Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Much more than meadowlarks

A woodpecker on a swing supportMeadowlarks are a wonderful compliment to nature on the high plains. They serenade. They build wonderful hidden nests on the ground. They walk around the lawn much as robins do on a quest for food. As pleasant as they are, they are not the only birds of the high plains. I would guess that there are more bird species in the wooded areas than on the high plains, but there is an amazing variety here.

If you are a waterfowl hunter, you might first notice the large resident and migratory geese population. There are many other waterfowl that visit or reside at the many lakes and reservoirs. Numerous types of duck such as mallards, red heads and teal are here at least part of the year. Many shore birds such as killdeer and avocets live near the lakes as well. In the spring, the seagulls are very noticeable as they flying screaming overhead. Yes, seagulls live far inland and forage in farm fields as well as at the waterside. They are so common inland that perhaps their name should just be "gulls" to avoid the confusion. Another bird associated with large open water, the white pelican lives here as well. They prefer the larger reservoirs and can sometimes be seen riding thermals or winging in formation. It is hard to realize how large they are just seeing them in the air. Their wingspan is about 9 feet!

The high plains have a full compliment of icterids, the blackbird family. Besides common blackbirds, there are marsh loving redwings, the less common yellow heads and an occasional bob-o-link. We also have crows and in the mountains, ravens.

Robins are quite common both on the plains and the mountains. The jay family is also well represented. The blue jays seem to visit me spring and fall but nest elsewhere. In the mountains the gray jay (camp robber) and Steller’s jay are common.

We also have many raptors, bald and golden eagles and numerous hawks, owls and ospreys. Small animals beware!

Some of the less common types seen on the high plains include woodpeckers, finches and hummingbirds. Less common means that you can see them fairly easily but may not see them everyday. Flycatchers are another bird that is around seasonally. In the case of my lawn, they are here to nest and then visit sporadically during the late summer. Swallows are also rather seasonal in appearance. Many can be seen during mosquito season but they are less noticeable later.

One of the loveliest birds to make a seasonal appearance is the mountain bluebird. Some springs they hang out on the high plains and foothills and other years they are not to be found.

Will all of this variety, what is the Colorado state bird? It is the lark bunting. They really are lovely to see and to hear. In fact I wish that I could say that I see and hear them more often. They are not endangered but like many of the other mentioned species, they are not in the same place every year so are not seen frequently.

A hummingbird silhouetted above a monarda