Don’t leave home without a pair of good binoculars. Some birds are easy to see, but others camouflage themselves quite nicely, looking a lot like the leaves and dirt that surrounds them. With the amount of birding you’ll be doing, a pair of lightweight binoculars also keeps your arms from tiring too quickly. You’ll be glad to have waterproof or water resistant binoculars in case you get caught in a sudden downpour on your birding adventures. Arizona is home to many year-round feathered residents along with seasonal visitors. You will probably see the ubiquitous mourning dove along with sparrows, red-tailed hawks, mockingbirds and cardinals almost everywhere you go. However, the state’s several wetlands are a stark contrast to its generally arid climate and provide great opportunities to see water-dwelling birds, many of which you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with Arizona.
If you live in or near Tucson, keep your eyes peeled for a ring-necked duck, black-crowned night heron, great blue heron, great egret, green heron, or even a tricolored heron. Whether you live nearby or are visiting from out of state, set aside time to visit popular birding wetlands such as Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, just south of Phoenix, and Tucson’s Sweetwater Wetlands, a water-treatment facility. The Kachina Wetlands (Pumphouse Greenway), located in Kachina Village just south of Flagstaff, draws a variety of shorebirds, ducks, raptors, and songbirds, as well as bald eagles.
Arizona Birding Hotspots
You’ll probably lose track of the number and varieties of hummingbirds around you in Sierra Vista, the “Hummingbird Capital of the US.” The city’s mild climate and close proximity to Mexico attracts many different hummingbirds, including broadbilled, white-eared, violet-crowned, blue-throated, plain-capped, black-chinned, broad-tailed, and more. Although hummingbirds are the main attraction here, you can also see a variety of warblers, owls and nightjars, flycatchers, tanagers, raptors, and even shorebirds.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a museum just outside of Tucson that also has a zoo and a botanical garden, is a good choice for experienced birders as well as beginners. If you are new to birding, you can find plenty of information on common dessert birds in the area, including gila woodpeckers, gilded flickers, and cactus wrens, the Arizona state bird.
Curious birders and friendly homeowners who like to share their backyard bird feeders mingle in Cave Creek Canyon, located in the Chiricahua Mountains close to Portal. Common bird sightings include rose-throated becards, olive warblers, and blue-throated and magnificent hummingbirds,and the holy grail of Arizona birding, the elegant trogon.
If your goal is to see as many birds as possible in a short amount of time, check out the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, which is close Sierra Vista. There are more than 250 species of birds here, such as yellow-billed cuckoos, crissal thrashers, Mississippi kites, gray hawks, and northern beardless-tyrannulets.
Cactus Wren – “Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus 20061226” by Mark Wagner – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.
Hummingbirds via Pinterest
Elegant trogon – Donna Tolbert Anderson, via Tucson Audubon Society