Arizona boasts spectacular national parks and intriguing historic monuments but neither is this state a slouch when it comes to good birding. Despite the vast expanses of sun-baked desert, bird life flourishes here, particularly along riparian corridors like the Grand Canyon, or on the banks of the Hassayampa River. Canyons in the southeast shelter colorful hummingbirds and the Elegant Trogon, while up north the California Condors cruise at altitude above diving ducks and loud loons in pursuit of fish on Lake Powell. Even national monuments like Montezuma Castle afford the opportunity to enjoy bird species, yet another reason why this scenic state draws bird watchers from around the globe.
Grand Canyon National Park:
Not only is the Grand Canyon spectacularly pretty but it also happens to host a recorded 373 bird species, many of them drawn to the canyon’s riparian floor, including some which use it as a migration corridor. Watch for eagles, owls, bats, falcons, soaring California Condors and the unwelcome Cowbird as you make your rounds from top to bottom and back.
This nature conservancy area is set in southeastern Arizona, part of the Upper San Pedro River Basin, and is of particular note to birders for its diversity. Look for up to 14 species of hummingbird, the colorful Elegant Trogon and the Lesser Long-nosed Bat via the Hamburg Trail, at its bird peak April through September.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area:
Between Lake Powell and the Colorado River, which serves as a migration corridor onto the lake, there are more than 315 listed bird species that pass through or inhabit Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, including aquatic birds like diving ducks, loons, grebes and coots. Spot herons wading in the shallows, gulls wheeling overhead and even the rare California Condor.
Hassayampa River Preserve:
The Hassayampa River emerges from its underground course within the confines of this preserve, an area where desert and comparatively lush riparian landscapes find cotton-willow forest. Look here for elusive raptors such as the Zone-tailed Hawk and the Harris Hawk, as well as the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and an occasional Mississippi Kite.
Cool off on hot Tucson days with a birding trip to Madera Canyon, located in the Coronado National Forest near Green Valley. This protected habitat plays host to the colorful Elegant Trogon, the Magnificent Hummingbird, the Broad-billed Humming bird, the Elf Owl and other rare species. This is also a stop on the Southeastern Arizona Birding Trail.
Montezuma Castle National Monument:
Gambel’s Quail frequent the trails of this historic site, though between riparian and upland habitats, observant birders might also spot the Loggerhead Shrike, Great Horned Owl and White-throated Swift. Bird numbers peak during breeding season, when at least 49 species nest here.
Cave Creek Canyon:
One of Arizona’s top birding spots, this scenic canyon is also conveniently close to both Tucson and El Paso. Jagged cliffs pocked with caves and good canyon-floor foliage make this a prime place to spot raptors, hummingbirds, the Elegant Trogon and even the Flame-colored Tanager.