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Birds & Birding Regional Birder

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Rocky Mountains
May 2016

Several kinds of forests cover the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains. In the central and southern Rockies, the lower slopes and plateaus are covered with pines, and spotted with grassy meadows that are grazed by herds of deer, elk and bison, in parks, such as Yellowstone National Park, and other preserves.

Higher up and farther north, the slopes of the Rockies are covered with spruce and fir, but dotted with open clearings and stands of aspen.

Higher yet, at tree line, twisted pines and other conifers hold on to life with tough roots, overhung by towering rocky outcroppings where golden eagles soar, and sure-footed mountain sheep and goats thrive.

Backyard Birds

In the backyards of Rocky Mountain residents, the most common birds that are attracted to food, water and natural cover are the mountain chickadee, cliff swallow, mountain bluebird, broad-tailed hummingbird, Clark's nutcracker, gray jay, red-naped sapsucker, downy and hairy woodpeckers, western tanager, evening grosbeak, pine siskin, house and Cassin's finches, white-crowned sparrow, Lazuli bunting, warbling vireo, house and rock wrens.

Regional Birds

Birdlife is most abundant in the lower habitats of pines and grassy meadows that provide food and cover to the mountain chickadee, varied thrush, mountain bluebird, western tanager, evening and black-headed grosbeaks, red crossbill, fox sparrow, western meadowlark, and black-billed magpie. Higher up, look for Clark's nutcracker, rosy-finches, broad-tailed hummingbird, white-throated swift, blue grouse and white-tailed ptarmigan. And, in mountain streams, see if you can spot an American dipper plunging into the fast-moving white water.

What's happening in your backyard this month
  • Western meadowlarks nesting in grassy fields; males singing from fence posts.
  • Mountain bluebirds nesting in cavities and birdhouses; American robins incubating sky-blue eggs.
  • Clark’s nutcrackers begging for food at park overlooks.
  • Warbler migration in full swing, passing through backyards in the thousands.
What to do in your backyard this month
  • Maintain water areas and birdbaths; reduce seed feeders to one of each type and food.
  • Check birdhouses for occupation by bluebirds, chickadees, and woodpeckers.
  • Change sugar water in hummingbird/oriole feeders at least twice a week; use ant moats and bee guards.
  • Stock tray feeders with cracked (hulled) sunflower seed for black-headed grosbeaks, jays and American robins.