Having a hoot: Rawlins bird watching opportunities abundant year-round – Wyoming Tribune


Cedar waxwing
Dark-eyed junco

Cedar waxwing
While most Wyoming critters go quiet in the winter, there is a lively ecosystem of birds waiting to be discovered for those with the patience to look and listen carefully.
Around Rawlins, winter bird watchers will have the opportunity to see birds like the house finch, Cassin’s finch, dark eyed junco, pine siskin, waxwing and nuthatch.
“Most people think that while winter hits a lot of the wildlife (migrates),” said Zach Hutchinson, a community science coordinator for Audubon Rockies. “We get a whole new set of birds in winter time.”
He explained that the best location to find birds depends on the time of year and what species people are looking for. Riparian areas and places with lots of water will show the largest diversity of bird species, while the sagebrush habitat around Rawlins will attract large quantities of birds with less diversity.
A popular winter find across Wyoming is the black-rosy finch. When viewed in the right lighting their feathers shine in a tone of iridescent pink, Hutchinson said. While these birds typically don’t spend time in town, they are likely to be spotted in rocky outcrop areas.
Local parks and yards with bird feeders or fruit bearing bushes are some of the best places to see birds in Rawlins without having to travel too far. For those willing to take a drive, the Chain Lakes Wildlife Habitat Management Area and natural areas in Saratoga and Baggs offer a host of popular bird habitats.
Dark-eyed junco
As surprising as it may sound, cemeteries are one of the best winter bird watching spots because of the abundance of planted pine trees, which will attract birds from miles around, Hutchinson said.
The ears can be just as much of a tool as the eyes when looking for evidence of birds in nature. In the late winter, some species of owls begin their courtships, Hutchinson said. During this time listeners can hear the hooting of great horned owls, and even distinguish between the male and female songs: the males’ voices are lower in pitch, while the females’ voices are higher.
In open areas people could spot raptors like the red-tailed hawk and the ferruginous hawk. If there is an animal carcass on the ground, there is a high probability there will be a raptor nearby, Hutchinson said.
In addition to the moment of awe that comes with seeing a rare or beautiful bird, bird-watching can help people stay active and improve their memories, Hutchinson said. It can also help people reconnect in a time when social bonds have fallen by the wayside.
“There’s research that shows that going out and looking for and listening to birds is good for mental health,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a great way to make friends. Once you want to see more birds it’s a way to travel to places that are not as frequently visited.”
The more people spend time looking for birds, the more adventures they are likely to have.
“It increases your time outside, which increases your chances of seeing other amazing moments of nature that are outstanding,” Hutchinson said.
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