Colorado's State Bird

Since the State is famous for its scenic mountains and canyons, one would think that Colorado's State Bird is a resident of these landscapes; potential candidates might include the white-tailed ptarmigan, Clark's nutcracker, the blue grouse, the mountain bluebird, the canyon wren or the pygmy nuthatch. Perhaps this bird is a permanent resident throughout Colorado, such as the golden eagle or the prairie falcon. One would certainly not choose a small, grassland bird that is only a seasonal resident of the High Plains, which cover just 1/3 of the State's varied terrain.

Nevertheless, for whatever reason (surely political), the lark bunting was named the State Bird of Colorado. This gregarious, sparrow-sized bird nests on the short-grass prairie of the western High Plains, from southern Canada to Texas and New Mexico. While the breeding male sports a handsome plumage of black and white, the females, juveniles and wintering males resemble other grassland species, with which they often mingle. Most disturbing for the purist, lark buntings flee the winter snows for which Colorado is renowned, wintering from southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas into the mild clime of Mexico.

It is reasonable to conclude that most Coloradans have never knowingly observed a lark bunting in the wild. Though these birds are locally abundant on the Eastern Plains of the State, this geographic region is generally viewed from a speeding vehicle on one of the Interstates and even those who know the identity of their State Bird rarely notice them. Of course, the lark buntings have no reason to apologize; they have managed to thrive in a dry, sun-baked ecosystem and would do just fine without the official recognition.