What kinds of birds can you find in winter in Colorado?
As you head outside this winter, keep your eyes open for which birds are around. As you will see, some species migrate here just during winter, while others can be observed during any season.
29 Winter birds in Colorado:
#1. American Robin
- Turdus migratorius
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
- Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
- Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.
American Robins are one of the most familiar winter birds in Colorado!
In winter, American Robins form nomadic flocks of up to thousands of birds. Their winter range depends on weather and food supply, but they regularly remain in their range year-round.
In the spring, they split up, and you will see individuals guarding territories in advance of nesting.
American Robin Range Map
Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit.
These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky-blue color eggs.
#2. American Tree Sparrow
- Spizelloides arborea
- Both sexes are rusty colored on their round head. Their face is gray with a brown streak by their eyes.
- The body is gray with reddish-brown, white, and black streaks.
You will often see American Tree Sparrows in small flocks, hopping on the ground, looking for seeds in the grass or weeds. They are common winter birds in Colorado.
In the winter, this species likes to visit backyard feeders searching for small seeds, like millet, that have fallen to the ground. Millet comes in most birdseed mixes, and many birds don’t eat it. So American Tree Sparrows are nice to have around because they’ll help clean up your feeding area.
American Tree Sparrow Range Map
American Tree Sparrows eat a lot! In fact, they have to take in 30% of their body weight in food and water each day. Unfortunately, that means going a day without eating is usually a death sentence for them.
Their song is a series of clear opening notes followed by a variably trilled melody.
#3. Cooper’s Hawk
- Accipiter cooperii
- Bluish-gray upperparts with pale undersides with dense reddish barring.
- Black cap and red eyes.
- Relatively small, strongly hooked bill.
These large raptors are common winter birds found throughout Colorado in the woods or on the edge of fields. Cooper’s Hawks are known for their flying agility. I see them often at my house in high-speed chases through the canopy, going after their prey.
Cooper’s Hawk Range Map
Because of their incredible flying abilities, these hawks primarily eat songbirds and are common in backyards around bird feeders. At my feeding station, I have observed these hawks preying on Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, and Mourning Doves.
Visually, a Cooper’s Hawk looks incredibly similar to the Sharp-shinned Hawk. The BEST way to tell these hawks apart is to look at the size difference. Cooper’s are larger than Sharp-shinneds. But if they are airborne, good luck figuring out which one you are observing!
#4. White-breasted Nuthatch
- Sitta carolinensis
- Both sexes look almost the same.
- Males have a black cap on the top of their heads.
- Females display a lighter, more gray crown.
Look for White-breasted Nuthatches in Colorado in deciduous forests year-round. They adapt well to the presence of humans and are often seen in parks, cemeteries, and wooded backyards.
These birds are especially common to see in winter visiting bird feeders. To attract nuthatches, use sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, safflower seeds, and mealworms.
White-breasted Nuthatch Range Map
White-breasted Nuthatches are incredibly vocal AND make distinctive noises that are relatively easy to identify! You are most likely to hear a “yank” call, which is given at any time of year. This loud and distinctive noise is often repeated several times in a row.
#5. Mourning Dove
- Zenaida macroura
- A mostly grayish dove with large black spots on the wings and a long, thin tail.
- Look for pinkish legs, a black bill, and a distinctive blue eye ring.
- Males and females look the same.
Mourning Doves are one of the most common birds seen in winter in Colorado.
These birds love visiting bird feeders! To attract them, try putting out their favorite foods, which include millet, shelled sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, cracked corn, and safflower seeds.
They are most comfortable feeding on the ground, so make sure to throw some food there, too.
Mourning Dove Range Map
It’s common to hear Mourning Doves even in winter. Listen for a low “coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.” In fact, this mournful sound is how the dove got its name! Many people commonly mistake this sound for an owl.
#6. Black-capped Chickadee
- Poecile atricapillus
- Look for a black cap and bib, white cheeks, buffy underparts, and gray back and wings.
- Round body with a short neck and large head.
- Short, thin bill.
These little winter birds are one of the most beloved species in Colorado, and it’s easy to see why! Black-capped Chickadees are often described as “cute,” They are tiny, with an oversized head that features a black cap and bib.
