Marshal Mike Wilkerson, Norwood’s law enforcement officer, reported last week that he questioned a small crowd of people in town that seemed to be gathering for a mysterious reason. Upon questioning, Wilkerson discovered the appearance of a non-native bird to the Norwood area, which was attracting out-of-towners.

George Steele, of Norwood and longtime birdwatcher, noticed a small bird in his yard on Oct. 17. Steele said at first he thought the bird was a common ground dove. After seeing it more clearly, he was able to correctly identify it as a ruddy ground dove.

“It’s a real small dove,” Steele told The Norwood Post. “A pretty cute little dove with short legs.”

The bird stayed in Norwood last week, and Steele was able to view it, though some days it was not visible. Steele said the bird was a first-year male, and it preferred his elm tree or his apple tree. The small dove acted as “a loner,” preferring not to associate with other birds, Steele said.

The ruddy ground dove is native to Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and other islands farther south. It does sometimes, according to bird experts, travel to the Southwest in the U.S., but never in the past has made it as far north as Colorado. Typically, the bird lives in tropical regions.

Steele’s sighting of the bird in Norwood set a state record, since it was the first time anyone had reported seeing it in Colorado. Steele made an announcement on a site called ebird with photos. Another site called cobirds was also discussing Steele’s discovery. 

As a result, Steele said by Tuesday of last week people from the Boulder area and also a couple from Vermont, who were visiting Utah at the time, came to see the rare bird in Norwood. Steele had a parking arrangement across the street for the crowd.

He said people were respectful both of COVID-19 precautions and also the bird itself, since the dove is flighty.

But why was the ruddy ground dove in town? Why did it travel as far north as it did this fall from its home in Mexico or South America?

Steele said nobody can be sure. He also added that the bird might be present in other parts of Colorado, but perhaps it hadn’t been seen by anyone who could identify it.

Steele said drought might have something to do with the bird’s travel so far north, since Mexico is also experiencing drought.

Steele said sometimes locations do experience rare “eruptions” of birds. According to him, the snowy owl has come down from the North before. He said wildlife experts have trapped some of the owls to see whether famine or some other food issue had impacted them. Steele said often times the birds check out just fine, so it’s hard to say.

On Monday, Steele said he wondered how the ruddy ground dove was faring due to the snowstorm. He said he had hoped the little bird would catch the storm and ride it south, like the ducks had been doing.

He said anyone who wanted to find out more about it could visit the site and specifically look at San Miguel County.