30–31 May (DW, NK, m.ob.). Laughing Gull made appearances at Holbrook Res., Otero 9 May (MP, m.ob.); San Luis Lakes S.P., Alamosa 14 May (CW, et al); Thurston Res., Prowers 28 May (K. Welsh); and J.M.R. 29 May (I. Sanders). A Mew Gull at Horseshoe Res., Larimer 2 Apr (NK, AH) was getting somewhat late for the species. A little earlier at the same location, an Iceland Gull (Kumlien’s) at Horseshoe Res., Larimer 26 Mar (NK, et al) was the only one of its kind found in the state. One Glaucous Gull at Cherry Creek., Arapahoe 12 Mar–9 Apr (GW, m.ob.) and one at Upper Queens/Neeskah Res., Kiowa 27 Mar (DD) were the only two reported this season. Least and Caspian Tern were reported in multiple locations as they usually are annual in the state, but not as predictable was a report of two Arctic Terns near Jefferson, Park 26 May (SGM).

White-winged Dove continues to show up in more northerly locations as was the case with one in Craig, Moffat 19 May (J. Leonard). The Nucla Sewage Lagoons, Montrose have again hosted the increasingly annual species of Lesser Nighthawk 24 May (CD, BW, m.ob.). Also, one at Alamosa N.W.R., Alamosa 12 May (MI, TL) was a great find. Another bird that as of late has become more regular, yet still rare, was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, found in the woods behind Lamar Community College, Prowers 25 Apr (DN). Acorn Woodpeckers continue in their favorite haunts in Durango, La Plata and Pueblo Mountain Park, Pueblo. A Red-headed Woodpecker was found at Zapata Ranch, Alamosa 19 May (J. Rawinski). Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was discovered in Golden, Jefferson 3 Mar (TM) as well as in Prowers, Larimer, El Paso, and Bent.


Eastern Wood-Pewee was documented once this season at Chico 18 May (SGM). Singing “Pee-o-wee”, it solidified its ID to the observer. Detected annually since 2012, Alder Flycatcher had four reports and a fifth of a banded bird: one at Flagler S.W.A., Kit Carson 18–28 May (MP, GW, KC, BKP, DD); one at Beecher Island, Yuma 25 May (DSh), documented with an audio recording of the bird singing; one at Sand Draw S.W.A., Sedgwick 28 May (DD); and another at Sandy Bluffs S.T.L. and S.W.A. Yuma 29 May (DD). Other notable flycatchers were two female Vermilion Flycatchers at Belmar Park, Jefferson 15–21 Apr (R. Raker, m.ob.); one male at Karval, Lincoln 18–22 Apr (Mel & Jeanne Goff, et al); and one female at Chico 20 May (JD). Black, Say’s and Eastern Phoebe were all reported along with two reports of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. One Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was found flying through the town of Eads, Kiowa 6 May (NE) and one was at Chico 7 May (BM, KC). The most exciting news came in the form of a Couch’s Kingbird, Colorado’s first state record, reported from Lamar, Prowers 19 Apr (DL). This brings the accepted state list of species up to 500! A very well-documented and described location of a White-eyed Vireo in the metro area at deKoevend Park Littleton Arapahoe (JDR, m.ob.), made this usually annual, but rare species, readily available to local birders wishing to get a glimpse. Other reports included one at West Chicago Creek C.G., Clear Creek 25 May (G. Doyle) and another being an accepted record by the C.B.R.C. recorded in Huerfano 22 May (P. Neldner). Five reports of Yellow-throated Vireo were good for the state, in El Paso, La Plata, Bent, Kit Carson, and Weld 2 May–2 June (m.ob.).

