Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
NPS Photo / Rachel Ames
Over 270 species of birds have been reported in this area over the last 100 years. Some of these birds live here year-round and some are just passing through. These locales include Rocky Mountain National Park, Arapaho National Recreation Area, and the towns of Estes Park and Granby. Many of the species in the park are unique to mountainous habitats - aspen, ponderosa pine, high elevation willow, spruce, fir and alpine tundra - found in the Southern Rocky Mountains.
A working list of bird species in the park can be found on the IRMA Portal NPSpecies site.
In 2000, Rocky Mountain National Park was designated a Global Important Bird Area. This designation recognizes the vital role of the park as diverse habitat for a wide variety of bird species. Become familiar with the variety of birds in Rocky below.
The following links take you to more information about the following unique species.
Gray Jay, NPS Photo / Rachel Ames
The following visual categories of birds are found in the park.
Birds of Prey
Includes eagles, hawks, ospreys, falcons, kestrels, vultures.
Plumage is well camouflaged for their environment.
Tails reflect aerial behavior - broad for maneuvering or short for speed.
Broad wings for soaring while they hunt.
Powerful talons to grip prey and hooked bills to eat prey.
Raptors hunt by day and feed on a variety of fish, small mammals, reptiles or carrion.
Great Horned Owl
Owls in the park include Great Horned Owl, the Northern Pygmy-Owl, and the Boreal Owl
Large eyes provide light in darker conditions and binocular vision
Flight feathers specialized for silent flight
Owls can rotate their head up to 270 degrees to redirect their gaze
Primarily nocturnal hunters
Hunt mammals, birds, reptiles and insects and swallow smaller prey whole.
Female Williamson's Sapsucker
Woodpeckers in the park include the American Three-toed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, and Northern Flicker
They have long, strong bills that are chisel shaped to bore into wood
They have strong legs to grasp vertical tree trunks and stiff tails that keep them propped up
Most have zygodactyl feet with two toes facing forward and two toes facing backward for climbing
Male and female plumage differ on a species
Male House Finch
This is the most diverse group of birds in the park including, sparrows, finches, wrens, dippers, thrushes, warblers, crows, jays, swallows, etc.
These birds can sing complex songs with highly developed voice boxes (syrinx) - each species has a unique song
They have four long thin toes to grip thin branches - three toes face forward and one faces backward
Variety of bill shapes and sizes that reflect the diet of that species
Variable color and plumage patterns per species
Males are typically more vividly colored and female colors are more subdued.
Female Rufus Hummingbird
Park species include the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Rufus Hummingbird and Calliope Hummingbird
Very small and delicate in size
Specialized flight adaptations in their bones, wings and feathers to hover and maneuver in any direction with great precision
Long and tapered bills feed on the nectar of flowers
They have iridescent feathers
Citizen Scientists monitored hummingbirds during a 2003-2012 Rocky Mountain National Park Hummingbird Survey
This group includes ptarmigan, grouse and wild turkeys
Typically have rotund bodies and prefer running to flying
Short round wings allow them to fly short distances to escape predators
They are usually terrestrial and stationary
Male and female Ring-necked Ducks
This group includes ducks, swans and geese
Primarily live in aquatic habitats
Have webbed feet for efficient swimming
Covered with down from birth for insulation from cold air and water temperatures
Exterior feathers are waterproof