Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62

  • Alpine Tundra
  • Aspen
  • Cliff/Rock
  • High Elevation Riparian
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mixed Conifer
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Spruce-Fir
  • Wetlands

  • Physiographic Region 87
    Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 62: Southern Rocky Mountains


    Description and Ecology: Cliff/rock habitats are ecologically typical and exceptionally scenic features of the mountainous West. Across Colorado this habitat appears as high cliffs, rocky ledges, small rocky out thrusts, talus, stream cut-banks, bluffs, rim rock, and a few cliff buttes. Cliff/rock habitat occurs throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado. On the east slope of the Southern Rockies, cliff/rock habitats start in the plains at an elevation of 1650 m (5,400 ft) and extend up to the Continental Divide generally up to 3650 m (12,000 ft) but on some higher mountains up to 4270 m (14,000 plus ft). Steep cliffs on either side of the Continental Divide are primarily unglaciated with glaciated U-shaped valleys below. The rough granite, crystalline cracks and rounded structures make many cliffs popular for technical rock climbing. The activities of rock climbers sometimes come into conflict with birds that nest on cliff/rock habitat.

    Importance and Conservation Status: Although the avifauna of cliff/rock habitat is small compared to other habitats, these species are highly specialized. Birds that use cliffs for nesting may be more susceptible to loss of nesting habitat than many other species because they rely completely on cliffs as nest sites. Thus, the number of suitable nest sites is finite and essentially non-renewable. All suitable nest sites in some areas may be used, making every usurpation of a nest site by humans result in a direct reduction in the population.

    Conflicts related to nesting birds that use cliffs, rocky ledges, and small rocky out thrusts include rock climbing, mining, road construction, hiking, bicycle and horseback trails, and housing development. All these activities can have a negative impact whether they are conducted at the base or the top of a cliff, rocky ledge, or small rocky out thrust. Probably the greatest disturbance factor in cliff/rock habitat is rock climbing.

    Habitat protection can be enhanced by making land managers and the general public more aware of the importance of protecting this habitat and by controlling use and development wherever necessary and possible. Cliff/rock habitat can be protected by various means including establishing buffer zones, temporary closures, and designation of special areas (Research Natural Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Special Management areas, or sanctuaries).

    It is important to protect not only nesting habitat, but also foraging habitat and a prey base. Many birds that nest on cliff/rock habitat forage in or above other habitat types. Prey abundance and appropriate nesting sites are both key factors in determining the success of any nesting birds on cliff/rock habitat.

    Disturbance to birds can be caused by the presence of humans, noise, or erosion. Any one of these components, or a combination, may be sufficient to discourage many birds from using an area or causing an active nest to fail. Such disturbance may gradually reduce the number of total sites available.

    Priority Species Accounts: Two species are identified as high priority in cliff/rock habitats in Physiographic Area 62: Peregrine Falcon and White-throated Swift.

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