Birds in Ouray County

Black Swifts make nests on the cliffs in the Box Canyon

It’s been called “the coolest bird”: a bizarre creature which cannot perch on a branch or a wire, but can only cling to vertical surfaces-which spends its days so high in the air that it can rarely be seen from the ground-and which builds its nest so close to waterfalls that a fledgling’s first flight may actually be the first time its feathers are dry.  The Box Canyon Falls Park (a five minute walk from our hotel in Ouray) has been named to the National Audubon Society’s important bird watching areas because the park is home to one of the largest Black Swift colonies in Colorado.  The Black Swift is legendarily difficult to observe, but in summer, here in the heart of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, a sighting is virtually guaranteed at the Box Canyon Falls (also spelled Box Cañon Falls). Also guaranteed are heart-stopping views of some of Colorado’s grandest peaks and most impressive waterfalls, as well as hospitality in a quaint mining town that hasn’t lost its character, and vast tracts of alpine forest and tundra to explore.

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Due to the work of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Colorado Birding Trail includes details about the birding possibilities in Ouray and Ridgway on the Black Swift Trail and  on the Black Canyon Trail that begins in Ridgway, Colorado.  There are many other birding opportunities in southwestern Colorado .

Birding possibilities are numerous in Ouray County and in Southwestern Colorado.  Although once known as the place to see the black swifts, Ouray County has experienced some growth in this area. Autumn has proved itself quite interesting as migrating birds stop for a little respite.  The Colorado Field Ornithologists have a great website on Ouray Birding opportunities.

During the months of November through March, bald eagles are common along the Uncompahgre River just north of Ouray.  They winter along the river in the high cottonwood trees and feast on fish in the river.

During the summer months, one can watch for alpine dwellers such as ptarmigans on some of the high alpine roads.  In the High-elevation forests, dusky grouse, chickarees, gray jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, goshawks, and numerous other birds find abundant food in late summer.

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