Site Details

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Cottonwood Marsh photo by Peter Burke

Ouray - Ouray County
Ownership: None Listed
Description: This touristy town is the gateway to the rugged and beautiful San Juan Mountains. But, for birders, it is the piece de resistance of the county. Not only does it host the most accessible Black Swift colony in the state (possibly on the planet), but the extensive plantings of fruit-bearing shrubs and trees offer a haven for mis-placed and/or laggard fall migrants. The list of out-of-range species seen in town includes Tennessee Warbler, Red Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, "White-winged" Dark-eyed Junco, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Species seen here in November, later in fall than is typical for the state, include Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Feeders in town can support a good number and variety of finches in season, including all three rosy-finch species and Pine Grosbeak; Evening Grosbeak is particularly reliable in town.

However, the primary attraction must be Box Canyon Park, the site of a relatively large Black Swift colony and a good diversity of breeding birds. The Park is accessed from 3rd St on the south side of town, west of US 550. The swifts nest in the box canyon and their nests are found by scanning the walls. There is an entrance fee to the Park. One can also stand anywhere in the open in town in the evening and look up and sort through the hordes of White-throated Swifts and Violet-green Swallows looking for the larger, longer-winged, and shorter-tailed shape of Black Swifts. Be prepared for "Warbler Neck."

From the south side of town, continue south on US 550 around one hairpin turn to another at which there is a road accessing the Uncompahgre National Forest. Species seen in the area include Dusky Grouse, Red-naped and Williamson's sapsuckers, and MacGillivray's Warbler. Note that this road is quite rough in places and 4WD may be a necessity.

Habitat: Urban/Suburban, Cliff Face, Mixed Conifer Forest, Stream
Directions: The town straddles US 550 about 13 road miles SSE of Ridgway. The whole town is worth birding, particularly on foot, but there are some places that seem to hold birds better than others. Third Street (on the south side of town) can be good along its entire length, with feeders east of US 550 attracting rosy-finches in winter. The area around the Wiesbaden Inn (at 4th St and 5th Ave) hosted the Red Fox Sparrow and Black-headed Grosbeak in November 2000. The drainage on the west side of US 550 and north of 9th St has twice hosted Swamp Sparrow in fall; the best viewing spot can be reached the dead-end road going north from 9th just west of US 550 or from the west end of 9th. Walking the entire length of Oak (on the west side of the Uncompahgre River) from 3rd to 7th can be fruitful (in more ways than one); Oak becomes 17 Road on the north side of Ouray (see the CR 3A/CR 3/CR 17 site account).
Other Wildlife:
Other Attractions:

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Other Sites in Ouray County
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Latest Ouray Sightings from eBird


CBRC Records from Ouray

SpeciesAccession No.Date(s)
Fox Sparrow (Red)2000-15511/6/2000
Rose-breasted Grosbeak2004-0265/30/2004