Naturally, look for them in open deciduous forests, thickets, and cottonwood groves. They also adapt easily to the presence of people and are common to see in backyards and parks throughout the winter.
Black-capped Chickadee Range Map
In fact, once you set up a new bird feeder, chickadees will likely be the first birds to visit, as they are curious about anything new in their territory. The best foods to use are sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. Their small size and athletic ability mean these birds can use just about any type of feeder!
These feeders can be especially helpful to Chickadees in the winter. To survive cold nights, Chickadees gain about 10% in body weight each day.
#7. European Starling
- Sturnus vulgaris
- Their plumage is black and appears to be shiny.
- Breeding adults are darker black and have a green-purple tint.
- In winter, starlings lose their glossiness, their beaks become darker, and they develop white spots over their bodies.
European Starlings are incredibly common winter birds in Colorado.
But did you know these birds are an invasive species? Back in 1890, one hundred starlings were brought over from Europe and released in New York City’s Central Park. The man responsible (Eugene Schieffelin) had a mission to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays in North America.
European Starling Range Map
The rest is history as starlings easily conquered the continent, along the way out-competing many of our beautiful native birds. Their ability to adapt to human development, eat almost anything, and survive winter weather is uncanny to virtually no other species.
#8. Downy Woodpecker
- Dryobates pubescens
- White below, white back, and black wings with white markings.
- Black and white striped heads that feature a red nape in males.
- Small woodpeckers with short bills.
Downy Woodpeckers are common winter birds in Colorado!
You probably recognize them, as they are seen in many yards visiting bird feeders.
This woodpecker species is easy to attract. The best foods to use are suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts (including peanut butter).
Downy Woodpecker Range Map
Once you know what to listen for, my guess is that you will start hearing Downy Woodpeckers everywhere you go. Their calls resemble a high-pitched whinnying sound that descends in pitch towards the end.
#9. Pine Siskin
- Spinus pinus
- Brown bodies with heavy streaking and yellow edging on wings and tail.
- Narrow, sharp-pointed bill.
Pine Siskins are winter birds typically found in mixed evergreen or deciduous forests, but they will move to a new place in search of food, like weedy fields, backyards, or gardens.
These energetic birds can be seen visiting bird feeders during the winter. They prefer to eat smaller seeds without tough shells, such as sunflower or Nyjer seeds.
Pine Siskin Range Map
These small birds are very social and search for food in flocks while chirping nonstop to each other. They don’t even stop chattering when flying!
#10. Dark-eyed Junco
- Junco hyemalis
- Smooth greyish-black feathers.
- White outer tail feathers that flash open, especially in flight.
- Rounded head and pink bill.
Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most common winter birds in Colorado. To easily identify Dark-eyed Juncos, look for a white flash from their tail feathers as they fly away.
Dark-eyed Juncos have earned the nickname “Snowbirds” or “Winter birds” because they only appear in winter in many parts of their range.
Dark-eyed Junco Range Map
Males sing a two-second loud, trilling song that can carry hundreds of feet away. In addition, both sexes also sing softer songs that are a mixture of warbles, trills, and whistles.
- Anas platyrhynchos
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black rump with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are one of the most common water birds you will see in winter throughout Colorado!
Unlike many types of ducks that migrate, Mallards typically stay in their range year-round.
Mallard Range Map
They are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread.
Mallards are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located. We even find these water birds in our swimming pool every summer and must chase them away so they don’t make a mess on our deck! 🙂
When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.
#12. Canada Goose
- Branta canadensis
- Large goose with a long black neck and a distinctive white cheek patch.
- Brown body with a pale white chest and underparts.
- Black feet and legs.
Canada Geese are common winter birds in Colorado.
I’m sure you probably recognize them, as they are very comfortable living around people and human development. Look for them wherever there are grasses or grains to eat, such as lawns, parks, farm fields, and golf courses.
Canada Goose Range Map
Many Canada Geese are now non-migratory. These non-migratory winter birds are the descendants of non-migratory geese introduced to U.S. wildlife refuges by the hundreds in the early 1900s.
Listen for a wide variety of loud honks and cackles. They have even hissed at me for accidentally approaching a nest too closely.
#13. American Crow
- Corvus brachyrhynchos
- A large bird that is entirely black with an iridescent sheen.
