Birding the Colorado Tropics

Lady Ross' Turaco_DenverZoo_20091007_LAH_3617x-1
Lady Ross’ Turaco

It’s the middle of winter. We could go birding, but it’s hard to juggle binoculars when one has on several layers of insulation, hat, scarf, and wool mittens. Cold weather has us huddled indoors, wishing we could migrate to someplace delightfully tropical. Well, we can. I recently visited a place that’s always nice and toasty, filled with moist air, green plants, and exotic species, and is only an hour or so from my home—the Denver Zoo.

Bird World consists of a series of three large, sky-lit rooms, each with its own assortment of brightly colored birds from around the world. The rooms are sized so that you don’t need binoculars to get a good look. Natural surroundings encourage natural behaviors, even courting, nesting and raising young. Because the birds aren’t in cages, there are no bars between you and your subjects, making this a great place to take pictures. Connecting these rooms are wide hallways where more birds live in glass-fronted enclosures.

Turquoise Tanager
Turquoise Tanager

If you’re willing to spend some time outdoors, there are plenty of other birds to see. For example, you can be confident that the two species of penguins will be out playing no matter how cold it gets. All in all, there are almost 200 avian species, many of which are rare or endangered. You may not live near Denver, but most metropolitan areas have zoos. They’re the perfect winter destination for the birder who is itching to get out and see some spectacular birds. As a photographer, I appreciated the fact that the birds couldn’t fly away. If the first picture didn’t come out, there were plenty of opportunities to try again. Of course, we can’t add any of these captives to our life lists. But I figure that since it’s unlikely I’m going to Madagascar any time soon, I’ll just be happy for this chance to observe all these amazing birds. For more information on Denver’s excellent zoo, visit their website.

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