Always a fun find in Colorado was Varied Thrush at a residence in Arapahoe (R. Campbell, m.ob.) and one in Fort Collins, Larimer 15 May (B. Tilmant, I. Fortune). Gray-cheeked Thrush was widely reported in ten counties: Baca, Bent, Boulder, El Paso, Larimer, Lincoln, Morgan, Prowers, Washington, and Weld 5–30 May (m.ob.). Wood Thrush was found in Colorado Springs, El Paso 29 Apr (D. Tonnessen) and Barr Lake S.P., Adams 21–22 May (A. Morton, C. Goulart). Purple Finch was found in three locations, presumably the same bird separated by only a few blocks and six days apart. This bird was a female-type coming to feeders at private residences in Lakewood, Jefferson 14–21 Apr (P. Zimmer, ph. M. Chavez). Another was detected by song at Sand Draw S.W.A., Sedgwick 28 Mar (SGM, NM). Common Redpoll high counts for the year were 26 at Tabernash, Grand 3 Mar (M. Obmascik), 18 in Summit 29 Mar (H. Taliaferro), and 19 at the same location in Tabernash, Grand 9 Apr. These numbers pale in comparison to 2013’s banner year high counts of 75 and 100 being recorded. Speaking of high numbers, 4500 McCown’s Longspurs near Arriba, Lincoln 5 Apr (T. Johnson) eclipsed 2015’s high count of 753 by a large margin, for one location. Rare for the county of Conejos was an accepted record of Chestnut-collared Longspur 27 Mar (T. Stuart). Multiple reports of Fox Sparrow (Slate-colored) are expected, but one at Last Chance, Washington 26–27 Mar (DD, m.ob.) was a nice surprise. Swamp Sparrow continues to be found throughout the state in small numbers with reports coming from Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, El Paso, Jefferson, Pueblo, Washington, and Yuma 12 Mar–22 May. Golden-crowned Sparrow was reported at Snooks Bottom Open Space, Fruita, Mesa 1–12 Apr (E. Marino, m.ob.), and another was at Tamarack Ranch S.W.A., Logan 1 May (DD, m.ob.). Sagebrush Sparrow occurred throughout the region with multiple reports in 17 counties, 4 Mar–31 May, (m.ob.), with the farthest east record being at Hanover Road near Chico, El Paso 12 April (BM, R. Bunn).

Eastern Towhee continues to be found in very small numbers in the state, usually out on the Plains. One record of particular interest was a male and female pair found at Tamarack Ranch S.W.A., Logan 16 May (GW, L. Kilpatrick). Colorado’s third accepted record of Hooded Oriole graced the backyard of a private residence in a south Denver neighborhood to the delight of many observers, Douglas 25 Apr–2 May (J. Ealy, m.ob.). A single Baltimore Oriole was far west of its typical range in Meeker, Rio Blanco 8–10 May (D. Hilkey, F. Luke, V. Zerbi). A beautiful male Scott’s Oriole was photographed at Brush Hollow Res., Fremont 10 May (ph. R. Miller). Other reports came in from Las Animas, Mesa, Montezuma, and Rio Grande 9 Mar–26 May. Drastically down from 2015’s totals of 52 birds reported in the state to just one, a single Rusty Blackbird was found near Fountain, El Paso 5–13 Mar (A. Vesely, L. Edwards).

Thirty-seven species of warblers were found in the state. A nice find on the college campus of C.U. was a Worm-eating Warbler in Boulder, Boulder 30 Apr–9 May (N. Pieplow, m.ob.). A Golden-winged Warbler at the private Stulp Ranch, Prowers 5–6 May (JS, m.ob.) delighted the crowds of the annual C.F.O. convention who were allowed to come visit; another sighting occurred nearby at Fort Lyon Wildlife Easement, Bent 8 May (M. Boswell, DSh, NE). Blue-winged Warbler was sparse with just three reports coming in, with one from Chico 14 May (m.ob.), one from Melody Temple Grove, Bent 17 May (DL), and one photographed at Middle Hylands Creek Open Space, Adams 20 May (ph. K. Turner). Black-and-white Warbler was seen throughout the state in 14 counties from 11 Apr–30 May. As with Blue-winged Warbler, also coming in with just three reports was Prothonotary Warbler. A single bird was found at Lee Martinez Park in Fort Collins, Larimer 9–13 Apr (J. Birek, m.ob.); a second report came in from Wray, Yuma 28 Apr (DM), and a third from Gunnison, Gunnison 16 May (J. Carrithers). Tennessee Warbler was prevalent in 15 counties from 3–22 May. A review species for the state, but usually found in sw. CO, Lucy’s Warbler was found in Salida, Chaffee 13 Apr (S. York) along with the traditional locations in Montezuma 3 Apr–30 May. Mourning Warbler had three confirmed sightings, with one at Last Chance, Washington 17 May (GW, MP), one at Akron Golf Course, Washington (GW, S. Larson), and one in Waterton Canyon, Jefferson 30 May (M. O’Connor). A singing Kentucky Warbler with audio recording was a great find in Pueblo, Pueblo 26–28 May (V. Truan). Hooded Warbler is always a favorite among Colorado birders out beating the bushes. Among the rewards to be found were ones at Chico 15 Apr (BKP, SM); Colorado Springs, El Paso 18 Apr (A. Driscoll); Two Buttes SWA, Baca 2 May (J. Malcom, SGM); Fort Collins, Larimer 8 May (G. Golz); Thompson Ranch (private), Lincoln 18 May (GW, MP, DM); and Eaton Cemetery, Weld 23 May (NM).

