Arizona birding can be as simple as stepping out into your yard or as complicated as a multi-day hike in rough terrain. It can be as solitary as you like or you can do it with thousands of others.
Arizona, according to Birding.com, has several of the best places to bird on the continent (6 of the top 13!). People come here from all over the world to see rare hummingbirds, Sandhill cranes, visiting species from Mexico and the Pacific, and on, and on.
As for me, I’m a long-time observer of birds, but my observing was largely “wow, that was a cool bird – wonder what it was!?” I finally took a class early in 2008, so I’m still very much a neophyte. I’d like to thank Cynthia Donald, who taught that class and who has answered my questions since then with enthusiasm and a willingness to go that extra mile. She taught me a lot, but any mistakes on this page are purely my own.
If you considering birding as a new hobby, I’ve created a page on basic birding that covers the books that I’m using and some comments on equipment, among other things. At the end of this page I’ve added some links to other sites that may be helpful and links to some Arizona birding festivals.
I‘m pretty pleased with many of the pictures that I’ve taken of the birds here (clicking on that link will take you straight to that section).
Others I chose to include here even though they may not be all that great. Partly this is due to the sheer difficulty of getting good pictures without expensive equipment and lots of time and part of it is due to my wanting to show you all the variety of birds that even a newbie can see in Arizona.
Some of them I’ve taken with the camera at full zoom and still not had enough ability to get clear pictures. My current camera is a Canon S5 IS, with 12X optical and 4X digital zoom (which is a maximum of 48X).
To give you a perspective on what a 48X zoom does, I was standing at the base of a 2000’ high mountain, about a half mile from the top of the mountain and was able to take pictures that showed some hikers near the peak. Looking at the same view with just my eyes, I couldn’t even see the color of the hikers’ clothes, let alone tell that they were really people up there. Check out the Phoenix page to see the pictures.
I’ve done most of my birding in the Phoenix area so far, and I’ll focus on those places as I post my pictures (no pun intended). However, there are many fantastic places in Arizona that I’ve yet to visit. Some of them are world-famous for the birds that gather there.
By far the most of my birding has been done at the Water Ranch, a complex of several recharge ponds in Gilbert. The Ranch is a wonderful urban wetland environment that has become a winter home for hundreds of species of birds (a little over 200, at last count). The Riparian Institute provides regular tours in the winter months, as do the Desert Rivers Audubon folks. The Institute is located in the Southeast Regional Library, which is (amusingly, to me) on the northwest corner of the preserve.
They’ve done a marvelous job there and in the winter birds cover the ponds. We counted over a hundred species there one day, from ducks to egrets to hummingbirds. Even in August there are cool birds there – while on a short summer walk I spotted a couple pie-billed grebes, some great egrets and great blue herons, a few hummingbirds, a bunch of mallards, two verdins and some red-winged blackbirds.
I don’t have enough birds in my list yet to justify splitting them out as the guides do, so I’ve gone with a few basic designations:
Waders and Swimmers : Ducks, egrets, herons, teal, grebes, and so forth…
Raptors: Condors, hawks, eagles, ospreys, falcons and owls…
Hummingbirds: Hummers! Not the big ugly vehicle. The beautiful, spunky little flyers.
“Little Brown Birds”: All the ones that you can hardly see to tell the difference because they hide in the brush and trees…
Other Birds: Obviously, this is a terribly precise scientific designation!
I’ve been to some of these places, and used some of the links myself, but these are provided “as is” – please let me know if any of them are a problem so that I can correct or remove the link.
Birding in southeast Arizona:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – Raptor free flights and a walk-in hummingbird aviary.
Maricopa County Audubon – a whole page of links
Northern Arizona links:
Bed and breakfast organization with birding links:
Other Birding Links:
Arizona Birding (among other things, it offers Bird Call ring tones)
Birding festivals dot the calendar here. Here are a few to get you started:
The Feathered Friends Festival, at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, on the last weekend in March each year.