Published: March 2nd 2006March 2nd 2006
Or as we prefer to call it, paraphenalia!
Arizona Bird Report January-February 2006
The desert state of Arizona in sw USA can be a very exciting birding location in January and February.
Dozens of State and National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Forest Parks and Wilderness Preserves offer sanctuaries for a wide variety of birds adapted to the varied terrain of desert basins and mountain ranges.
The Sonoran Desert stretches across southern Arizona and is full of cacti such as giant saguaro, prickly pear and various cholla (pronounced choya). On walks here, phainopepla watch passers-by from bare bushes, greater roadrunners, with long tail and beady eyes, scurry across the sand, while gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers dart between the tree-like cacti. Cactus wrens, as big as blackbirds, are easily seen, in cafes and carparks as well as on cacti. Another unmistakable bird is the vibrant red cardinal, with a prominent crest and red bill. The spectacular vermillion flycatcher is everybody’s favourite, with brilliant red cap and front, and a smart black back.
When birding on another continent, most of the birds are new and different, although with similarities to their European cousins. Some take a bit of getting used to, such as phoebes, grackles, juncos, towhees, kinglets, and
One charming little bird found in profusion in the desert, especially around campsites, is the Gambels Quail. This small, partridge-like bird, has a short black plume curving forward from its head, giving it a very comical appearance.
Any lakes within the desert attract large numbers of birds. In the south-east of Arizona, rewarding lakes can be found at Willcox, and at Roper Lake and Lyman Lake State Parks. Birds common in such areas include large flocks of horned larks and mountain bluebirds, killdeer, red-tailed hawks, common mergansers, northern harriers and several different egrets. Red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds also occur in spectacularly huge flocks. The belted kingfisher may not be as pretty as his European cousin, but at 13” he’s a lot easier to spot. The majestic bald eagle enjoys the fishing in these lakes, too. Black and Say’s phoebes are also prevalent. Ducks include shoveller, pintail, coot, ruddy duck, green-winged teal, canvas-back, gadwall and mallard.
Not all Arizona is hot desert. Much of it is mountainous and consequently cooler, allowing juniper, evergreen oaks, pinjon pine and ponderosa pine to grow. In the extreme southeast of Arizona, the ridges and canyons of the Chiricahua National Monument are
home to rarities such as acorn woodpecker, grey-breasted jay, Stricklands woodpecker, Mexican chickadee, as well as more common white breasted nuthatch, brown creeper and bridled titmouse.
The canyons of Bryce and Zion National Parks are not far across the north Arizonan border into Utah. Here the list extends with golden eagles, ravens, western bluebirds, hairy woodpeckers, American robins, and American dippers. The Grand Canyon added Stella’s Jay but sadly no Californian Condors.
Finally, the contrasting habitat of the Colorado River valley along the border between California and Arizona brings wonderful opportunities for more waterfowl - bufflehead, pied-billed grebe, ring-necked duck, as well as yellow-rumped warblers galore, great horned owls, more bald eagles, towhees (Abert’s and spotted), and beautiful, iridescent hummingbirds. The National Wildlife Refuges at Bill Williams and Cibola offer spectacular birding, with huge flocks of western and Clark’s grebes, sandhill cranes and snowgeese, as well as tundra swans, cinnamon teal, Cooper’s hawk, s.w. willow flycatcher and western meadowlark, with his vibrant yellow chest.
Soon we will be following the snowgeese and migrating north through California and Oregon. More about them in the months to come, as the birding hots up even more.
There are more photos below