Bird Banding

Migratory birds – and school kids – will soon descend on Chico Basin Ranch!

The Chico’s abundant springs, creeks, lakes, and other habitat provide refuge for weary birds passing through and refueling during their seasonal journeys to wintering and breeding grounds. All this avian traffic makes the ranch an ideal site for a seasonal bird banding station that we maintain each spring and fall in partnership with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies.

Bird banding (open this year April 21 – May 21 and September 5 – October 5) is also the perfect time of year for students, Girl and Boy Scout troops, avid birders, and others to flock here for a first-hand scientific research experience – and I mean that literally since a few lucky participants often get to help release the newly banded birds back into the wild straight from their own palms.

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The kids who visit the Chico with their classes get this look of awe when they come face-to-face with these tough, tiny songbirds who’ve often traveled thousands of miles for a ranch rest stop. Even more impressive, the students  – who generally hop off the bus buzzing with an insatiable need to run straight towards cactus – naturally calm down and adopt a reverent hush at the bird banding station. The first graders stop pinching their neighbor, the middle schoolers quit fidgeting with their phones, and instead everyone is focused on the swiveling head of the feathery migrant getting inspected and outfitted by the bander.

And the action continues up at ranch headquarters. Our first school group of 2017 was eating lunch after meeting Cricket the working ranch horse, chatting with the young women who run our leather workshop, and watching bull calves be gentled in the corrals when the rest of the ranch crew rode in from a cattle move. The whole class got giddy as the riders trotted over the prairie and into the gate, stopping right in front of our picnic area. Jake, our manager-in-training, obliged the eager audience by showing off some of Bone’s fancy footwork, cracking his livestock whip from the saddle and to the utter delight of all (just look at those faces!), roping a 9-year-old named Hunter.

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So now when those third graders next see a cowboy on TV, hopefully they’ll remember their morning at Chico Basin Ranch and think about ropes AND warblers.


By Becca Frucht, Chico Basin Ranch Education Director

The Chico is participating in the Pikes Peak Birding & Nature Festival on May 19 – 21; register here to join us. To learn more about visiting the ranch for birding tours, click here. To learn more about scheduling a field trip for school groups, including bird banding station visits, prairie ecology walks, horse and rider demonstrations and more, click here.

Photography by www.seanclayton.com
// film by isaac cole

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