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Bird Checklists of the United States

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Commerce City, Colorado


The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge offers a unique opportunity for birdwatchers. Located only 10 miles northeast of Denver, Colorado, the 27-square-mile site provides habitat for waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds. Birds are attracted to the woodlands, grasslands, lakes, and marshes found at the Refuge.

Many birds live on the Refuge year-round. Red-tailed hawks soar over the prairie and woodlands in search of prey. Western meadowlarks sing from atop mullein stalks. Black-billed magpies scavenge for food along the Refuge's roadways.

Spring and fall are the best seasons to view a large variety of bird species. Mountain bluebirds, chipping sparrows, and western tanagers pass through the Refuge in the spring en route to higher altitudes to nest. Many species of ducks, including ring-necked, redheads, and shovelers, stop to rest on the Refuge's lakes on their way to and from their breeding grounds.

Swainson's hawks, western kingbirds, and northern orioles return to nest on the Refuge in the spring. Burrowing owls raise their young in prairie dog burrows, American white pelicans feed on the lakes throughout the warmer months.

From October to March, bald eagles share a communal roost on First Creek. They hunt prairie dogs, jackrabbits, and cottontails by day and gather in the cottonwoods at night. Ferruginous hawks, the largest hawks in North America, also winter here.

This checklist provides the common names of 227 birds sighted at the Refuge, as well as the relative abundance of each species by season. Rarely seen species are grouped at the end of the list.

While visiting the Refuge, you can help protect the land and wildlife by practicing and promoting ethical wildlife viewing and photography. Please do not disturb wildlife that is resting, nesting, or foraging. In addition, please do not litter or feed the wildlife.


* - species known to nest on the refuge

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

c - common: likely to be seen in suitable habitat
u - uncommon: present, but not certain to be seen


