While rafting the Arkansas River here in Colorado, you’ll most likely float past an assortment of different birds, waterfowl, and even raptors. Birds and other wildlife have become one of my favorite parts of rafting the Arkansas River, so here’s my top 5 list of birds to be looking out for when you take a trip down the Arkansas River here in beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado.
The Mallard Duck
Don’t count these guys out, Mallards are very pretty birds. Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear. The females and babies are usually mottled brown with orange and brown bills. These birds do migrate so they’re not always a guarantee, but they do reside pretty routinely on the Arkansas River.
The Red-Tailed Hawk
The Red-Tailed Hawk is a majestic bird with an amazing wing span of four feet! These birds are built to soar through the skies in search of their prey. They spend most of their time near their breeding grounds. This bird of prey is known to have a blood curdling scream that sounds exactly like what prehistoric velociraptors are imagined to sound like. They are amazingly adapted for life in the air. The Red-Tailed Hawk is one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about three pounds. A similar-sized small dog might weigh ten times that. If you are looking for these birds during your time on the Arkansas River, you will most likely have to be looking up to see a Red-Tailed Hawk. If you do see one, they are a beautiful bird to witness!
The Peregrine Falcon
This falcon is famous for diving down out of the sky to get his prey at speeds of 250 miles per hour! Yes, it’s a world record. It is the size of a crow and historically known as the Duck Falcon. This falcon has a gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head. The females are larger than the males by a considerable amount. If you are on the Arkansas River in the winter, there is a high chance you will be able to spot one of these amazing birds! Their diet consists mainly of medium sized birds, small mammals, reptiles, and even insects! Yum. They will also make their nests on high, protected, cliff edges and in more recent times, on tall man-made skyscrapers and urban buildings. Look in these places while rafting to have a good chance at seeing the Peregrine Falcon!
The Golden Eagle
They are the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere. They are dark brown, with lighter golden-brown plumage on the napes. They use their agility and speed to catch their prey and feed their clutch of hungry chicks! Golden Eagles maintain a home that ranges as far as 77 square miles and they build their nests in cliffs and other high places; which they may return to for several years! The Golden Eagle is a very large bird with a wingspan that ranges from five to seven feet! That is a big bird — they are the fifth largest among living eagle species! What an amazing opportunity it would be to see a Golden Eagle on your rafting trip!
The Black-Billed Magpie
This bird is extremely common along the Arkansas River, Colorado farmlands, and suburban neighborhoods. You’ll even see the Black-Billed Magpie hitching a ride on the back of elk and cattle grazing in the fields. It’s actually a pretty good deal for the cattle as the birds love to snack on the bugs that bother them! The Black-Billed Magpie is one of the few birds in North America that build a domed nest, which they make with twigs near the tops of trees! That may be a good place to look on your rafting trip!
About the Author
Jamie is a contributing member of our
Sales & Marketing team who enjoys
overnight rafting trips, bird watching,
and David Attenborough documentaries.