• View of Square Tower House, seen along the Mesa Top Loop

    Mesa Verde

    National Park Colorado

Bird Watching

Mesa Verde National Park is home to several distinct habitats. The types of species which you will encounter depends on the habitat present. If you are an avid birder, make sure to purchase a copy of the brochure, "Checklist of the Birds." This will help you locate where species are found in the park. The listing of birds in this page will get you started as a bird watcher in Mesa Verde.

Most hiking trails within the park do not enter the deep canyons because federal law has closed the backcountry to protect the archaeological sites and natural resources. If you are visiting the park during late spring when migration and nesting are in progress, you can see many bird species at any point in the park.

Take the Petroglyph Point or Spruce Canyon Trail and look for warblers, flycatchers, woodpeckers, jays, hawks, chickadees, titmice, and other species. The Knife Edge Trail also has good birding. If you are lucky, you may see a peregrine falcon or a golden eagle soar from its nest out across the Montezuma Valley.

During the summer months, you can take any of the above-mentioned trails or walk the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail near Balcony House, or the short trail to the Park Point lookout. The Park Point area is a good place to see hawks, towhees, grouse and eagles, in addition to the many species listed above.

In the fall, you may want to take the Knife Edge Trail early in the morning to catch migrating warblers and hummingbirds feeding on the Indian Paint Brush.

If you are one of the few winter visitors, most trails are closed. But be on the lookout for chickadees, nuthatches, an occasional brown creeper, canyon wrens, woodpeckers, flickers, and jays during your Spruce Tree House tour. Turkey vultures usually arrive in late March and leave in early October, so the large black birds you see will likely be common ravens or the vivid black-billed magpie.

The riparian area of Mesa Verde is largely inaccessible within the park. To access a similar habitat, take one of the county roads west of Mancos and follow the road along the Mancos River. You will see ducks, Canada geese, great blue herons, possibly an American dipper, flocks of western and mountain bluebirds, lots of red-winged and Brewer's blackbirds, and bald and golden eagles. Depending on the season, you may also spot migrating waxwings, goldfinches, evening grosbeaks, a variety of flycatchers, both ruby and golden-crowned kinglets, four or five varieties of swallows, and other species as well.

Bird watching in Mesa Verde is not as impressive as some specialized areas, but it is an exciting and worthwhile experience. Fill out a wildlife sighting card if you see something rare or unusual. Such sightings are added to the park's resource management data file, providing a detailed permanent record that assists researchers.

 


Common Birds

New World Vultures (Catharitidae)
Turkey Vulture
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Golden Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Falcons and Caracaras (Falconidae)
American Kestrel
Grouse (Phasianidae)
Wild Turkey
Pigeons and Doves (Columbidae)
Mourning Dove
Typical Owls (Strigidae)
Long-eared Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Pygmy-Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Nightjars (Capimulgidae)
Common Poorwill
Swifts (Apodidae)
White-throated Swift
Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Northern Flicker
Hairy Woodpecker
Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)
Western Kingbird
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Western Wood-Pewee
Say’s Phoebe
Gray Flycatcher
Dusky Flycatcher
Swallows (Hirundinidae)
Violet-green Swallow
Jay’s, Crows, Magpies (Corvidae)
Western Scrub-Jay
Pinyon Jay
Steller’s Jay
Clark’s Nutcracker
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Chickadees and Titmice (Paridae)
Mountain Chickadee
Juniper Titmouse
Bushtits (Aegithalidae)
Bushtit
Nuthatches (Sittidae)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Wrens (Troglodytidae)
House Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Canyon Wren
Rock Wren
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Western Bluebird
Townsend’s Solitaire
American Robin
Vireos (Verionidae)
Plumbeous Vireo
Wood-Warblers (Parulidae)
Virginia’s Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Tanagers (Thraupidae)
Western Tanager
New World Sparrows (Emberizidae)
Green-tailed Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Vesper Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Cardinals (Cardinalidae)
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Finches (Fringillidae)
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch
House Finch


 




For a more complete list of birds at Mesa Verde National Park, download this checklist (pdf, 31 kb, print landscape).

Did You Know?

Kiva courtyard at Spruce Tree House

A subterranean kiva remained 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. So for the Ancestral Puebloans, it stayed cool in the summer, and only a small fire was needed to keep it warm in the winter.