Author(s): Mark Yaeger, Rich Miller, Dave Silverman
County Seat: Pueblo
County Size: 2,377 square miles
Low Elevation: 4,319 ft. - Arkansas River on the Otero border
High Elevation : 12,347 ft. - Greenhorn Mountain
Best Birds : Iceland Gull (1999), King Rail (1976), Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (1973)
Checklist : Download pdf | View HTML
Introduction: Pueblo County. This might be considered the king of Colorado birding counties. At the very least, it has the largest bird list. This is one of the easiest areas in which to see most of the southeast canyon specialties, and Pueblo Reservoir, one of the largest bodies of water in the state, has attracted just about every rare waterbird you can think of. Much of Pueblo County is private land and the only way to bird is on the road by car. Many of these are gravel roads with a clay base. Clay roads get slick when wet so it is not a good idea to travel on them when rain is threatening (about twice a year in Pueblo).
Aliases - Nepesta Road
Description - (submitted by Andrew Spencer) If you want to see (well, hear) a Black Rail in Pueblo County then you will have to come here (unless you get insanely lucky and find a migrating bird elsewhere in the county). Probably the second largest marsh in the Arkansas River Valley, this is an excellent place to clean up on rails in the county, and rarities like Least Bittern should be listened for as well. As usual when looking for marsh birds nighttime listening is likely the best bet.
Habitat - Marsh, Lowland Riparian
Directions - from Fowler, travel west on US-50 for just over 7 miles, and take a left onto Nepesta Road. Follow the road over the railroad tracks, following it around to the left, over the river, to the marsh on the right, about 1.5 miles from the highway.
Delorme - 98 D1
Roads of Colorado - 122 C2
Aliases - Turkey Creek State Wildlife Area
Description - There are no sidewalks and very few trails in Pueblo West so car birding is the rule. Pueblo West's sprawl has created an interesting birding opportunity. The population of Scaled Quail has boomed along with development. Driving the roads of Pueblo West gives you a better chance of finding the quail and Curve-billed Thrasher than at Pueblo Reservoir. There are two main roads into Pueblo West off Hwy 50: Purcell Boulevard (on the eastern edge of town) and McCulloch Boulevard (the main entrance). Purcell Boulevard leads to Liberty Point, an area with a view, cliffs and pinyon juniper amongst nice homes. The main entrance at McCulloch Boulevard leads to the golf course and the Pueblo West Inn. There is a pond near the Inn that is good for interesting waterfowl in winter if the water is open. A good chance of finding Scaled Quail and the thrasher is near the golf course and on Harmony Drive east off McCulloch.
There are numerous Prairie Dog colonies in Pueblo West and chances of spotting a Burrowing Owl are good until the colonies disappear with human infill. One particularly productive place is at the intersection of McCulloch and Nichols (the Pueblo West entrance to Pueblo Reservoir).
On the western edge of Pueblo West is the Turkey Creek drainage. This can be good for birding and is where the first Say's Phoebe was discovered to science in 1820. The Turkey Creek State Wildlife Area is on the southwest edge of Pueblo West and is accessible only from Pueblo West. The weedy areas have lots of sparrows and the quail are there too. Here you can get out and walk a little.
Any road in Pueblo West on the north or south side of Hwy 50 can lead through shortgrass prairie, cholla, rabbitbrush, sage and pinyon juniper habitat. Meandering around can be productive for anything from Ferruginous Hawk to Lark Bunting.
Habitat - Urban/Suburban, Cholla, Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Sagebrush, Pinyon-Juniper Forest
Directions - From I-25 west about 7 miles on Hwy 50.
Delorme - 74 B4-B5
Roads of Colorado - 121 E1-F1
Pueblo Reservoir area
Aliases - Swallows State Wildlife Area, Rock Canyon, Valco Ponds State Wildlife Area
Description - This area includes Pueblo Reservoir, Swallows State Wildlife Area, Rock Canyon and Valco Ponds State Wildlife Area.