- Long black bill, black legs, and black feet.
American Crows are adaptable winter birds that can be found in almost every habitat in Colorado. The places they inhabit include woodlands, fields, rivers, marshes, farms, parks, landfills, golf courses, cemeteries, and neighborhoods.
American Crow Range Map
American Crows are one of the smartest birds around.
For example, they can use tools, solve problems, and recognize human faces. It seems that crows even do things just for fun! Seriously, if you search the internet, it’s easy to find videos of them using round objects to sled down roofs.
American Crows have a large vocabulary. Listen for any number of caws, rattles, cackles, and clicks. The most common sound is a “caw-caw.” (Listen below)
#14. American Goldfinch
- Spinus tristis
- In summer, the males put on bright yellow plumage with black foreheads and black wings with white bars.
- Summer females are duller yellow beneath and olive above.
- Winter birds are drab, unstreaked brown with blackish wings.
You probably recognize these birds in their colorful summertime plumage, but goldfinches are common winter birds in Colorado, too. In winter, they put on drab plumage that makes them harder to spot.
And the best news is that American Goldfinches are relatively easy to attract to your backyard. They love feeding on sunflower seeds and Nyjer seeds.
Range Map – American Goldfinch
American Goldfinches are strict vegetarians. Their diet is exclusively made of seeds with no insects, which is rare in the bird world.
To identify them by sound, listen for a pretty series of musical trills and warbles.
#15. House Sparrow
- Passer domesticus
- Chunky birds with round heads and stout bills.
- Males have gray crowns, black bibs, white cheeks, chestnut necks, and chestnut backs with black strips.
- Females are plain buffy brown with noticeable black, brown, and buff strips on their backs.
House Sparrows are an invasive species that originated from the Middle East. But now, they are one of the most widespread winter birds in Colorado (and the world)!
Range Map – House Sparrow
House Sparrows owe their year-round success to their ability to adapt and live near humans. Because of this, they are almost always found in urban and suburban areas.
House Sparrows can be heard across the entire planet. Pay attention the next time you’re watching the news in another country. Listen for a simple song that includes lots of “cheep” notes.
#16. White-crowned Sparrow
- Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Large grayish bird with a long tail and often peaked head.
- Bold black and white stripes on the head.
- Small, orange to yellow or pinkish bill.
The habitat of these winter birds changes with the season.
During the breeding season, White-crowned Sparrows are found in shrubbery habitats with open grassy areas. In winter, they prefer weedy fields, thickets, and backyards.
White-crowned Sparrow Range Map
If you want to attract these birds to your feeding station in winter, use sunflower seeds. Just make sure the food is placed on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. And having a brush pile will entice them to stay by giving them places to hide and feel safe.
White-crowned Sparrows are known for their long migration journeys. This sparrow has been known to travel over 300 miles (483 km) in one night!
Males primarily sing, but on occasion, so will females. Their song lasts only a few seconds. Listen below:
#17. White-throated Sparrow
- Zonotrichia albicollis
- Plump body with a long tail and a fairly small bill.
- Bold black and white stripes on the head and bright yellow patches between the eye and bill.
- Gray face and breast with a neat white throat patch.
Look for these birds in winter in Colorado along the edge of forests. They enjoy scratching at the ground under leaves or picking leaves up and moving them out of the way with their bill.
White-throated Sparrow Range Map
White-throated Sparrows readily visit bird feeders. You can attract them by offering sunflower seeds or millet and making sure some of the food ends up on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. And having a place for them to hide and find shelter will entice them to stay.
White-throated Sparrows sing a high-pitched whistle that is easy to learn. Just listen for “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada.”
#18. Red-breasted Nuthatch
- Sitta canadensis
- Compact birds with very short tails, almost no necks, and sharp bills.
- Males are blue-gray above and rusty below with black caps, white eyebrows, and black eyelines.
- Females have grayer caps and pale, rusty underparts.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are active winter songbirds in Colorado that have beautiful coloring. Look for compact birds with almost no neck and a short tail.
These small birds breed in northern North America, the western mountains, and the upper northeast. But during winter, they can truly show up almost anywhere.
These birds travel where needed to make sure they have enough food. In some years, they have been seen as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Mexico!
