Top 29 COMMON BIRDS In Colorado (ID Guide With Photos)
Did you recently come across a familiar bird in Colorado, and want to know what species it was?
Bird identification in Colorado is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many bird species in the Centennial State that look similar.
To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common birds of Colorado in this article, and where to find them.
What are the common birds found in Colorado?
The 29 most common birds found in Colorado are:
- House Finch
- Mourning Dove
- Dark-eyed Junco
- American Robin
- Lark Bunting
- Northern Mockingbird
- Blue Jay
- American Goldfinch
- House Sparrow
- Common Grackle
- American Crow
- Common Starling
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- House Wren
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Bullock’s Oriole
- Barn Swallow
- Violet-green Swallow
- Yellow Warbler
- Lesser Goldfinch
- Western Bluebird
- Lazuli Bunting
- Black-capped Chickadee
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
- Steller’s Jay
- Chipping Sparrow
- Song Sparrow
While many of these Colorado birds are year-round residents, some are migratory birds that only occur in the Centennial State during the summer or winter months.
Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these common species in order to get the full scoop:
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
The House Finch is a common small bird in Colorado, and is mostly found in settled areas, ranging from small towns to large metropolitan centers.
Adult male House Finches can be identified by the bright red feathers on the head and upper breast, although in some cases they are slightly more orange or yellowish in color.
The females lack any red coloration, and instead have grayish streaks on a brown background.
The House Finch was originally a western bird, and it wasn’t until the 1940s that this bird was discovered in New York and other places on the east coast of the US.
The eastern House Finch population began to grow in the 1950s and 60s, and by the year 2000, it had expanded so far west that it connected with the original western population.
The House Finch is entirely herbivorous, and feeds on seeds, buds, and fruits.
If you set up a bird feeder in your backyard, you can expect House Finches to be among the first birds to visit it.
The House Finch is found throughout the state of Colorado all year round, and while it doesn’t migrate, it does move to areas with more food outside of the breeding season.
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
The Mourning Dove is one of the most common birds in North America, especially around farms and suburban areas.
This bird is almost entirely grayish-brown with a pale underside. The wings and the tail are pointed, and there is a small black dot on the side of the face.
When viewed up close, a grayish blue eyering as well as pink legs and toes are great distinguishing features of the Mourning Dove.
The Mourning Dove is a widespread breeding bird in Colorado, and can be seen year-round. During the winter it also frequents open woodland, but avoids large forests.
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
Dark-eyed Juncos are small gray-colored sparrows that are common breeding birds in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. They can also be seen in other parts of the state during winter.
Male juncos are gray with a white belly, while females and immature birds are duller and browner.
These birds breed in coniferous as well as mixed forests of western Colorado and during winter they can be found in a variety of habitats, including backyards, forests, and meadows.
They feed on seeds which they pick up from the ground, and can be easily recognized by the high pitched sounds they make while foraging.
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
The American Robin is actually a thrush, but got its name from early settlers in North America who noticed its resemblance with the European Robin.
The orange chest of the American robin makes it easy to identify this type of bird. It mostly forages for food on the ground with the help of its powerful legs and stout yellow beak.
In the fall and winter, it feeds on fruit and searches for snails and worms amid the fallen leaves. It frequently congregates in big roosts in the non-breeding season.
The American Robin is a superb singer, with a song that is melodious and flowing, similar to many other thrushes.
They construct their bulky nests out of twigs at a very variable height, from the ground all the way up to the canopy of the trees. In a typical year, American robins will have between two and three broods.
While the original habitat of American Robins was woodlands, they have adjusted superbly to the expansion of human settlements, and are now found in suburban areas as common breeding birds.
This thrush is a partial migratory bird, with its northernmost populations in Canada and the northern USA being entirely migratory.
In Colorado, the American Robin is found all year round, and likes to form flocks that roost together during the winter.
Scientific name: Calamospiza melanocorys
The Lark Bunting, a small songbird with striking black-and-white coloration, is the state bird of Colorado.
The Lark Bunting is a summer visitor in eastern and northern Colorado, and can be seen in the rest of the state during migration, especially in fall.
Male Lark Buntings are entirely black birds with a white stripe on their wings. The females and juveniles, on the other hand, are pale brown with white streaks.
During the fall, this bunting forms large flocks in Colorado that migrate south together. It winters in Mexico and the southern United States.
The preferred habitat of the Lark Bunting are prairies and grassland, where it forages for seeds and small invertebrates during summer.
