Birding Basics

Habitats of Colorado

In 1991, The Denver Museum of Natural History developed a simple yet accurate approach to classifying Colorado’s ecosystems. The eight ecosystems have familiar, descriptive names and reflect the realities of nature and of Colorado’s topography.

Grassland Habitat

The prairie grassland found east of the mountains is semi-arid. It’s a land of perennial grasses, shrubs, and forbs, with trees found along waterways. About 40% of Colorado was once grassland. Now, most grassland is in agricultural use.

Riparian Habitat

Riparian habitats (wetlands) are found along rivers, streams, ponds, and water sources from the plains to the alpine tundra. They include cattail marshes, streamside cottonwood groves, willow thickets, and much more. Nearly 75% of wildlife depends, to some degree, on wetlands.

Semidesert Shrubland Habitat

The most widespread type of semidesert shrubland is the sagebrush steppe. Sagebrush is the collective name for a number of similar shrubs which are recognizable by the distinctive blue-green coloration of their tiny leaves.

Pinyon Juniper Woodland Habitat

Pinyon-Juniper woodland, affectionately nicknamed “PJ”, dominates the slopes above the sagebrush and below the ponderosa pines in southern and western Colorado. This dry forest is highly distinctive both in appearance and in biodiversity.

Montane Shrubland Habitat

Large areas of the foothills and mesas in the southern and western parts of Colorado are covered by a mix of deciduous shrubs, including scrub oak, manzanita, serviceberry, mountain mahogany, skunkbrush, snowberry, and bitterbrush.