Colorado: Winter 2019-2020

1 December 2019 – 30 February 2020

Dean Shoup     

Recommended citation:

Shoup, D. 2020. Winter 2019-2020: Colorado. <> North American Birds.

Colorado weather in December was warm and dry, with snow falling mostly in the high country. The exception to this was a late month snow storm that brought colder temperatures and 2.8 inches of snow to the Denver area on the 28th. January continued to be mild, with above average temperatures and below average precipitation. In contrast with December and January, February’s temperatures were colder with several storms producing more precipitation than the previous months. Snowfall was 16.5 inches, 10.8 inches above the average of 5.7 inches for the month.

The 2019-2020 winter season was highlighted by a number of interesting presumed hybrid combinations ranging from waterfowl and gulls, to passerines. Expected waterfowl were observed with the exception of a long staying Brant in the metro area. Winter shorebirds were prevalent with numerous Dunlins, Least Sandpipers, and Greater Yellowlegs sighted. Yellow-billed Loon sightings continue their increasingly annual trend. Multiple Pacific Wren sightings were good for the season, as well as numerous Winter Wrens. Two Carolina Wrens were a nice addition to the winter wren mix. A Snow Bunting delighted many observers in the Denver metro area with a week-long stay. The mild conditions earlier in the season may have contributed to the handful of winter warbler sightings reported.

Observers (subregional editors in boldface): Robert Beauchamp, Coen Dexter (w.-cen. Colorado), David Dowell, James McCall, Steven G. Mlodinow (SGM), Brandon K. Percival, (BKP) Pueblo area), Mark Peterson, John Rawinksi (San Luis Valley), Dave Silverman


A lone Brant was observed for just over a month at Lake Arbor, Jefferson Co. 20 Dec – 28 Jan (Amy Cervene, m.ob.). An interesting assortment of hybrid ducks were documented this season including a Bufflehead x Common Goldeneye, Douglas Co. 1 Dec (Glenn Walbek), a Common x Barrow’s Goldeneye at Matthew T. Glasser Res., Broomfield Co. 20 Feb (Chipper Phillips), and a Common Goldeneye x Hooded Merganser at Bear Creek Lake Park, Jefferson Co. 10 Feb (David Bailey) and also at the pond at West Remington Ave and South Kipling, Jefferson Co. 1 Feb (Chuck Aid). A continuing White-winged Scoter from fall was at Chatfield SP, Jefferson/Douglas Co. 13 Nov – 9 Dec (JM, m.ob.). Also, continuing from the fall was a Black Scoter at South Platte Res., Jefferson/Arapahoe Co. 13 Nov – 9 Dec (JM). Dunlins were found at five locations in Mesa, Otero, and Pueblo Co. 28 Dec – 28 Feb (m.ob.). Least Sandpiper was widespread across the state with birds being found in six locations in Douglas, Mesa, Pueblo, and Weld Co. from 3 Dec – 12 Jan. No more than two were observed at any one location. Greater Yellowlegs were found in Bent and Mesa Co. 7 Jan – 9 Feb (m.ob.). A Red-necked Phalarope was a good find at Lagerman Agricultural Preserve—Lagerman Res., Boulder Co. 18 Feb (Emil Yappert).


Franklin’s Gulls made appearances in the following locations: one at Pueblo Res., Pueblo Co. 20 – 23 Jan (MP et al.), one at Memorial Park & Prospect Lake, El Paso Co. 24 Jan (John Drummond), one at Aurora Res., Arapahoe Co. 5 – 10 Feb (David Dowell, m.ob.), and one at Warren Lake, Larimer Co. 28 Feb (Nick Komar, Graham Ray). Herring x Glaucous-winged Gull sightings were reported in three locations: two at Warren Lake, Larimer Co. 15 Jan – 29 Feb (DD, m.ob.), one at Upper Queens/Neeskah Res., Kiowa Co. 16 Feb (SGM, DD), and two at Boyd Lake, Larimer Co. 23 Feb. Far more Glaucous Gulls were reported than usual, highlights included two adults and a juvenile at Jumbo Res., Logan Co. 8 Jan (Steve Larson); as many as two at Pueblo Res., Pueblo Co. 1 Dec – 15 Feb (Evan Carlson, BKP, m.ob.); two at Upper Queens/Neeskah Res., Kiowa Co. 29 Jan – 16 Feb (Richard Bunn, DD); two reported on 16 Feb (DD); two at Neenoshe Res., Kiowa Co. 16 Feb (SGM); one at Mann-Nyolt Lake, Adams Co.18 – 24 Feb (Adam Vesely). Other reports came from Adams, Arapahoe, Bent, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, Logan, and Sedgwick Co. from 1 Dec – 15 Feb. The only Herring x Glaucous Gull was found at Warren Lake, Larimer Co. 24 Dec – 29 Feb (RB, m.ob.). Great Black-backed Gulls were present in more locations than usual. One found at Pueblo Res., Pueblo Co. 1 Dec – 29 Feb (BKP) was likely a returning bird that has been seen annually for many years running. Additional reports included one at John Martin Res., Bent Co. 8 – 11 Jan (David Leatherman et al.); one at McIntosh Lake, Boulder Co., 18 – 25 Jan (David Waltman, m.ob.); one at Lake Loveland, Larimer Co., 31 Jan (Joshua Smith); one at Neenoshe Res., Kiowa Co. 16 Feb (SGM, DD); one at Boyd Lake, Larimer Co. 26 Feb (Doug Ward, et al.); and one at Warren Lake, Larimer Co., 25 Jan – 29 Feb (Nick Komar, m.ob.) which was presumed to be the same bird as one at Larimer County Landfill, Larimer Co. 22 Feb (Josh Bruening, Cole Sage). Red-throated Loon was noted twice during the season: one at Neenoshe Res., Kiowa Co. 7 Dec (SGM) and one at Pueblo Res., Pueblo Co. 1 Dec – 22 Feb (Michael Dougherty). Becoming more frequent in recent years, Yellow-billed Loon was also reported in two locations this season with one at Aurora Res., Arapahoe Co. 1 Dec – 19 Jan (SGM, m.ob.) and one at Chatfield SP, Jefferson/Douglas Co. 20 Jan – 10 Feb (Gregg Goodrich, m.ob.). Rare for the county in winter, a Red-naped Sapsucker was at Centennial Park, Garfield Co. 20 Jan (Dick Filby). A continuing Gyrfalcon was present at Larimer County Landfill, Larimer Co. 6 Dec – 18 Feb (Gary Lefko, m.ob.), first reported 30 Nov (RB).