Northern Parula made a fantastic showing in 20 different counties at 37 different locations, 9 Apr–31 May. Magnolia Warbler reports came in from 10 counties, 5–28 May. A lone and wonderful male Bay-breasted Warbler was found and photographed at the C.S.U. Environmental Learning Center, Larimer 8–9 May (J. Angstman, m.ob.). Seldom seen in the Front Range, a female Blackburnian Warbler presented local birders with great photo opportunities at Bear Creek Lake Park, Jefferson 14–18 May (W. Wibbens, J. Hackos, m.ob.). Single Chestnut-sided Warbler sightings occurred quite a bit less than in recent years with singles at Van’s Grove near J.M.R. 5 May (JD, LE, SR) and 24–25 May (DN, DL); Barr Lake S.P., Adams 21 May (G. Beauprez) and Chico 28–29 May (N. Lewis, R. Hinds, C. Shoup, DSh). Black-throated Blue Warbler was seen and photographed in at least five locations around the state, including a male and female together at Rose Pond at Chico 18–21 May (SGM, BM, m.ob.). Palm Warbler is a regular, but not guaranteed find in Colorado, for those venturing out in search of spring migrants. Many reports came in from nine different locations in Elbert, El Paso, Jefferson, Kiowa, Lincoln, Weld, and Yuma 29 Apr–9 May (SGM, et al., m.ob.). A very cooperative Yellow-throated Warbler was seen at a residential feeder in Fort Collins, Larimer 5 Dec–16 Mar (L. Caldwell, m.ob.). Other sightings were at Bent’s Old Fort, Otero 8 May (J. McReavey) and Chico 20–21 May (BKP, et al., m.ob.). Also rare to the state and accepted by the C.B.R.C. was a Prairie Warbler in Ken Caryl, Jefferson 16–18 May (DSu). Black-throated Green Warbler did not go undetected, with two being found in se. CO; Lake Hasty, Bent 10 May (BKP, J. Newell) and Fairmont Cemetery, Prowers 16 May (JWT, JS, DL).

Far from its typical range in Huerfano and Las Animas counties was one Hepatic Tanager found on a private ranch, Lincoln 29 May (MP, LE). As usual, reports did come in from Huerfano and Las Animas 13–21 May. Becoming more and more common throughout the state, Summer Tanager had multiple reports from thirteen counties 30 Apr–23 May. More abundant than usual, three verified reports were great for Scarlet Tanager. One male seen around Fort Collins, Larimer, at Lee Martinez Park 2–4 May (P. Bauer, m.ob.); one at CSU ELC 11 May (KMD); and on the West Slope, a male came to a feeder in Hotchkiss, Delores 25–27 May (A. Robinsong, R. Nicholoff, J. Beason). Rose-breasted Grosbeak was widespread throughout the state in multiple locations throughout the season. Painted Bunting was seen in the somewhat reliable location of Picture Canyon, Baca 5 May–24 Jul (m.ob.) with up to three individuals seen at one time. Dickcissel, regularly found out on the Plains, was recorded and accepted by the C.B.R.C. way out west in De Beque, Mesa 14 May (P. Didier, m.ob.).

Literature cited: Dowell, D. 2016 Colorado Birds Vol. 50 No. 4 Colorado Field Ornithologists

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 26 Mar 2021.

Photos–Colorado: Spring 2016

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