Trip report: Colorado: Chasing Chickens (April 2017) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens. This was a set departure tour.

Some of the most difficult-to-find birds in North America are grouse and quail (“chickens”). Even birders who have made extensive travels across the continent often find most of these birds still missing from their lists. That is the reason for the existence of this very popular tour. Colorado offers an unmatched diversity of chickens, and early spring, when they are displaying and become much easier to find, is the time to pursue them. Although chickens dictate the overall flow of this tour, it also offers much more: beautiful Rocky Mountain and High Plains scenery, and a diverse set of other sought-after birds.

As always, this tour was a great success. We found every single possible chicken on the route, including White-tailed Ptarmigan, both prairie-chickens, both sage grouse, and even the likes of Chukar, Northern Bobwhite, and Wild Turkey. In the Rocky Mountains, we enjoyed great views of lots of great montane species like Pygmy Nuthatch, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Lewis’s and American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Gray Vireo, Pinyon and Gray Jays, Western Bluebird, Sagebrush Sparrow, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Cassin’s Finch, and many others. Out on the Great Plains, we found Mountain Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl, Greater Roadrunner, McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspur, and a good selection of migrating shorebirds. This was the first Tropical Birding chicken tour that ended in Oklahoma City, and this southeastern lunge brought us some new prized sightings including Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Harris’s Sparrow. Our trip total topped 200 birds, which is a very good total for this route.