Your Guide to Birding

in Ouray County

County Map Ouray County
Author(s):  Tony Leukering
County Seat: Ouray
Size: 542 square miles
Low Elevation: 6,318 ft. - Uncompahgre River on the Montrose border
High Elevation: 14,150 ft. - Mount Sneffels
Best Birds: Red Fox Sparrow (2001)
Checklist: Ouray County Checklist
Introduction: Ouray County. This western county is about halfway between Grand Junction and Durango and has been little birded until recently. In the past, Box Canyon, in the town of Ouray, was about the only stop that visiting birders made in the county (that, to see the nesting Black Swifts, in season) on their way north or south. Recent efforts, mostly in autumn, have shown that the county is a potential gold mine of interesting migrants, particularly of typically eastern species. The relatively recent construction of Ridgway Reservoir provided a large body of water that has produced a few locally rare species and will probably continue to surprise. The steep topography of the San Juan mountains in the southern third of the county, of which the town of Ouray is the gateway, prevent all but the most mountain goat of us from visiting large areas of the county. However for those interested in hiking, US 550 provides access to some incredible scenery of Spruce-Fir and Alpine Tundra. The northern two thirds of the county is of relatively low elevation covered in Pinyon-Juniper woodland, interspersed with pastures, homesteads, and riparian stringers. Areas in the Uncompahgre River valley are incredibly rich in fruiting shrubs and trees (native and exotic), thus support large numbers of frugivorous birds in the fall. Though it has not yet been found in the county, these areas would be an excellent place to search for Varied Thrush in late fall.

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Birding Sites

Billy Creek State Wildlife Area
Habitat: Scrub Oak Forest, Mixed Conifer Forest
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Camp Bird
Habitat: Mixed Conifer Forest, Aspen Grove
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Habitat: Lowland Riparian, Urban/Suburban
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CR 10/CR 12 loop
Habitat: Pinyon/Juniper Forest, Grassland/Prairie
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CR 3A/CR 3/CR 17 area
Habitat: Scrub Oak Forest, Lowland Riparian, Foothill Shrub, Grassland/Prairie, Ponderosa Forest
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Lake Lenore area
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Mixed Conifer Forest, Lowland Riparian, Marsh
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Habitat: Urban/Suburban, Cliff Face, Mixed Conifer Forest, Stream
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Pleasant Valley
Habitat: Grassland/Prairie, Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Foothill Shrub, Lowland Riparian
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Habitat: Urban/Suburban, Pond/Lake/Reservoir
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Ridgway Reservoir
Habitat: Pond/Lake/Reservoir, Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Lowland Riparian
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US 550 between Ouray and San Juan County
Habitat: Mixed Conifer Forest, Spruce-Fir Forest, Streamside Willow, Cliff Face
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Yankee Boy Basin
Habitat: Mountain
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eBird Seasonal Bar Chart

Latest Unusual Birds (eBird) in Ouray County


CBRC Accepted Records from Ouray County

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Blue-throated Mountain-gem31-77-617/30/1977
Red Phalarope2013-101 08/20/2012
Olive-sided Flycatcher2005-020 4/16/2005
Black Phoebe34-85-255/20/1985
Blue-headed Vireo2011-137 10/8/2011
Common Redpoll2013-060 01/02/2013
Fox Sparrow (Red)2000-15511/6/2000
Baird's Sparrow56-73-13110/6/1973
Magnolia Warbler2001-0738/10/2001
Hermit Warbler52-80-565/15/1980
Painted Redstart2021-034 29 Apr 2021
Summer Tanager2004-127 8/11/2004
Rose-breasted Grosbeak2004-0265/30/2004
Varied Bunting2020-021 6/22/2020
Painted Bunting2015-161 18 Sep 2015