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
The melodious whistling song of the Northern Mockingbirds can be heard in many parts of Colorado, and is most often heard at night.
Its overall appearance is dark gray, although its black wings have white stripes (which are especially conspicuous in flight, flashing like bright signals).
It is a common backyard bird in Colorado, with both sexes resembling each other. In addition to the black wings, the tail is also black, and has white margins.
It has a dark eyestripe that contrasts with the yellow eye, while the underparts are buff white. Juvenile birds look similar to adults, but are covered with spots and streaks.
The Northern Mockingbird is a common songbird, and a year-round resident of Colorado. It is also a summer visitor in the northernmost states as well as Canada.
This bird is the only mockingbird species found in North America. It prefers wooded areas as well as urban habitats with sufficient tree growth, such as parks and golf courses.
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Once a bird of the eastern USA, the Blue Jay has steadily expanded its range westwards and is now a common blue-colored bird in Colorado.
The Blue Jay prefers open areas with scattered trees, shrubs, and other vegetation with dense undergrowth.
These medium-sized blue birds are grayish blue on top, with bright arctic blue wing feathers and tail feathers. Their underparts are light gray.
Blue Jays are social birds that live in small groups called colonies, with each colony containing one dominant pair and several subordinate members.
Dominant male birds defend their territory against intruders and aggressively chase away subordinates. Subordinate females and young birds are tolerated but not protected.
This is the most common blue bird found in Colorado
These backyard birds are opportunistic feeders. They eat fruit, invertebrates, small vertebrates, and carrion, and also steal food from other animals.
During the summer, insects make up the largest part of their diet. They sometimes catch insects in flight, while at other times, they catch insects at ground level using a variety of techniques.
These blue-colored birds often use man made structures such as buildings, bridges, and telephone poles for foraging.
When hunting for food, jays often run along branches or wires before swooping down to capture prey.
Blue Jays are partially migratory birds, but live in Colorado year-round. During the cold season they sometimes move around to areas with a more plentiful supply of food.
If you want to attract Blue Jays to your bird feeder, it’s best to offer them peanuts or sunflower seeds.
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
The American Goldfinch is a breeding bird in northeastern Colorado, and a winter visitor in the rest of the state (where it can be seen between October and April).
Adult males have a dazzling, bright yellow color with a black forehead, while their wings are black and decorated with white markings.
The females are a bit quite different though, having a primary olive color and dull yellow underparts that are a lot paler than the male’s.
The American Goldfinch is usually found in weedy fields and floodplains, but can also be found in orchards, roadsides, and as backyard birds.
It generally likes to eat seeds and grains, and is readily attracted to bird feeders that offer black oil sunflower seeds.
Scientific name: Passer domesticus
The House Sparrow is a familiar urban songbird in Colorado.
Adult males have upperparts that are primarily chestnut brown with dark streaks. The wings are chestnut brown with a white wingbar.
A great characteristic to identify males is by their gray crown and rump. Females are more drab, and are mostly buff gray with dark streaks on their back.
The House Sparrow is not a native bird of the lone state, but was introduced by European settlers.
However it has successfully colonized the entire North American continent, and is now a common urban bird that is found in parks and backyards.
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
From a distance, a Common grackle seems to be an entirely black bird, making it simple to confuse it with a crow.
But in contrast to a crow, the Common Grackle has a pointed beak that is formed like a cone, as well as eyes that are bright yellow, and a long tail that is shaped like a wedge.
In Colorado it lives in open spaces such as meadows, parks, and fields, as well as suburban and residential regions
Male Common Grackles have shimmering purple coloration on their heads, breasts, and necks, as well as other parts of their bodies.
During the nesting season, the females construct large nests in which they will lay a clutch of about five eggs.
In northern parts of its range, the Common Grackle is a migratory summer visitor, but can be encountered all year in Colorado.
It is a member of the New World family of blackbirds, which contains some of the most common birds in North America, many of which like to gather in large flocks and make a lot of noise.
On farms, Common Grackles can congregate in huge flocks to feed on crops and grain, and to roost, which can cause a problem to Colorado farmers.
Because it is such a versatile species, the Common Grackle can thrive in many different environments.
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
American Crows are quite large Colorado birds that are entirely black, including black beaks, legs, and eyes. Both adults and immature birds are completely black, and hard to distinguish from each other .
This is one of the most intelligent birds in the world. It also happens to be one of the most sociable, and it likes to pass the time by harassing other birds.