According to Birding Magazine Pueblo Reservoir is among the top ten inland gull sites in the U.S. Winter is the prime time for gulls and a place to look is on the tires at the South Shore Marina. On the north side look near the Sailboard Launching area, the areas near the North Shore Marina, West Fisherman's Point and anywhere near an ice line. Many species of loon, grebe and duck are abundant from late fall to early spring. The water rarely freezes over and the Pueblo Reservoir Christmas Bird Count holds the top three species totals for all CBC's in Colorado(129,123 &116). Land birds to look for are cholla and pinyon & juniper inhabitants such as Canyon Towhee, Scaled Quail, Sage Thrasher, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit and Loggerhead Shrike. The Pueblo Reservoir, according to Christmas Bird Count data often claims the world's largest wintering population of Mountain Bluebirds. Western Bluebirds mix with the Mountain Bluebirds and Eastern Bluebirds show up regularly.
Swallows State Wildlife Area, named for the large number of nesting Cliff Swallows, can be reached by turning south on Swallows Road off Hwy 50 just west of Pueblo West. This is the extreme west end of Pueblo Reservoir and is good for pinyon/juniper birds. There is a large heronry with Great Blue Herons and Double-crested Cormorants. Osprey nest in various spots on the west end of the reservoir and if you are boating the reservoir look for raptors, Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls on the cliffs. There are many marked, public trails on both sides of the reservoir that take you through canyons, juniper, cholla, and cottonwood riparian habitat. Rock Wrens are common in summer. Pinyon Jays are not common. Your best chance of seeing or hearing them would be in the western areas of the reservoir. Resident roadrunners or Ladder-backed Woodpecker could turn up, but consider yourself lucky to see them.
All of the western end of Pueblo Reservoir is State Wildlife Area, the eastern end is State Park land. There is a road on the southwest state wildlife land that goes through canyons as far as the Swallows SWA and beyond. Access this road about 10 miles west of Pueblo off Hwy 96.
Rock Canyon is the area below the dam in the State Park. This is mostly but not entirely on the north side of the river. Rock Canyon has parking lots, bathrooms paved trails, ponds and cottonwood riparian habitat. There is a footbridge over the river here and you can walk south and east to Valco Ponds State Wildlife Area. You can also park at Valco Ponds off Hwy 96 and access the State Park on foot. Both areas have outstanding riparian habitat along the Arkansas River. Numerous ponds host waterfowl and gulls. Valco Ponds is known as a late fall migrant trap and many an odd warbler has appeared there. There are many foot trails on both sides of the river. A gravel mining operation has recently been completed in the area and more walking territory may soon open to the public. An extensive program to remove invasive trees and replace them with native shrubs and trees has begun from Rock Canyon and Valco Ponds SWA through Pueblo and should be completed by 2010. This will take place during the winter months.
URL - Pueblo Reservoir area
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Lowland Riparian, Stream, Rimrock/Mesa
Directions - From I-25 go four miles west on U.S. 50 to Pueblo Blvd. Go south four miles to Thatcher (Hwy 96) west to Valco Ponds (3 miles) and up the hill to access the State Park.
Delorme - 72 B3, 73 B4-B5
Roads of Colorado - 121 E1-F2
Colorado City and Rye
Aliases - Golf Course Bank Pond, Lake Beckwith Recreation Area, Greenhorn Meadows Park, Frog Pond, Rye Mountain Park, Greenhorn Trail, Millset Trail
Description - (Submitted by Dave Silverman) The Golf Course Bank Pond is about 1 mile from the junction of I-25 & CSH 165 on the north side of the highway. This pond is good for waterfowl in migration and frequently stays open in winter. White-winged Scoter was once seen here in fall.
Lake Beckwith Recreation area is good for waterfowl in migration & in winter when not frozen. Below the dam is some of the best passerine habitat in the Greenhorn Valley. Loons & Scoters have been seen on the lake in fall, and a Blackburnian Warbler was recorded below the dam in October. A Mourning Warbler was seen in August, 2000.
Greenhorn Meadows Park is bisected by Greenhorn Creek. It provides excellent riparian habitat which is good for passerines any time of year but especially in migration. Best vagrants include Blackburnian and Magnolia Warblers. The Park is noteworthy for its wrens. Winter Wrens have been regularly present here October through March. The steep canyon at the west end of the park harbored a Carolina Wren one winter.
"The Frog Pond," so called by local birders, has also been a migrant mecca for many years and is located at the west end of Terlesa Ave. Terlesa can be reached from the jct. of CSH 165 and Stanley about 5-6 miles west of I-25. Stanley winds southwest to Terlesa. The pond can be seen north of Terlesa. Many a rare passerine has shown here, especially in migration. Best birds have included White-eyed Vireo, Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, and Red Fox Sparrow.