Red-breasted Nuthatch Range Map
Red-breasted Nuthatches are mostly found in coniferous forests. Their preferred habitat contrasts sharply with White-breasted Nuthatches, who prefer living in deciduous forests.
#19. House Finch
- Haemorhous mexicanus
- Males feature rosy red breasts and heads with streaky brown backs, bellies, and tails.
- Females are brown overall with blurry streaks down their bellies.
- Conical bills and notched tails.
It’s common to see these birds in winter in areas with lots of people. Look for House Finches around buildings, backyards, parks, and other urban and suburban areas.
Their original range is in the western United States, but they were released in New York City in the 1940s after a failed attempt at selling them as pets. Since then, they have spread through much of North America.
House Finch Range Map
House Finches are often the first birds to discover new bird feeders. These birds are intensely curious and rarely travel alone, so their arrival often helps other birds find your feeders, too! I see them eating sunflower seeds and safflower seeds the most in my backyard.
- Bucephala albeola
- Small ducks with large heads.
- Males have white chests and flanks and a large white patch on their heads. Dark back. Iridescent purple-green plumage on their face.
- Females are mostly brownish with a darker head. Look for the distinctive white cheek patch.
It’s hard to misidentify these striking birds in winter. They breed in the far north but spend their winters in Colorado.
They spend up to half their time foraging underwater, looking for aquatic invertebrates and crustaceans, which they eat while still submerged. When they dive, be patient and keep scanning the area for these small birds to resurface.
Bufflehead Range Map
Overall, Buffleheads are more silent than other ducks. In late winter to early spring, it’s possible to hear the males make a squeaky whistle.
#21. Eurasian Collared-Dove
- Streptopelia decaocto
- A mostly sandy gray bird with a long, square-tipped tail.
- As the name suggests, look for a black collar on the back of the neck.
Interestingly, these winter birds are invasive to Colorado.
Unfortunately, somebody introduced Eurasian Collared-Doves to the Bahamas in the 1970s, and since then, they have rapidly spread. In fact, their population is still spreading!
Eurasian Collared-Dove Range Map
One of the reasons these birds colonized here so quickly is due to their comfort level with humans. They have thrived being around bird feeders and in urban and suburban areas. It’s common to see them on the ground or platform feeders eating grains and seeds.
How do you tell them apart from Mourning Doves?
At first glance, Eurasian Collared-Doves look very similar to Mourning Doves. Here’s how to tell them apart:
- Mourning Doves are smaller and have black dots on their wings.
- Eurasian Collared-Doves are larger and have a black crescent around their neck.
#22. Common Redpoll
- Acanthis flammea
- Both sexes are small, white, and brown. Look for streaks on their sides and a small red patch on their forehead.
- Males differ from females and have a pale red vest on the chest and upper flanks.
Redpolls are only seen in Colorado during winter. During the breeding season, they are found in the boreal forests of northern North America.
Redpolls travel in flocks of up to several hundred birds. They move very fast, gathering seeds in weedy fields or small trees one minute and swirling away in a mass of chattering birds the next.
Common Redpoll Range Map
Listen below to the Redpoll song, which is a combination of single or repeated calls (“chit-chit-chit-chit”). Their call notes are a whistle that sounds like “swee-ee-eet.”
#23. Snow Goose
- Anser caerulescens
- Most Snow Geese are all white with black tail feathers. But some individuals display a “blue morph,” whose heads are still white but bodies are sooty gray.
- Pink legs.
- Pink bill, which has a black patch on each side.
Snow Geese spend their time in the continent’s northernmost areas during the breeding season, away from human civilization. However, they are abundant birds in parts of southern North America because they migrate south for winter.
Snow Goose Range Map
Look for Snow Geese in winter in large fields and bodies of water. If they are around, it’s usually not hard to find them, as they are almost always seen in huge flocks accompanied by a lot of honking!
In fact, one of the most impressive things you will watch today is the video below, which shows an ENORMOUS flock of Snow Geese. It’s hard to fathom how many birds are traveling together!
#24. Tundra Swan
- Cygnus columbianus
- White bodies and very long necks.
- Black legs and bill.
- Small yellow spots in front of the eyes.
