Bird watching is big business. According to a 2022 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, birders spent an estimated $42 billion within the year on trip-related expenses. The report also states that there are approximately 10 million people in the US Mountain Region classified themselves as bird-watchers. And, there are 73 million bird-watchers ages 16 or older in the U.S. These statistics make birding the second fastest growing hobby in the country, after gardening. Colorado is a hotbed for birders, boasting nearly 500 recorded species.

Fort Collins offers exceptional opportunities to view many of these birds thanks to 52 protected Natural Areas encompassing more than 41,000 acres and 114 miles of trail. Natural Areas are pockets of land that offer recreation, education, scientific data collection, culture, ecological enhancement, and aesthetics – oases in an urban environment. Soapstone Prairie, Pineridge, and Bobcat Ridge Natural Areas are noted as the best for birding. Enthusiasts also appreciate the CSU Environmental Learning Center, which features a setting perfect for spotting waterfowl, owls, hawks, flickers, and a variety of songbirds.

Outdoor Rocky Mountain Raptor Center cages house eagles, owls, and hawks. Local birders also frequent City Park/Grandview Cemetery, Lee Martinez Park, Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area, and Pawnee National Grassland. Birds to spot: Northern Goshawk, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Mountain Bluebird, Western Tanager, Sandhill Crane, and Burrowing owl. Click here for a checklist of local birds.

The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department volunteer Master Naturalists and staff offer free Eagle Watches in the winter, as well as a busy schedule of free summer outdoor activities including bird walks and educational presentations: Or, find them on Facebook and Twitter by searching FCNaturalAreas. The Fort Collins Audubon Society offers free birding field trips throughout the year.  And, The Nature Conservancy’s 1,700-acre Phantom Canyon Preserve, located 30 miles northwest of Fort Collins, is open to the public only through The Nature Conservancy guided hikes and volunteer outings, which include birding hikes. Phantom Canyon is home to an estimated 100-plus species.  

Authentic to Fort Collins Local Favorites


The Cache la Poudre River is truly a hidden treasure, with majestic cliffs and intriguing rock…

Fort Collins Spotlight