Your Guide to Birding

in Costilla County

County Map Costilla County
Author(s):  Mark Peterson, Andrew Spencer
County Seat: San Luis
Size: 1,227 square miles
Low Elevation: 7,295 ft. - Rio Grande River on the NM border
High Elevation: 14,345 ft. - Blanca Peak
Best Birds: Bendire's Thrasher (1993), Black Phoebe (1996)
Checklist: Costilla County Checklist
Introduction: Costilla County is home to the oldest continually inhabited town in Colorado, the southernmost fourteen-thousand-foot peak in the US, and one seriously messed up road-numbering system. What it is not home to is public property. Because the entire county was created out of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, public property is limited to three SWAs (all reservoirs) and a tiny piece of land on the Huerfano/Las Animas lines. An entire mountain range almost completely limited to the county (the Culebra Range of the Sangres) is privately owned! Despite this great shortcoming, Costilla can be a productive county to bird. The SWAs are often birdy, and many privately owned areas can be birded from the road. Habitat in the county varies from agricultural lands to sagebrush flats, PJ woodland, high mountain habitats of all descriptions (though mostly hard to access), and the aforementioned decent lakes and reservoirs.

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Birding Sites

Blanca and Fort Garland
Habitat: Urban/Suburban
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Blanca Massif
Habitat: Cliff Face
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Costilla CR G
Habitat: Sagebrush
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Culebra Creek
Habitat: Wet Meadow
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La Veta Pass area
Habitat: Mountain Meadow, Aspen Grove, Mixed Conifer Forest
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Mountain Home Reservoir State Wildlife Area
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Pinyon/Juniper Forest
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Rio Grande at CR Z
Habitat: Lowland Riparian
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San Pedro Mesa
Habitat: Pinyon/Juniper Forest
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Sanchez Reservoir State Wildlife Area
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir
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Smith Reservoir State Wildlife Reservoir
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Hedgerow/Shelterbelt
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Stabilization Reservoir
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Sagebrush
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Trinchera Peak
Habitat: Alpine Tundra, Krummholz, Spruce-Fir Forest
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eBird Seasonal Bar Chart

Latest Unusual Birds (eBird) in Costilla County


CBRC Accepted Records from Costilla County

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Horned Grebe2011-023 3/28/2011
Snowy Plover2011-080 6/4/2011
Arctic Tern2015-096 09/15/2014
Harris's Hawk2014-143 07/12/2014
Black Phoebe34-96-477/19/1996
Bendire's Thrasher43-93-298/1/1993
Chestnut-collared Longspur2022-009 2 Apr 2022
Yellow-throated Warbler2009-061 9/10/2009