A Stellar’s Jay x Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay was reported at a private residence, El Paso Co. 25 Dec – 4 Jan (Amy Lunde). A Black-capped Chickadee x Mountain Chickadee was reported at both the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, Pueblo Co. 7 Dec (David Tønnessen et al.) and at Pueblo Gravel Pit, Pueblo Co. 22 Feb (David Tønnessen). It was a good year for the rare Pacific Wren, with multiple sightings including one at Cañon City Riverwalk—Sell Lake to South Raynolds Ave, Fremont Co. 22 Dec – 3 Jan (BKP, m.ob.). One was found during a Christmas Bird Count at Palmer Loop, El Paso Co. 14 Dec (Kara Carragher, Cody Ensanian). Another was at Bear Creek Lake Park, Jefferson Co. 23 Dec – 29 Feb (Chris Wood, m.ob.). Winter Wrens were observed in more locations than usual with multiple reports in seven counties from 22 Dec – 12 Feb. Carolina Wren made two appearances with one along the Arkansas River Trail—east of Pueblo Blvd., Pueblo Co. 14 – 19 Dec (Van Truan) and one at a private residence, Arapahoe Co. 19 Dec – 17 Feb (Melissa McKibben). Good for the state, Varied Thrush was reported in two locations in Jefferson Co. 7 -15 Dec (Lynne Forester, Vicki Wilmarth), and also at Animas River—Huck Finn Pond & Hatchery area, La Plata Co. 4 – 6 Dec (Ryan Votta). Rare for the state and especially in the metro area, a Snow Bunting was seen along the Clear Creek Trail—Golden to I-70, Jefferson Co. 6 – 13 Feb (Myron Gerhard, m.ob.). Rare in the winter, a Lark Sparrow was seen at Fort Lyon—Bent CR 16 Marshes, Bent Co. 16 Dec (Janeal W. Thompson, Jane Stulp). Two reports of Field Sparrow were notable, with one at Lake Hasty, Bent Co. 11 Jan (SGM) and one in Laird, Yuma Co. 19 Dec and 22 Feb (Kathy Mihm Dunning et al.). Golden-crowned Sparrow is typically annual with few sightings, notable were reports in three locations: one at Grand Junction Wildlife Area, Mesa Co. 27 Dec – 27 Feb (Mike Henwood, m.ob.); one in Morrison, Jefferson Co. 1 Jan – 22 Feb (MP, m.ob.); and one along the Arkansas River Trail—east of Pueblo Blvd., Pueblo Co. 18 – 26 Jan (BKP). Rarely seen in the winter, a Vesper Sparrow was observed at Neenoshe Res., Kiowa Co. 7 Dec (SGM).


It was a good year for Rusty Blackbird with as many as 20 observed at Pueblo Lake S.P., Pueblo Co. 1 -17 Dec (BKP). Other reports from Boulder, Douglas, Eagle, El Paso, Garfield, and Jefferson Co. from 1 Dec – 28 Feb. The high count of 20 at Pueblo Lake S.P. was the highest winter count since 2013 when 20 were also reported. A Black-and-white Warbler was a nice surprise in Grand Junction, Mesa Co. 7 Dec (Connee Moffatt). Common Yellowthroats were common this winter, which is not usually the case. Reports from six locations in Jefferson Co. and Pueblo Co. 1 – 24 Jan were noted. A continuing Yellow Warbler was rare at Pueblo Res., Pueblo Co. 1 Dec – 24 Jan (BKP, m.ob.). A Palm Warbler was cooperative for many observers at Pueblo Res.—Rock Canyon area to Valco pond, Pueblo Co. 19 Jan – 2 Feb (Mark Yaeger, m.ob.). A Pine Warbler was at Tamarack Ranch S.W.A., Logan Co. 12 – 15 Dec (Loch Kilpatrick et al.). Rare in the winter, two Wilson’s Warblers were discovered; one at Grand Junction Wildlife Area, Mesa Co. 27 Dec (Mike Henwood, Kathleen McGinley); and one at White Rocks Trail area, Boulder Co. 15 Dec (Christian Nunes). Western Tanager is rarely seen in winter, so two reports were of noteworthy: one at Bible & Hutchinson Parks, Denver Co. 8 Dec (Jason B. Bidgood) and one at Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, Pueblo Co. 2 Jan – 22 Feb (Chris Knight, Brandon K. Percival, m.ob.). The lone Rose-breasted Grosbeak of the season was at Little Dry Creek Trail, Arapahoe Co. 20 Jan (Mark Chavez).

Report processed by Raymond L. VanBuskirk 20 Dec 2020.

Photos–Colorado: Winter 2019-2020
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.