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Bird Checklists of the United States

Alamosa-Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge Complex

San Luis Valley, Colorado

Alamosa and Monte Vista Natonal Wildlife Refuges are located in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado. The San Luis Valley is 50 miles wide and 100 miles long and varies in elevation from 7,500' to 7,800'. The high mountain valley is bordered on the west by the San Juan Mountains and on the east by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which have several peaks exceeding 14,000 feet. The high elevation and the fact that the valley is in the rain shadow of the San Juan Mountains produces a climate that is dry and cold. Annual precipitation on the valley floor averages 7 inches per year and temperatures range from -50 degrees F in winter to 90 degrees F in summer. Despite the arid climate, the valley receives abundant streamflow from surrounding mountains and has ample groundwater. Water from these sources is used to grow vast acreage of barley, wheat, potatoes, alfalfa, and to irrigate natural meadows for hay and pasture for large numbers of cattle, horses, and sheep. The refuges use this same water to provide excellent wetland habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, cranes, and numerous other species. The combination of wetland habitat and grain availability make the San Luis Valley Colorado's best waterfowl producing area and the traditional stopover for the Rocky Mountain greater sandhill crane flock. Since 1975 the endangered whooping cranes have accompanied this flock.

The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge is located 3 miles southeast of Alamosa, Colorado. The 11,168 acre refuge is composed of natural riverbottom wetland and is bordered on the west by the Rio Grande River. The refuge is dissected by numerous sloughs and oxbows of the river. The refuge provides habitat for numerous waterfowl species, primarily mallards, blue-winged and cinnamon teal and for other dabbling ducks as well as Canada geese. Numerous shore bird and wading bird species breed here such as American avocets, killdeer, common snipe, phalaropes, black-crowned night herons and snowy egrets. Raptors such as marsh hawk and Swainson's hawk breed here; and rough-legged hawks, golden and bald eagles winter here. Cottonwood and willow riparian habitat along the river provide one of the best songbird habitats in the valley.

Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is located 6 miles south of Monte Vista, Colorado. The 14,189 acre refuge consists of numerous dikes and ponds which provide excellent waterfowl habitat. The refuge provides the valley's best waterfowl habitat. Populations peak during September and October when more than 35,000 ducks are present. The refuge is also a major crane resting and feeding area during fall and spring migrations. Bald and golden eagles are common during winter months and are usually found near concentrations of waterfowl which they feed on.

Both refuges provide numerous opportunities for viewing birdlife. The Monte Vista Refuge offers a 3-mile auto tour route, and several county roads cross through the refuge. The Alamosa Refuge provides a trail along the river for birders interested in walking and a bluff overlook which provides a spectacular view of the refuge.

During summer months a light jacket is often necessary during mornings and evenings. Mosquito repellant is useful. Best birding opportunities are during March-May in spring and during September-November in the fall. Numerous opportunities exist for the patient photographer and a telephoto lens is recommended.


* - indicates birds nesting on the refuge.


Sp - March-May
S - June-August
F - September-November
W - December-February

Seasonal abundance of each species is coded as follows:

a - abundant: certain to be seen, very numerous
c - common: should see in suitable habitat
u - uncommon: might see in suitable habitat
o - occasional: seen only a few times during a season
r - rare: seen at intervals of 2 to 5 years

