Bird Watching

Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles can be seen year round at Curecanti. Photo: NPS\Lynch
Curecanti National Recreation Area offers bird watchers a great variety of habitat in which to indulge their passion. Birders can marvel at the natural wonders around them from fishing Bald Eagles on Blue Mesa Reservoir, to spectacular Yellow Warblers at Neversink, to the death defying dive of the fastest creature on the planet, the hunting Peregrine Falcon in the upper Black Canyon within Curecanti.

In Curecanti there are several vegetation types that provide ideal habitat for birds, which can be classified as woodlands, water (encompassing riparian and reservoir water), sagebrush scrub and canyon.
 
Yellow Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rufous Hummingbird
Yellow Warbler (left); White-breasted Nuthatch (middle); Rufous Hummingbird (right) Photos: FWS

WOODLANDS

The Neversink Trail offers perfect opportunities to observe birds close up. Although only a mile in length, the trail takes you along side the Gunnison River under large cottonwood trees.

Look to the sky and listen to bird songs all around you. A myriad of color can be seen amongst the leaves, including the bright feathers of robins, red-winged black birds and woodpeckers. Hummingbirds fill the air with their constant buzzing as they search for nectar. Stand still for a moment and inspect the trunks of the trees. There may be creepers and nuthatches ascending or descending the trunks looking for insects or seeds.
 
Great Blue Heron, Western Grebe, Sandhill Cranes
Great Blue Heron (left, NPS photo); Western Grebe (middle, NPS photo); Sandhill Cranes (right, FWS photo)

WATER

Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in Colorado and so offers a multitude of habitats for bird life. From the riparian habitat of Cooper’s Ranch to the mud flats of Iola to the steep sided arms West Elk and Lake Fork.

You may spot a graceful heron spear fishing along the shore or Western Grebes and Mergansers diving for food in the open waters of the three basins. The shoreline offers opportunities to see various species of wading birds such as Sandpipers, Phalaropes and Gulls. In the spring and early winter, look for Sandhill Cranes migrating through.
 
Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk (left, NPS\Lynch); Peregrine Falcon (middle, NPS\Lynch); Turkey Vulture (right, FWS photo)

CANYON

From the various lookout points along Highway 92 you can glimpse into the upper Black Canyon and see birds from a different viewpoint. From Pioneer Point you’ll find the rapid, erratic flight of swifts and swallows as they dive along the canyon wall. You'll also see Turkey Vultures that roost on the lower levels of the canyon who ride the thermals up to and above the canyon rim. Black-billed magpies, red-tailed hawks, western bluebirds and the diving Peregrine Falcon can also be seen from this viewpoint.
 


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GUNNISON SAGE GROUSE

The Gunnison Sage Grouse, a native to the Gunnison Basin and surrounding areas, is listed as "threatened" on the Endangered Species List. Curecanti and the surrounding sagebrush communities are considered critical habitat to the survival of this bird.
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Last updated: April 2, 2021

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102 Elk Creek
Gunnison , CO 81230

Phone:

970 641-2337 x205

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