This is a common and easily recognizable black-colored bird in Colorado. Similar to vultures and birds of prey, American Crows like to feed on roadkill, but rarely get hit by cars themselves.
Family groups of crows sleep together at night but split off during the day to go foraging.
Outside of the breeding season, this bird forms massive flocks, sometimes topping out at thousands of birds.
The American Crow builds a big stick nest in trees, which it likes to reuse for many years. Old crows nests are also used by many other birds, including Colorado birds of prey.
American Crows are common in Colorado in open forests and woodlands, as well as farmland and urban areas such as parks, golf courses, and large gardens.
Common Starling (European Starling)
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
The Common Starling (also known as European Starling) is a common backyard bird in the Centennial State. Adult Common Starlings are uniformly black with a glossy sheen.
During winter, the black feathers of Common Starlings are covered with light spots, which can be a great characteristic to identify them.
This species is originally from Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it was introduced to North America and many other parts of the world, where this bird has established itself as a successful breeding species within a short period of time.
Common Starlings inhabit open country with few trees as their original habitat, but they are also among the most successful urban birds, and are especially common in parks and gardens.
While Common Starlings nest in tree holes in the wild, they are also known to nest inside buildings and nest boxes in urban settings.
Unfortunately, native birds are sometimes driven out of their nesting sites by competing Starlings.
Similar to grackles and other blackbirds, Common Starlings form large flocks outside of the nesting season.
These flocks can contain more than a million individuals, and can be seen performing amazing aerial acrobatics.
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
The Red-winged Blackbird is one the most abundant birds in Colorado, and it is definitely the most common blackbird found in the Centennial State during the summer.
The great thing about these Colorado blackbirds is that you can easily distinguish males from females.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are completely black except for the bright red patches on their wings. In contrast, females (and juvenile birds) are a blackish brown color with white streaks.
Generally speaking, this blackbird lives in open fields and near water. This bird is often found in marshes, wetlands, and around lakes.
To find food, the Red-winged Blackbird travels many miles a day, especially outside of the nesting season.
While this blackbird is primarily a seed-eater during fall and spring, it switches to feeding almost exclusively on insects during summer.
Depending on where this bird is found, the Red-winged Blackbird is either a seasonal migrant (in the north of its range), or a resident (in the south of its range).
Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks up to millions of individuals strong, creating a deafening noise with their rapidly beating wings.
In spring, males are usually the first ones to arrive in order to claim a desirable territory before the females arrive.
During the mating season, the male will sing from a conspicuous perch and display the red shoulder patches on his feathers in order to attract the attention of females.
After a female chooses a mate, she builds her nest over shallow water in a thick stand of vegetation. Her chosen mate then aggressively defends the nest against other blackbirds.
The most successful males are bigamous, and can mate with multiple females at the same time.
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in the Centennial State, and is most commonly found in east Colorado.
While males have a black and white coloration with a small red patch on their nape, females are entirely black and white.
The wings of both sexes are black with white bars, which look like spots when the wings are folded.
Downy Woodpeckers are non-migratory, and can be seen all year round throughout North America, except for the arid regions in southern states.
You can tell this woodpecker apart from the Hairy Woodpecker by its smaller size and short bill.
While Downy Woodpeckers don’t migrate, they like to move around outside of the breeding season, in search of areas with plentiful food.
Their preferred habitat is deciduous or mixed forest, where they feed on insects and insect larvae found under the bark of trees. During winter they also eat berries and seeds.
Scientific name: Picoides villosus
The Hairy Woodpecker looks similar to the Downy Woodpecker, but has a longer, thicker bill, and is a much larger bird overall.
Both the male and the female have black upperparts with white bars on the wing feathers, which look like spots when the wings are folded.
The male has a very small red patch on the back of its head, which is considerably smaller than the red patches on other woodpecker species.
The Hairy Woodpecker is a common breeding bird found throughout North America, and can be seen in Colorado year-round.
This woodpecker breeds in both coniferous and deciduous forests, and is even found in parks and other urban areas with trees.
Scientific name: Troglodytes aedon
The House Wren is a small songbird with a relatively long beak. Compared to other wrens, it has a long tail, which it likes to cock up.
At a distance, House Wrens resemble uniformly brown birds, but when viewed close up, you can discern subtle barring on their wings and tail.
This small bird has a surprisingly loud voice, and if you hear one singing next to you, it appears almost deafeningly loud, drowning out all other birdsong in the vicinity.
In contrast to the Rock Wren, which is a year-round resident in Colorado, the House Wren is a summer visitor in Colorado, where it can be found from May to August.