Rye Mountain Park at the west end of town consists mainly of Ponderosa Pine and Scrub Oak habitats. Ovenbirds have traditionally nested here for years but human pressures along with their pets plus recent tree thinning operations may have extirpated these birds. They should still be watched and listened for in late spring and summer. The Park is an easy place to find Dusky and Cordilleran Flycatchers. The willow riparian area along Greenhorn Creek near the Pavilion has nesting MacGillivray's Warblers. Though rare migrants are usually absent, a Black-throated Blue Warbler was recorded in the park in fall.
Hiking Trails near Rye: Greenhorn Trail is located at the west end of Cuerna Verde Road. This trail climbs into the Greenhorn Wilderness area (3 miles) and eventually to Greenhorn Peak (9 miles). It has Ponderosa and scrub oak at lower elevations, spruce, fir, and aspen at higher elevations. Dusky Grouse & Three-toed Woodpeckers are regularly found in the Wilderness area, often 3-6 miles from the trailhead. The trail eventually climbs above timberline, but no Ptarmigan have been recently found in this area.
Millset Trail is located about 5 miles west of Rye on CSH 165. The trailhead is well marked by a USFS sign just past the National Forest Boundary. It climbs mostly through spruce, fir, & aspen habitat, but there is much ponderosa and scrub oak at lower elevations of the trail. This trail is good for woodpeckers. Red-naped Sapsuckers are often found within 2 miles of the trailhead. Three-toed Woodpeckers are regularly seen 4-5 miles from the trailhead. Hammond's Flycatchers have also been regularly found on this trail. Pine Grosbeaks are irregular. About a mile from the trailhead there is a radio tower. The trail forks here. Take the left fork to continue up the trail. The right fork leads to a YMCA camp which is posted.
Habitat - Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Lowland Riparian, Ponderosa Forest, Scrub Oak Forest, Stream, Streamside Willow, Aspen Grove, Spruce-Fir Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest
Directions - The Colorado City-Rye area can be reached 20 miles south of Pueblo on I-25 and then turning west on CO 165 (exit 74). To get to Lake Beckwith, head 3.2 miles west on CO 165 and turn north on Cuerna Verde Blvd. The lake is 0.8 miles from CO 165. Greenhorn Meadows Park is along CO 165 just past the turnoff to Cuerna Verde Blvd. Do not confuse Cuerna Verde Blvd, in Colorado City, with Cuerna Verde Road, which starts in Rye and heads to Greenhorn Trail and Greenhorn Peak. To get to Cuerna Verde Road, head west on Main Street in Rye 0.6 miles from its junction with Boulder Avenue (CR 271) near CO 165 in the center of town. Main Street becomes Park Street. Park, Cuerna Verde and any of the other east-west streets in this part of town eventually lead west to the Rye Mountain Park.
Delorme - 82 A3, 83 A4
Roads of Colorado - 121 D4-E4
Pueblo City Park
Aliases - Goodnight River Trail, Olive Marsh Nature Preserve
Description - This is a large park on the west side of the city that includes a zoo, a small amusement park, a Frisbee golf course, baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Of interest to birders are the many large trees in the park plus the two small ponds. In winter, the pond near the Administration Building is usually teeming with ducks and geese, both wild and domestic. These birds are fed regularly by visitors to the pond and even the wild ones become quite tame. Unusual ducks and gulls are regularly found here. A Eurasian Wigeon spent several months in the park during the winters of 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. There is a small breeding population of feral Mandarin Ducks that have been year-round residents in the Pueblo area for many years. They can sometimes be seen at this pond or along the Arkansas River nearby. During the fall and spring, warblers, vireos and other migrants can be found in the trees throughout the park. An especially productive area is along a small creek in the western part of the Frisbee golf course. Pueblo City Park provides access to the Goodnight River Trail and the Olive Marsh Nature Preserve. To access these, walk down the paved path just west of the baseball fields to a small diversion dam on the Arkansas River.