GREBES Sp S F W ___ Pied-billed Grebe* c c c - ___ Horned Grebe u - u - ___ Eared Grebe u u u - ___ Western Grebe* - u - -
PELICANS, CORMORANTS Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican c c u - ___ Double-crested Cormorant c u u -
HERONS, IBISES Sp S F W ___ Great Blue Heron c c c - ___ Snowy Egret u - u - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron u u u - ___ White-faced Ibis u - u -
GEESE, DUCKS Sp S F W ___ Canada Goose* c c c c ___ Wood Duck u u - - ___ Green-winged Teal c u c u ___ Mallard* c c c c ___ Northern Pintail* c u c - ___ Blue-winged Teal* c c c - ___ Cinnamon Teal c - u - ___ Northern Shoveler c u c - ___ Gadwall c u c u ___ American Wigeon c u c - ___ Canvasback u - u u ___ Redhead* c u c - ___ Ring-necked Duck c - c u ___ Lesser Scaup c - u u ___ Common Goldeneye u - u u ___ Bufflehead u - u - ___ Hooded Merganser u - u - ___ Common Merganser u - u u ___ Ruddy Duck* u u u -
VULTURES, HAWKS, FALCONS Sp S F W ___ Turkey Vulture u - u - ___ Osprey u - u - ___ Bald Eagle - u c - ___ Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk)* u u u u ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk u - u u ___ Cooper's Hawk u - u - ___ Swainson's Hawk* c c c - ___ Red-tailed Hawk* c c c c ___ Ferruginous Hawk c u c c ___ Rough-legged Hawk u - u c ___ Golden Eagle u u u u ___ American Kestrel* c c c c ___ Merlin u - - u ___ Prairie Falcon u - u c
PHEASANTS, QUAIL Sp S F W ___ Ring-necked Pheasant* c c c c ___ Northern Bobwhite u u u u
RAILS Sp S F W ___ Virginia Rail* u - u - ___ Sora u u u - ___ American Coot* c c c c
CRANES Sp S F W ___ Sandhill Crane u - u -
PLOVERS, SANDPIPERS, PHALAROPES Sp S F W ___ Killdeer* c c c u ___ American Avocet* u u - - ___ Greater Yellowlegs u - u - ___ Lesser Yellowlegs u u u - ___ Solitary Sandpiper u - u - ___ Willet u - - - ___ Spotted Sandpiper u u u - ___ Western Sandpiper u - u - ___ Least Sandpiper - u u - ___ Baird's Sandpiper u - u - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher u - u - ___ Common Snipe u u u u ___ Wilson's Phalarope u u u -
GULLS Sp S F W ___ Ring-billed Gull c u c c ___ California Gull u u u - ___ Herring Gull - - u u
DOVES Sp S F W ___ Rock Dove* c c c c ___ Mourning Dove* c c c -
OWLS Sp S F W ___ Barn Owl* u u u u ___ Great Horned Owl* c c c c ___ Burrowing Owl* c c c - ___ Long-eared Owl* u u - u ___ Short-eared Owl u u - -
GOATSUCKERS Sp S F W ___ Common Nighthawk - u u - ___ Common Poorwill u - u -
KINGFISHERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher c c c -
WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Red-headed Woodpecker* u u u - ___ Downy Woodpecker* u u u - ___ Hairy Woodpecker c c c - ___ Northern Flicker (Common Flicker)* c c - -
FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Western Wood-Pewee u u u - ___ Say's Phoebe u u u - ___ Western Kingbird* c c c - ___ Eastern Kingbird* c c - -
LARKS, SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark* c c c c ___ Tree Swallow u u - - ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow u u u - ___ Bank Swallow u u u - ___ Cliff Swallow* u u u - ___ Barn Swallow* c c c -
JAYS, MAGPIES, CROWS Sp S F W ___ Blue Jay u - u u ___ Black-billed Magpie* c c c c ___ American Crow u u u u
CHICKADEES, NUTHATCHES, CREEPERS Sp S F W ___ Black-capped Chickadee* c c c c ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch - - u - ___ Brown Creeper u - - u
WRENS, KINGLETS Sp S F W ___ Rock Wren u - u - ___ House Wren* c c c - ___ Marsh Wren u - - - ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet u - u -
THRUSHES Sp S F W ___ Eastern Bluebird* u u u - ___ Mountain Bluebird u - u - ___ Townsend's Solitaire u - u u ___ Swainson's Thrush u - - - ___ Hermit Thrush u - u - ___ American Robin* c c c c
MOCKINGBIRDS, THRASHERS, PIPITS Sp S F W ___ Northern Mockingbird u u u - ___ Sage Thrasher - - u - ___ American Pipit (Water Pipit) u - - u
SHRIKES Sp S F W ___ Northern Shrike - - - u ___ Loggerhead Shrike u u u -
STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ European Starling* c c c c
VIREOS, WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Warbling Vireo - u - - ___ Orange-crowned Warbler u - - - ___ Virginia's Warbler u - - - ___ Yellow Warbler* c c u - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler c - u - ___ Common Yellowthroat* c c u - ___ Wilson's Warbler u - u - ___ Yellow-breasted Chat - u - -
TANAGERS Sp S F W ___ Western Tanager u - u -
GROSBEAKS, BUNTINGS Sp S F W ___ Rose-breasted Grosbeak u u - - ___ Black-headed Grosbeak u u - - ___ Blue Grosbeak - u - - ___ Lazuli Bunting - u - -
TOWHEES, SPARROWS Sp S F W ___ Green-tailed Towhee u - u - ___ Rufous-sided Towhee u u - - ___ Cassin's Sparrow - c - - ___ American Tree Sparrow u - u c ___ Chipping Sparrow c - c - ___ Clay-colored Sparrow u - u - ___ Brewer's Sparrow u u - - ___ Vesper Sparrow u - u - ___ Lark Sparrow* u u u - ___ Lark Bunting* c c u - ___ Grasshopper Sparrow* u c u - ___ Song Sparrow* c c c c ___ Lincoln's Sparrow u - u - ___ White-crowned Sparrow u - c u ___ Harris' Sparrow - - - u ___ Dark-eyed Junco u - u c ___ Lapland Longspur - - - u
BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES Sp S F W ___ Red-winged Blackbird* c c c c ___ Western Meadowlark* c c c c ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird c c - - ___ Brewer's Blackbird u u u - ___ Common Grackle* c c u - ___ Brown-headed Cowbird* u u - - ___ Orchard Oriole - u - - ___ Northern Oriole* c c - -
FINCHES Sp S F W ___ House Finch* c c c c ___ Pine Siskin u - - u ___ American Goldfinch u c u u
WEAVER FINCHES Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow* c c c c
RARE (Seen once a year or less) ___ Common Loon ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher ___ Clark's Grebe ___ Willow Flycatcher ___ American Bittern ___ Least Flycatcher ___ Great Egret ___ Hammond's Flycatcher ___ Cattle Egret ___ Dusky Flycatcher ___ Green-backed Heron ___ Cordilleran Flycatcher ___ Tundra Swan ___ Scissor-tailed Flycatcher ___ Greater White-fronted Goose ___ Violet-green Swallow ___ Snow Goose ___ Common Raven ___ Greater Scaup ___ Mountain Chickadee ___ Surf Scoter ___ White-breasted Nuthatch ___ White-winged Scoter ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet ___ Red-breasted Merganser ___ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ___ Northern Goshawk ___ Veery ___ Peregrine Falcon ___ Gray Catbird ___ Black-bellied Plover ___ Brown Thrasher ___ Lesser Golden Plover ___ Bohemian Waxwing ___ Semipalmated Plover ___ Cedar Waxwing ___ Black-necked Stilt ___ Solitary Vireo ___ Upland Sandpiper ___ Red-eyed Vireo ___ Long-billed Curlew ___ Nashville Warbler ___ Marbled Godwit ___ Black-throated Blue Warbler ___ Semipalmated Sandpiper ___ Black-throated Gray Warbler ___ White-rumped Sandpiper ___ Townsend's Warbler ___ Pectoral Sandpiper ___ Prairie Warbler ___ Red-necked Phalarope ___ Palm Warbler ___ Franklin's Gull ___ Bay-breasted Warbler ___ Thayer's Gull ___ Ovenbird ___ Caspian Tern ___ Macgillivray's Warbler ___ Black Tern ___ Hooded Warbler ___ White-winged Dove ___ Scarlet Tanager ___ Yellow-billed Cuckoo ___ Indigo Bunting ___ Eastern Screech Owl ___ Field Sparrow ___ Spotted Owl ___ Savannah Sparrow ___ Chimney Swift ___ Fox Sparrow ___ Red-bellied Woodpecker ___ White-throated Sparrow ___ Red-naped Sapsucker

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the Denver Audubon Society, who compiled and edited this checklist.

For additional information contact:

                       Rocky Mounain Arsenal NWR
                       Building 613
                       Commerce City, Colorado 80022           
                       Telephone: 303/289-0232
This resource is based on the following source:
Denver Audubon Society.  1994.  Birds of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
Denver Audubon Society.  1994.  Birds of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govarsenal.htm    
     (Version 22MAY98).

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