Scientific name: Setophaga coronata
While the sexes of the Yellow-rumped Warbler are dissimilar, they both have a yellow rump.
This warbler exists in several variations, and the eastern population that can be found in Colorado are also called “Myrtle Warblers”.
These Colorado birds have blueish-gray upperparts with dark streaks, as well as a yellow rump and yellow flanks.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a summer breeding bird in northern Colorado, and a winter visitor in the southern parts of the state, where it can be seen from August through April.
Scientific name: Icterus bullockii
Bullock’s Oriole is a western bird species that is a summer breeding bird in the western half of Colorado.
Adult males are flaming orange coupled with a jet black back and a black neck. They also have a large white patch on the wing, and an orange face with a black throat.
Juveniles and females are more grayish-yellow with orange on their face and chest. Endemic to the western United States, it spends the winter in Mexico.
Bullock’s Oriole forages for food on the upper branches of trees and shrubs, searching for fruits and insects.
You can encounter these Colorado orioles in open woodlands close to rivers and streams, as well as in parks and orchards.
Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
The Barn Swallow inhabits nearly all of North America south of the Arctic circle and may be found in a wide variety of habitats.
It has iridescent blue upperparts that shimmer in various shades of dark blue when the sunlight hits them.
Its underside is reddish-orange, including a chestnut orange forehead and throat, as well as a light reddish-orange belly.
The deeply forked tail of Barn Swallows is another great feature you can use to identify this bird.
However, keep in mind that immature barn swallows have a duller plumage than adults, as well as a shorter tail that is less forked.
The Barn Swallow used to nest in caves and hollow trees, but nowadays it prefers to do so beneath the overhangs of buildings and bridges, as well as inside barns (which explains how it got its name).
These swallows in Colorado are still a reasonably common sight in most areas. However, the overall numbers of Barn Swallows have been steadily decreasing, especially in the northern section of their range.
This decline is likely a result of the loss of foraging areas and nesting opportunities.
The Barn Swallow feeds on flying insects, such as mosquitoes and flies, and catches them closer to the ground than other species of swallows. In its winter quarters it also feeds on termites.
It is a strictly migratory bird, and spends the winter in Central and Southern America.
Scientific name: Tachycineta thalassina
This beautiful swallow is a bird of the western USA, and is found as a summer visitor throughout Colorado.
While this bird initially looks like it has an entirely dark upper side, when it catches the sunlight, you’ll notice the iridescent green plumage on its back.
These green birds readily accept nesting boxes, and other nest cavities in urban areas. They are most often observed hunting insects over Colorado rivers and lakes.
During the cold season they migrate south to spend the winter in Mexico and Central America.
Scientific name: Setophaga petechia
Also known as the American Yellow Warbler, this songbird lives up to its name.
Adult males have a brilliant yellow color, except for their wings, which are just slightly darker and have two pale wingbars.
They also have reddish stripes on the breast and the yellow sides. Adult females are very similar to the males, but have less black streaking and are thus more uniformly yellow.
These bright yellow-colored Colorado birds are summer visitors in the state during the months from May to late August.
This species is found in open habitat with low thickets and scrubland, which makes it easy to observe.
Scientific name: Spinus psaltria
The Lesser Goldfinch is a common breeding bird in Colorado, and occurs in a broad swath across the southern half of the state.
Adult males have a black cap and black wings, which contrast with bright yellow underparts. Their black wings have a white stripe, which is most obvious in flight.
Females and juveniles are olive green, with lighter underparts and dark wings with a white wing bar.
The Lesser Goldfinch is a year-round resident in Colorado, and outside of the breeding season it likes to forage in flocks, mainly feeding on thistles.
Scientific name: Sialia mexicana
The Western Bluebird is the most common bluebird species found in Colorado.
It is a breeding bird and year-round resident in the northern half of Colorado, and also occurs in southern parts of the state during the winter season.
Male Western Bluebirds have a deep shade of blue on their heads and backs, which contrasts with reddish orange feathers on the chest.
Female and juvenile birds on the other hand, have more subdued hues, with gray-brown upperparts and a lighter gray underside.
While Western Bluebirds are migratory birds in northern parts of their range, they are permanent residents in the Centennial state.
These birds nest in treeholes or nestboxes, but have suffered from the competition with House Sparrows and European Starlings, which are more aggressive and chase bluebirds away from their nest sites.