The Goodnight River Trail starts at this dam and goes west for 1.5 miles along an abandoned railroad track on the south side of the river. It dead-ends at a locked gate at the now closed Transit Mix Concrete facility. The trail passes three water-filled gravel pits that can be good for ducks and gulls in the winter. The area around the pits is presently closed to public access so they must be viewed from the trail. There are several small marshes near the trail which may produce Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows. Look for Lincoln's and Harris's Sparrows in the brushy areas alongside the trail.
To get to the Olive Marsh Nature Preserve, walk downstream from the dam and cross the footbridge to the paved trail on the north side of the river. Turn right and follow the trail east for 0.25 mile to the Olive Marsh on the north. Look for a path that passes through an opening in the fence that is sized to admit pedestrians only. The area around the marsh is densely vegetated with Russian Olives and larger trees. The marshy area holds herons and ducks. In the spring and fall, migrant songbirds can be found in the brush and trees. The Olive Marsh is one of Pueblo's most noted birding areas and many rare and unusual species have been seen here.
Returning to the park's west entrance, drive west on Goodnight Avenue through a residential area that has become a hotspot for White-winged Doves and Eurasian Collared-Doves. On the 2004 Christmas count, 60+ White-winged Doves were found in this area.
Habitat - Park, Pond, Stream, Lowland Riparian
Directions - From the intersection at US 50, drive 3.5 mi. south on Pueblo Blvd. (CO 45) to Goodnight Ave. Turn left into the park.
Delorme - 73 B5
Roads of Colorado - 121 F2
Pueblo Nature Center
Description - The Pueblo Nature Center is located beside the Arkansas River and provides parking and access to Pueblo's Arkansas River Trail system. This trail system follows the Arkansas River from Pueblo Reservoir State Park to Runyon Lake SWA. It is paved and suitable for pedestrians and bicycles. The habitat along the river is typical riparian woodlands with numerous large cottonwood trees. Since the river is close to its discharge from Pueblo Reservoir, it is usually ice-free during the cold months. Many ducks and an occasional unusual shorebird may be found in the winter along the river. The wooded area west of the nature center is usually good for migrants in the spring and fall. Look for Canyon Towhees and Rock Wrens on the cliffs on the north side of the trail.
Habitat - Lowland Riparian, Stream
Directions - From the intersection at US 50, drive 2.5 mi. south on Pueblo Blvd. (Rte 45) to Nature Center Rd. Turn right and drive 1.0 mi. to the nature center parking.
Delorme - 73 B5
Roads of Colorado - 121 F2
Description - Roselawn Cemetery is a large, very old cemetery with graves dating back to the 19th Century. It is located just east of Pueblo in the town of Blende. There are numerous large deciduous and evergreen trees of many species scattered throughout the cemetery. The best time to bird this location is in the winter. At this time you may find nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches, waxwings and sometimes holdover Yellow-rumped Warblers. A small pond at the southwest corner of the cemetery may have ducks. An attraction in recent winters has been Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
Habitat - Cemetery, Pond
Directions - From Exit 98B on I-25, drive east on Business Rte 50 (Santa Fe Dr.) for 2 mi. to Aspen St. Turn right on Aspen St. and drive 0.25 mi. to the cemetery entrance.
Delorme - 73 C6
Roads of Colorado - 122 A2
Runyon Lake State Wildlife Area
Description - The Runyon Lake SWA is close to downtown Pueblo and is a very popular fishing area in all seasons. The Arkansas River is just south of the lake and both the lake and the river can be great for birds. The best time of year for birding is November through March. There is a large flow of warm water into the lake and therefore at least part of the lake remains unfrozen even in the coldest weather. The main attractions at this time of year are gulls and waterfowl. There are usually several Hooded Mergansers and Common Mergansers present. Double-crested Cormorants and Black-crowned Herons are often seen here in the winter months. The area between the lake and the river should be checked for sparrows and other passerines. The brush and trees along the outlet stream from the lake sometimes have holdover Yellow-rumped Warblers in winter.
In the spring and fall, migrants can be found in the trees along the lake and river. In the summer, the attraction is Mississippi Kites. These can often been seen soaring over the lake during the heat of the day.
Habitat - Lake, Lowland Riparian
Directions - From Exit 98B on I-25, drive 0.2 mi. east on Santa Fe Ave. to Locust St. Turn left on Locust and drive 0.5 mi. to the parking lot for the SWA.