LOONS Sp S F W ___ Common Loon o - o - ___ Arctic Loon accidental
GREBES Sp S F W ___ Eared Grebe* o o o - ___ Western Grebe* o o - - ___ Pied-billed Grebe* c c c -
PELICANS Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican r - - -
CORMORANTS Sp S F W ___ Double-crested Cormorant r - - -
HERONS Sp S F W ___ Great Blue Heron c c c u ___ Little Blue Heron - o - - ___ Green Heron o - o - ___ Cattle Egret* o o o - ___ Great Egret - r - - ___ Snowy Egret* c a a - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron* c a c r ___ American Bittern* u u u o ___ Least Bittern o o - -
IBISES Sp S F W ___ White-faced Ibis* c c c -
SWANS, GEESE, DUCKS Sp S F W ___ Tundra Swan (Whistling Swan) r - r - ___ Canada Goose* a a a a ___ White-fronted Goose r - r r ___ Snow Goose o - o o ___ Ross' Goose r - r r ___ Mallard* a a a a ___ Gadwall* a a a - ___ Northern Pintail* a c c c ___ Green-winged Teal* a a c u ___ Blue-winged Teal* c c c - ___ Cinnamon Teal* a a a - ___ American Wigeon* c u u - ___ Northern Shoveler* c c u o ___ Wood Duck r r r r ___ Redhead* c c c - ___ Ring-necked Duck u r r - ___ Canvasback u r r - ___ Greater Scaup r - r - ___ Lesser Scaup c r r - ___ Common Goldeneye o - o r ___ Bufflehead u - o r ___ Ruddy Duck* c c c r ___ Hooded Merganser - r - - ___ Common Merganser c - c - ___ Red-breasted Merganser r - - -
VULTURES Sp S F W ___ Turkey Vulture u c u -
HAWKS Sp S F W ___ Northern Goshawk - r - - ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk o - o - ___ Cooper's Hawk o - o - ___ Red-tailed Hawk* o c c u ___ Swainson's Hawk* o c c - ___ Rough-legged Hawk o - c c ___ Ferruginous Hawk r r r r ___ Golden Eagle u u u u ___ Bald Eagle u - c c ___ Northern Harrier* c c c a
OSPREY Sp S F W ___ Osprey o r r -
FALCONS Sp S F W ___ Prairie Falcon u u u u ___ Peregrine Falcon r r r r ___ Merlin r r r r ___ American Kestrel* c c c r
PHEASANTS Sp S F W ___ Ring-necked Pheasant* a a a a
CRANES Sp S F W ___ Whooping Crane u - u - ___ Sandhill Crane a u a r
RAILS Sp S F W ___ Virginia Rail* c c o r ___ Sora* u c c r ___ Purple Gallinule accidental ___ Common Gallinule accidental ___ American Coot* a a a -
PLOVERS Sp S F W ___ Killdeer* c c c - ___ Black-bellied Plover r - r - ___ Semi-palmated Plover - r - -
SANDPIPERS Sp S F W ___ Common Snipe* c c c c ___ Long-billed Curlew o o o - ___ Whimbrel accidental ___ Spotted Sandpiper* c c u - ___ Solitary Sandpiper o o o - ___ Willet o - o - ___ Greater Yellowlegs u u u - ___ Lesser Yellowlegs u u u - ___ Pectoral Sandpiper o o o - ___ Baird's Sandpiper o o o - ___ Least Sandpiper o o o - ___ Western Sandpiper u u u - ___ Sanderling o o o - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher o u c - ___ Marbled Godwit o o o -
AVOCETS, STILTS Sp S F W ___ American Avocet* a a u - ___ Black-necked Stilt* u u o -
PHALAROPES Sp S F W ___ Wilson's Phalarope* a c u - ___ Red-necked Phalarope accidental
GULLS, TERNS Sp S F W ___ Ring-billed Gull u - - - ___ Franklin's Gull u u - - ___ Bonaparte's Gull accidental ___ Forster's Tern r - - - ___ Common Tern r - - - ___ Least Tern r - - - ___ Caspian Tern r - - - ___ Black Tern* u u u -
DOVES Sp S F W ___ Band-tailed Pigeon u u u - ___ Rock Dove o o o o ___ Mourning Dove* c c a r
OWLS Sp S F W ___ Barn Owl r - - - ___ Great Horned Owl* c c c c ___ Burrowing Owl* r o o - ___ Long-eared Owl - - r r ___ Short-eared Owl* c c c c
NIGHTJARS Sp S F W ___ Common Poorwill - - r - ___ Common Nighthawk* u c c -
SWIFTS Sp S F W ___ White-throated Swift r - - -
HUMMINGBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Black-chinned Hummingbird u u u - ___ Broad-tailed Hummingbird - o r - ___ Rufous Hummingbird - u u -
KINGFISHERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher* u u u -
WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Northern Flicker c c c - ___ Red-headed Woodpecker - o r - ___ Lewis' Woodpecker r - - - ___ Hairy Woodpecker r - - - ___ Downy Woodpecker u u u -
FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Eastern Kingbird - o r - ___ Western Kingbird o o o - ___ Cassin's Kingbird o o - - ___ Say's Phoebe* u u - - ___ Willow Flycatcher o o r - ___ Western Wood-Pewee* u c - - ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher - - r - ___ Vermillion Flycatcher accidental ___ Gray Flycatcher - r - -