The population of these blue Colorado birds underwent a dramatic decline at the end of last century, due to lack of nesting holes and competition with European Starlings.
However, thanks to the efforts of numerous Colorado citizens providing nest boxes for Western Bluebirds, these birds are a common sight in Colorado once more.
Scientific name: Passerina amoena
The Lazuli Bunting is a gorgeous little songbird of the western United States that visits and breeds in northern Colorado during the summer.
The hood, neck, and rump of adult males are light blue, while the wings are dark gray with a white wingbar. Males also have a chestnut orange breast and a white belly throughout the summer months.
Females are buff-brown in color with black wings and a pale blue rump.
The Lazuli Bunting may be found in Colorado during the breeding season, which runs from May to August, before migrating to Mexico for the winter.
Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus
The Black-capped Chickadee is a widespread bird species in North America. Both sexes look similar, and have gray backs with buff underparts.
Their most distinguishing feature is the black cap and the black throat, which contrasts with the bright white cheeks.
This chickadee is present year-round in Colorado, where it favors a variety of forest habitats as well as backyards.
These small chickadees are regular visitors at bird feeders, and also accept nestboxes.
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
This is the largest Nuthatch species in North America, and is a common year-round resident in Colorado.
Adults have a grayish blue back and wings, as well as a white face, throat, and breast.
These birds favor deciduous or mixed forests, and are common visitors at tube feeders in Colorado offering sunflower seeds.
Outside of the breeding season White-breasted Nuthatches form small flocks with other species of songbirds, which rove around in Virginia and forage together.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
Scientific name: Aphelocoma woodhouseii
The Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay was called the Western Scrub Jay until a few years ago, and was thought to belong to a single species that occurs throughout the western United States.
However, in 2016 it was split into two different species, the California Scrub Jay (found along the Pacific Coast), and the Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay (found further inland). The population in Colorado belongs to the latter species.
This jay is widespread in the Centennial State, and is locally the most common jay species.
Adult males and females look the same, and have an azure blue upper head, wings, and tail, as well as dark gray shoulders and a light gray belly. The largely blue body contrasts with a white throat streaked with gray.
These jays are year-round residents that can be encountered in a variety of lightly wooded habitats and scrub land.
Scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri
Steller’s Jay is a medium-sized member of the jay family, and is easily recognized due to the dark blue body combined with its striking crest.
It is a common breeding bird in western Colorado, but is absent from the great plains in eastern parts of the state.
Both males and females look similar, and have a dark gray to blackish head, nape, and upper back, while the rest of the body is dark admiral blue.
While it is found year-round within its breeding range, in some years Steller’s Jays undertake irruptive movements towards the south, and show up in areas where they normally don’t occur.
Scientific name: Spizella passerina
The Chipping Sparrow is a common bird in many man made habitats, including backyards, gardens, and parks.
Adult birds can be recognized by their chestnut crown, which contrasts with a white supercilium (or eyebrow stripe) and black eye stripe.
The Chipping Sparrow is a widespread and common breeding bird in Colorado, where it can be seen as a summer visitor from May through October.
These birds migrate south and spend the winter in the southern USA, as well as Mexico and Central America.
Scientific name: Melospiza melodia
The Song Sparrow is an inconspicuous little brown bird, but can be recognized by its dark breast markings that merge into a central black spot.
The back is reddish brown with dark brown streaks, and the reddish wings have two white wingbars.
The Song Sparrow is a common summer visitor in Colorado, where it can be seen from April to October.
It spends the winter in more southern states, and also in Mexico. Song Sparrows prefer fields and meadows with scrubs and dense bushes.
What are the top 5 most common birds in Colorado?
The top 5 most common birds in Colorado are:
- American Robin
- Mourning Dove
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Red-winged Blackbird
Out of these 5 species, the American Robin is the most frequently seen backyard bird that lives in Colorado, and is reported in 39% of eBird checklists submitted for Colorado.
While all of these birds are common Colorado backyard birds, and frequently encountered while birdwatching in urban areas, most of them can also be found in more remote areas.
How can you attract birds to your yard in Colorado?
The top 5 things you can do to get Colorado birds to visit your backyard are as follows:
- Set up a feeder with sunflower seeds, or a bird seed mix
- Set up a bird bath
- Plant shrubs to provide nesting opportunities
- Plant native fruiting plants to provide foraging opportunities
Tip: If you want to attract Western Bluebirds to your backyard feeder, it’s best to offer berries and mealworms, since they’re not interested in seeds.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the herons of Colorado.