Delorme - 73 B6-C6
Roads of Colorado - 121 F2
Pueblo Mountain Park
Aliases - Beulah
Description - Pueblo Mountain Park, owned by the city of Pueblo, contains the Mountain Park Environmental Center, with well-stocked feeders worth checking anytime. The park is most enjoyable in summer and hosts large populations of Western Tanager, Pygmy Nuthatch and other mountain birds. A stream runs through the park and is good for American Dipper. Habitats include spruce/fir, ponderosa pine savannah, and scrub oak/mountain mahogany. The area includes beetle killed ponderosa pine snags. They house Red-naped Sapsucker and occasionally Flammulated Owls. Canyons in the park and in the Wet Mountains nearby have harbored Black Swift and other rarities.
The town of Beulah near the park is good for birding especially in winter because many townsfolk feed birds. Multiple winter visitors have included Varied Thrush and donut-devouring Carolina Wrens.
URL - Pueblo Mountain Park
Habitat - Ponderosa Forest, Mixed-Conifer Forest, Foothill Shrub, Aspen Grove, Urban/Suburban
Directions - Head 23 miles west of Pueblo on Hwy 78 to Beulah, then turn left on Pine Drive and go 2 miles to park.
Delorme - 72 D2
Roads of Colorado - 121 D3
Burnt Mill Road area
Aliases - Red Creek Road West, Siloam Road, Three R Ranch Road, Phoebe Bridge
Description - The southwest corner of the county can be accessed by Red Creek Road West, Siloam Road, 3R Ranch Road and Burnt Mill Road. Most of these roads are gravel and not heavily traveled. These roads traverse canyon, pinyon/juniper, cholla, shortgrass prairie and ponderosa pine habitats. The Burnt Mill Road crosses the Saint Charles River at the famous Phoebe Bridge. Black and Eastern Phoebes have been known to nest near the bridge and it is worth getting out of the car to look both ways up the river.
Habitat - Lowland Riparian, Cholla, Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Ponderosa Forest
Directions - Burnt Mill Road can be reached by heading south from Pueblo on I-25 to the Burnt Mill Road exit (exit 88). Siloam Road can be reached by heading 20 miles west of Pueblo off Hwy 96 or Hwy 78. 3R Ranch Road is 21 miles west of Pueblo off Hwy 78. Red Creek Road West is 5 miles west of Pueblo off Hwy 96.
Delorme - 73 C4-D5
Roads of Colorado - 121 F3-E4
Huerfano Reservoir area
Aliases - Doyle Road, Fields Road, Bush Road
Description - The southeast part of Pueblo County can be covered by Doyle Road, 36th Lane, 40th Lane, Fields Road and Bush Roads. The latter two roads circle Huerfano Reservoir (private), which is a good spot to check from the road. 40th Lane crosses several wetlands that host Marsh Wrens in winter. Feedlots and power poles along the roads are good in winter for blackbirds and raptors. Parts of these roads have pavement.
Habitat - Grassland/Prairie, Urban/Suburban
Directions - Doyle Road is reached by heading 4 miles east of Pueblo on Hwy 50 business route and taking a right on 27th Lane, which turns into Doyle Road. 36th Lane is reached by heading 8 miles east of Pueblo off business Hwy 50. 40th Lane is 10 miles east of Pueblo off business Hwy 50. These roads intersect with Fields and Bush Roads
Delorme - 73 C6-D7
Roads of Colorado - 122 A2-B3
IL Ranch Road
Aliases - Test Track Road
Description - The northeast part of Pueblo County can be birded from the IL Ranch Road and the Test Track Road. IL Ranch Road is gravel and crosses shortgrass prairie and some riparian habitat. It is a good spot to look for Golden Eagles and other raptors. The ranch road intersects the Test Track Road at its northern perimeter. The Test Track Road is paved and is used by DOT employees to get to their jobs. It crosses Chico Creek, shortgrass prairie and several wetlands.
Habitat - Grassland/Prairie, Marsh, Lowland Riparian
Directions - IL Ranch Road is 20 miles east of Pueblo off Hwy 96 just before the town of Boone. Test Track Road can be accessed off Hwy 50 east near the Pueblo airport.
Delorme - 73 B7, 98 C1
Roads of Colorado - 106 B4-C4, 122 A1-C1