During summer, you will not see Tundra Swans near people, as they spend the breeding season in the remote Arctic.
Look for them in Colorado in winter and during migration, where they are visitors to large bodies of water. They also visit farm fields in large flocks, looking for food.
Tundra Swan Range Map
Tundra Swans form long-term, dedicated relationships. Typically, by the time they are 2 or 3, they have found a partner. Once that happens, these two birds will breed, feed, roost, and travel together year-round.
#25. Black-billed Magpie
- Pica hudsonia
- Jay-like with long tails and heavy bills.
- Appears black with white wingtips, shoulders, and belly.
- Black feathers flash iridescent blue-green in the right light.
It’s hard to miss these shiny birds in winter!
Black-billed Magpies demand your attention. They are very social, noisy, and comfortable living amongst people and are commonly seen in smaller towns. Naturally, they live in open grasslands and plains and tend to avoid dense forests.
And in the right light, you can see beautiful blue iridescent feathers on the wings and tail.
Black-billed Magpie Range Map
These colorful winter birds are incredibly vocal. They often give harsh calls or a raspy, chattering song that sounds a bit like “wock, wock wock-a-wock, wock, pjur, weer, weer.” See one chattering below.
#26. Steller’s Jay
- Cyanocitta stelleri
- It is a larger bird with a black head, rounded wings, and a long tail. A tall black crest on the crown of the head helps identify them.
- Both sexes are half black and half blue on their wings, bellies, and tails.
You will find the Steller’s Jay in evergreen forests in Colorado. These bold birds, which are half blue, often visit parks, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
Due to their bold black and blue coloration, they are easy to spot in winter.
Steller’s Jay Range Map
This jay is very intelligent, bold, and noisy. You can attract this species to your backyard feeders by providing peanuts or larger seeds and suet.
The Steller’s Jays are often nest robbers. They have even been known to attack or kill small adult birds like nuthatches or juncos.
#27. Greater White-fronted Goose
- Anser albifrons
- These geese are brownish with black spots on the belly, white vents, white face patches, and white side strips.
- Pinkish-orange bill and orange legs.
- In flight, a white “U” is visible at the base of the tail.
Greater White-fronted Geese are only seen in Colorado in winter as they migrate south after breeding in the Arctic tundra. Look for these large geese in large flocks in wetlands, lakes, and farm fields.
Greater White-fronted Goose Range Map
Greater White-fronted Geese have INCREDIBLY strong family bonds. Mated pairs migrate with each other and stay together for many years. Their offspring even stick around for longer than most other species, and it’s not unusual to see the young with their parents through the next breeding season.
#28. Mountain Chickadee
- Poecile gambeli
- Tiny with round belly, large head, and long narrow tail.
- Grayish overall with white cheeks, white eyebrows, and a black cap and throat.
As the name suggests, if you want to find one of these birds in winter in Colorado, you will need to head to the mountains! Mountain Chickadees’ distinctive white eyebrows make them fairly easy to separate from other chickadees.
Mountain Chickadee Range Map
Like other chickadee species, these birds are agile and curious. They are most often seen flitting from tree to tree in coniferous forests, searching for insects, spiders, seeds, and nuts.
Their song is as cute as they are. Similar to other chickadees, they often give a sweet, whistled “fee-bee.” Listen below.
#29. Pine Grosbeak
- Pinicola enucleator
- Large, plump finches. Look for dark gray wings with two white lines across the middle.
- Males are reddish pink and gray in color.
- Females and young males are grayish with tints of reddish-orange or yellow on the head and rump.
Count yourself lucky if you see a Pine Grosbeak! These birds are not typically seen around people.
Pine Grosbeaks will visit bird feeders, especially during the winter. If you want to attract them, try using a hopper or platform feeder because of the bird’s larger size. Fill the feeders with sunflower seeds.
If one lands on your feeders, they are typically easy to identify since they will be bigger than almost all the other birds.
Pine Grossbeak Range Map
Pine Grosbeaks are relatively easy to find and see due to their slow-moving (some people call sluggish) behavior. In addition, they are relatively tame and not scared away easily.
Check out these other guides to animals in Colorado!
Which of these winter birds have you seen before in Colorado?
Leave a comment below!
Some range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.