Use these tips from local birders to increase your odds of locking eyes with a loon or lark.


Keep quiet, says R.J. Pautsch, president of the Boulder Bird Club. Sudden, loud noises can scare skittish birds away.

Buy the right binoculars. You don’t need to spend a lot, says Peter Burke, a board member for Colorado Field Ornithologists, a nonprofit promoting the conservation, study, and enjoyment of Colorado birds. Look for a pair with a weather seal at the Front Range Birding Company’s Boulder or Littleton location.

Keep the sun at your back. If the bird is between you and the sun, explains Denver attorney and birder Yelana Love, the bright backlighting turns the animal into a dark, difficult-to-see silhouette.


Ignore your ears. If you learn bird songs, you can deduce which species are in the area even if you can’t see them, says Jane Baryames, Boulder Bird Club’s field trip coordinator. She recommends beginners use the Merlin Bird ID app to identify a bird via a recording of its call.

Wear bright colors. Anything that makes you stand out from the surrounding landscape will tell birds to keep their distance, says Audubon Rockies’ community science coordinator Zach Hutchinson.

Forget a field guide or app. Angie Kennedy-Dibala, a birder who lives in Arvada, uses eBird, an app developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that allows birders to track the species they’ve seen and share their finds with other enthusiasts.

Marking The Spots

Illustration by Aidan Yetman-Michaelson

Field guides and apps can help you identify your feathered friends. Use these terms, called field markings, to zero in on your subject’s species.

Crown Stripe: Stripe down the center of the head
Eyebrow Stripe: Line over the eye; can extend backward over the head
Eyeline: A patch or stripe that goes through the eye
Whisker Mark: A line starting at the beak that loops under the chin
Throat Patch: Color directly under the beak
Eye-ring: Color that goes all the way around the eye
Lore: Area between the beak and the eye
Crest: Raised feathers on top of the head
Wingbars: Stripes extending across a folded wing
Wing Patches: Spots of color on the wing
Wing Lining: Color on the underside of the wing
Primaries: The largest feathers on the part of the wing farthest from the body
Secondaries: Shorter feathers on the part of the wing closer to the body
Speculum: A color patch on the secondary feathers most common on ducks

More on Birding in Colorado

Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.