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Courtesy Colorado Birding Society
Red-breasted nuthatches, along with white-breasted nuthatches and pygmy nuthatches, are sometimes seen walking up and down trees on the Mosca Pass Trail and Montville Trail.
Peregrine falcons nest in high cliffs or forests of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In the 1970s, this species was federally listed as endangered. Due to recovery efforts, peregrines were de-listed in 1999. Continued recovery and monitoring efforts continue.
Though they typically nest higher in the mountains, they sometimes glide over the park's entrance road and across the grasslands surrounding the dunefield.
Mountain bluebirds are often seen along the park entrance road, where they hunt for insects in the foothills and grasslands.
Males are a brilliant blue color, while females are grey-blue.
They are one of the first birds to arrive in spring, often first appearing in March, the snowiest month of the year.
NPS/Phyllis Pineda Bovin
Hummingbirds are summer residents of the park, nesting in tiny grass nests in the foothills. However, they have been observed feeding throughout the park, from grasslands to alpine tundra, as long as there are flowers present.
Hummingbirds consume large quantities of flower nectar and even aspen sap. To supplement their diet, they also feed on small insects, especially those attracted to sap and nectar.
Four species of hummingbird have been observed in the park (see bird list linked at top of page).
Sandhill cranes bring excitement each spring when they return by the thousands to the San Luis Valley. The Crane Festival, centered in Monte Vista, is an annual spring event hosted in part by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Cranes usually spend their days in farm fields or grasslands eating grains. There is often a flock of cranes along County Lane 6, which runs along the southern boundary of the park. In the evening they head to wetlands to spend the night.
Did You Know?
Alpine lakes such as Upper Sand Creek Lake are part of the mountain watershed of Great Sand Dunes, and provide a dramatic contrast to the stark dunefield. More...