LARKS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark* c c c c
SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Violet-green Swallow o c u - ___ Tree Swallow* c c u - ___ Bank Swallow o u u - ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow o o o - ___ Barn Swallow* c a o - ___ Cliff Swallow* c c o - ___ Purple Martin accidental
MAGPIES, CROWS Sp S F W ___ Black-billed Magpie* c a a c ___ Common Raven c o o o ___ American Crow c o c u
CHICKADEES Sp S F W ___ Black-capped Chickadee - u u u ___ Mountain Chickadee o r o o
NUTHATCHES Sp S F W ___ White-breasted Nuthatch o r o -
WRENS Sp S F W ___ House Wren * u u u - ___ Marsh Wren* c c o r ___ Sedge Wren accidental ___ Rock Wren r - - -
THRASHERS Sp S F W ___ Northern Mockingbird o o r - ___ Sage Thrasher* c c u -
THRUSHES Sp S F W ___ American Robin* o c r - ___ Swainson's Thrush r - - - ___ Mountain Bluebird c r o - ___ Western Bluebird r - - -
KINGLETS Sp S F W ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet r r r - ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet r r r -
PIPITS Sp S F W ___ American Pipit r - - -
SHRIKES Sp S F W ___ Loggerhead Shrike* o o o r
STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ European Starling* c u o c
VIREOS Sp S F W ___ Warbling Vireo r - - -
WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Yellow Warbler u u o - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler* c c o - ___ Townsend's Warbler - - r - ___ Northern Waterthrush o - - - ___ MacGillivray's Waterthrush accidental ___ Common Yellowthroat* c c u - ___ Wilson's Warbler u - u -
WEAVER FINCH Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow* c c c c
BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES Sp S F W ___ Bobolink o - r - ___ Western Meadowlark* c c c r ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird* c a c r ___ Red-winged Blackbird* c a c r ___ Bullock's Oriole* o o o - ___ Brewer's Blackbird* c c c - ___ Great-tailed Grackle o o - - ___ Brown-headed Cowbird* c c c -
TANAGERS Sp S F W ___ Western Tanager - o o -
FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Black-headed Grosbeak o o - - ___ Blue Grosbeak o o - - ___ Pine Sisken o o - - ___ Cassin's Finch u u u u ___ House Finch* c c c o ___ American Goldfinch* a a c - ___ Lesser Goldfinch u u - - ___ Green-tailed Towhee o - o - ___ Spotted Towhee - r - - ___ Lark Bunting - o - - ___ Indigo Bunting - o - - ___ Savannah Sparrow* c c c - ___ Vesper Sparrow* c c u r ___ Chipping Sparrow u u - - ___ Sage Sparrow r r - - ___ Lark Sparrow o o o - ___ Cassin's Sparrow - r - - ___ Tree Sparrow* r - c c ___ Brewer's Sparrow* o u o - ___ White-crowned Sparrow* c u c o ___ Swamp Sparrow accidental ___ Song Sparrow* c c c c ___ Lapland Longspur r - - - ___ Dark-eyed Junco o - c c ___ Black-throated Sparrow - o - - ___ Grasshopper Sparrow - r - - ___ Gray-crowned Rosy Finch - - - r
Where to write for current regulations and information:
                        Refuge Manager
                        Alamosa-Monte Vista NWR
                        9383 El Rancho Lane
                        Alamosa, Colorado 81101       
                        Telephone: 719/589-4021

As the Nation's principal conservation agency, the Department of the Interior has basic responsibilities for water, fish, wildlife, mineral, land, park, and recreational resources. Indian and Territorial affairs are other major concerns of America's "Department of Natural Resources."

The Department works to assure the wisest choice in managing all our resources so each will make its full contribution to a better United States-now and in the future.

When in doubt as to any refuge regulation, contact a refuge officer.

This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1992.  Birds of the Alamosa-Monte Vista 
     National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1992.  Birds of the Alamosa-Monte Vista 
     National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  
     Unpaginated.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research 
     Center Online.
     (Version 22MAY98).

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