Rio Grande Water Conservation District


The Closed Basin Project

The Norton Drain

The Habitat Conservation Plan

Rio Grande Natural Area

The Habitat Conservation Plan

How does this affect you?



The San Luis valley’s  riparian communities along the Rio Grande, Conejos river and smaller tributaries are home to the southwestern willow flycatcher (flycatcher) (Empidonax traillii extimus) and the yellow-billed cuckoo (cuckoo) (Coccyzus americanus occidentalis).   The flycatcher is a federally listed endangered species in addition to being listed as endangered by the state of Colorado; and the cuckoo is listed as threatened under the endangered species act (ERO Resource Corporation, 2011a).


The South Western Willow Flycatcher is identified in field surveys by its fitz-bew call. 
Click Here to listen to them call

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

The south western willow flycatcher is a small bird that is  usually a little less than 6 inches in length, including tail. The wingbars are a conspicuous light-color and it lacks the conspicuous pale eye-ring of many similar Empidonax species. Overall, the body is a brownish-olive to gray-green as pictured in the upper right. The throat is whitish, the breast are a pale olive color , with a yellowish belly. The bill is  relatively large and the  lower mandible is completely pale.

These birds are best identified by their vocalizations. Their call is a liquid, sharply whistled whit! or a dry sprrit; while their song is a sneezy witch-pew or fitz-bew (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011).
The flycatchers are insectivores and feed on a variety of insects such as wasps, bees, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and catepillars.

They live in the tropics in the winter and come north to breed.  They usually arrive at their breeding habitat from early may to June and usually leave around late July to August.  Flycatchers generally breed in tall dense riparian habitat with low gradient streams, wetlands or saturated soils nearby.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Yellow Billed Cuckoo

he yellow- billed cuckoo has a few different calls that are used to identify it in field surveys.
Click here to listen to them call


The yellow-billed cuckoo size is about  31 cm (12 in) in length. Their color is brownish above and white below; with rusty colored flight feathers. The bird’s upper mandible of the bill is black and the lower mandible is yellow. The under side of the tail has pairs of large white spots as seen in the picture on the right (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011).

The yellow-billed cuckoos diet mainly consist of large insects, such as caterpillars, cicadas, grasshoppers and other crop destroying insects.  They are also known to eat small lizards, frogs, eggs, and occasionally young birds (Seattle Audubon Society, 2008).

Cuckoos have a very rapid breeding cycle and typically arrive late  in the season when both adults quickly build a stick nest in a tree or large shrub.  Their breeding cycle usually depends on abundant food supply that may coincide with an outbreak of caterpillars or cicadas.  The average time from egg laying to fledgling is 17 days.  The cuckoos usually nest in a variety of habitats such as open woodlands, parks and riparian woodlands.  The western species of cuckoo is more restricted to cottonwood and willow woodlands with a dense understory and large blocks of riparian habitat.


 San Luis Valley Regional Habitat Conservation Plan

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District initiated the habitat conservation plan (HCP) process in 2004 in a partnership with the state of Colorado and five counties of the San Luis Valley: Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Rio Grande, Saguache.  Mineral County has since been added to the HCP effort.


What is an HCP?

An HCP is a community-based plan to conserve endangered species habitat while allowing private land use and management to continue. Without a regional HCP, individual landowners could be regulated under the ESA on a case-by-case basis. A completed HCP is necessary to receive an Incidental Take Permit, which authorizes impacts to ESA-listed species, provided certain conditions and assurances are met. The HCP provides for the long-term protection and conservation of the covered species while allowing for the continuation of ongoing and routine agriculture, community infrastructure, and riparian conservation and restoration activities.

Click Here to view the final HCP. Visit this link for more information on the San Luis Valley Regional Habitat Conservation Plan:


Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

November 17, 2014 Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

April 14, 2014 Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

March 20, 2014 Biologist Sub-Committee Meeting Minutes

November 4th, 2013 Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

June 12th, 2013 Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

March 13th, 2013 Steering Committee Kick-off Meeting Minutes

Charter and Bylaws















Subdistrict #1

Subdistrict # 2

Subdistrict #3

Subdistrict #4

Subdistrict #5

Subdistrict #6