Birding
& Wildlife Viewing

Birding

Bird Banding

Bison Tours

Enjoy watching birds and wildlife to your heart’s content.

A scaled quail on top of a fence post.

Birding at Chico Basin Ranch

As one of the largest uninterrupted stretches of shortgrass prairie left in the United States, the Chico offers unparalleled native wildlife viewing. The ranch is especially well known as one of the prime birding locations in Colorado. Over 330 species of birds—some rarely seen in Colorado—have been sited on the ranch.

The ranch maintains a birding and wildlife trail, outlined on a map that lists the prime birding locations to assist self-guided birders. Upon arrival, we ask that all visitors please check in at the ranch headquarters. A birding map and other ranch information are available at a kiosk outside of our main office. The day fee is $10 per person.

Read our Birding & Wildlife Blog
A black and white warbler is held by a hand.

Bird Banding

The Chico’s abundant springs, creeks, lakes, and other habitat provide refuge for hundreds of species of migratory birds. Each spring and fall, we maintain a bird banding station in partnership with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, where visiting biologists net and band hundreds of these migratory birds. Visitors are welcome to visit the station and assist our expert birders with bird banding and identification.

This year’s bird banding station will be open April 27 – May 29 and August 31 – October 2, 2020.

A burrowing owl narrows its eyes, while a prairie dog looks out from the burrow beyond.
A singing dickissel at Chico Basin Ranch
A great horned owl sits high up on the branch of a leafy green tree.
Turkey vultures sit in a row on the tops of cedar fence posts.
A black and white warbler is held by a hand.
WOTH at the Rose Pond
A barn owl is glimpsed between the leaves of a tree.
WODU at Chico Basin Ranch
Two blue-winged teals in flight in a blue sky
BOBO at Chico Basin Ranch
A rare arctic tern, the only one seen on the ranch, at Chico Basin Ranch
a bison stands in a pasture

Bison Tours at the Zapata

Take a tour and learn more about our bison herd. A knowledgeable staff member will guide you through the 50,000 acre portion of the ranch known as the Medano, with the aim of getting you up close to our herd of 2,000 North American plains bison.

The tour is designed to provide you with opportunities to view and photograph the bison, but, more uniquely, it is also designed to educate you about the ways in which we manage this “conservation herd.”

  • A quintessential stop on the tour is the bison barn–our bison handling facility–an impressive series of alleys, pens, and catwalks culminating in a hydraulic squeeze chute. We run our entire herd of bison through this specially-designed facility every fall.
  • The tour will also provide some history of the Medano Ranch, including a stop at the Old Medano Headquarters, a set of ranch buildings that date back to the 1870’s and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places

Tours leave the Zapata Lodge at 9 am and 12 pm on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Please call us at 719.378.2356 for reservations and directions.

A New Bird For Chico Basin Ranch

The first Canyon Wren sighted on the Chico was caught at our bird banding station in fall 2019.

Read More on the Blog
a canyon warbler sings at the garden of the gods

Sunburns and Swifties

A wildlife biologist gets up close and personal with a family of swift foxes.

Read More on the Blog
a swift fox parent with several of her kits around her

Education

We host programs for students of all ages.

Learn More
A small yellow warbler with a band on its leg is held by a hand.