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I Saw Birds in Arizona Like No Other – with Photos

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I saw some cool looking birds on my trip to Arizona last summer.

Rose-throated Becard

Family: Tityras, Becards, and allies

Accessibility: Scarce in Arizona but common in Mexico and Central USA.

Appearance

The most distinctive characteristic of Rose-throated Becard is their wonderful rose-colored neck-bib found in male adults. Males are typically gray in color with a divergent darker upper-part and pale gray under-part. Males equally boast a black crown. Conversely, females are brown in color, contrasting with a rusty-brown upper-part, and a pale-buffy underside. Female crowns are dark gray, and not as striking as the males.

Call type: Calls sound mournful ‘seeeuuuwww’.

Habitat

In easternmost Arizona, commonly they are found along streams at their lower elevations, in groves of cottonwoods, sycamores, as well as the understory of mesquites. In Texas, they are seen in native woodlands close to the Rio Grande, and in the dry woods, mountain forests, and canyons, locally up into mountain forests.

Feeding Behavior/ Diets

Forages from the perches by watching across the foliage, plants, and make fast flights for capture insects and return to back eat them. Also, catch insects in mid-air as hovering and forge within the shaded canopy of tall trees.

They primarily feed on insects apart from seeds and berries.


The day I went birdwatching in Arizona remains etched in my memory as a vivid tapestry of color and sound. I’ve always had a fascination with birds, their freedom and diversity, but it wasn’t until I found myself in the heart of the Sonoran Desert that I truly appreciated the variety of avian life that could be found in a single, sprawling landscape.

I had set out early in the morning, the sky just beginning to lighten to a pale blue, with my trusty binoculars in hand. They were a high-quality pair, with 8x magnification and a 42mm objective lens diameter, perfect for getting a close-up view without disturbing the birds. I also carried a field guide, its pages dog-eared from frequent use, and a notebook for jotting down any notable species I encountered.

The desert was alive with activity as the sun crested the horizon, casting a golden hue over the cacti and scrub. I was trekking along a well-worn path, the rocky terrain uneven under my hiking boots, when I spotted my first bird of the day—a vibrant Vermilion Flycatcher. It was a male, its plumage a striking contrast against the muted tones of the desert, the red of its feathers as vivid as the blossoms of a blooming ocotillo. It was small, no more than six inches in length, but what it lacked in size, it made up for in sheer brilliance.

As I continued my walk, the soft trills and whistles of various songbirds filled the air. I paused, lifting my binoculars, and was rewarded with the sight of a Cactus Wren, the state bird of Arizona. It was busily darting in and out of a cholla cactus, its brown and white streaked feathers providing excellent camouflage. The wren was larger than the flycatcher, about eight inches long, and it was fascinating to watch it navigate the spiky terrain with such agility.

Further along, near a small, still pond—a rare sight in the desert—I caught sight of a Great Blue Heron. It stood motionless at the water’s edge, a solitary sentinel. With my binoculars, I could see every detail of its impressive stature; it was a tall bird, standing nearly four feet high, with a wingspan that could easily surpass six feet.

Whiskered Screech-Owl

Belonging to the Megascops trichopsis owl family, Whiskered Screech-Owl is acknowledged as one of the signature birds mostly found in Arizona and neighboring states.

Accessibility: Wide and Stable

Appearance

Albeit its voice is quite dissimilar, however, the species resembles the Western Screech-Owl and found together in the lower areas of canyons in Arizona. Found in two different color plumages, in either dark gray or brown, birds are small in size and having a round head, yellow eyes with a yellowish bill, and with tuft ears. Compared to western screech owls, they possess dense barring on their breast, and also relatively small in size.

Call Type

Their common type of call is a sequence of 8 regular spaced ‘boo’ notes and sounds higher in the middle while lower at the end.

Habitat

The whiskered screech owl is mostly seen in the Madrean island region and extended part of the south-eastern part of Arizona apart from the southern part of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in the US. They prefer habitat with broad-leaved oaks and tall pine trees above 5000’ elevation.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

They hunt right from the dusk – all through the night. Take a fast flight to grip the insects on the ground or foliage while watching from the perch. They hover among plants and vegetation and hunt different insets with feet and get back to the branch or other to eat them.

Egg/ Incubation / Young Nurturing

Female birds lay 3 to 4 eggs during April or May and find tree holes or abandoned woodpecker cavities 5 to 7 meters above the ground for incubation. Incubation is mainly done by the female while parents may involve in bringing food for young ones.

Nesting

Usually, they make nests in the tree cavity like sycamore or oak or choose discarded woodpecker holes as well as natural hollows often above 20′ the ground.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Accessibility – Adequate

Appearance

With a small-size, the hummingbirds are 9 cm (3.1–3.9 ‘’) long and weigh 3–4 grams only. Its wingspan is around 13 cm or 5 inches and having a long shinning reddish bill with a black tip. It has metallic green dorsally as well as dull color on the crown as well as forehead. The tail of adult males is blackish-blue and wide and flight features are colored brownish-gray. The adult females have pale bellies with white stripe behind their eyes. Female tail feathers are found white-tipped.

Call Type

A very fast scratching ‘chi-dit’, notes similar to Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Habitat

Broad-billed hummingbirds prefer living in the regions of oak woodlands, in the lower canyons and plants like sycamore in Arizona, Fremont cottonwoods as well as in the southwest US through to Mexico. In the breeding season, the appearance of the broad-billed hummingbird is widespread in desert canyons and low mountain oak woodlands and in southeast Arizona.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

While hovering they hunt insects, pick them from plants, and also grab insects trapped in the spider’s web. Mostly live on taking flower nectar and eating insects. It prefers orange and red tubular flowers like desert honeysuckle or bouvardia. You can feed them and they will visit.

Egg/ Incubation/young Nurturing

Eggs look white and incubation is performed by females only and it takes over 2 weeks. The female bird feeds young ones by putting its bill deep into their mouths while regurgitating petite insects possibly mixed with nectar.

Arizona Woodpecker

Family: woodpeckers

Accessibility: Common

Appearance

Relatively with an identical look to Strickland’s woodpeckers, Arizona woodpecker grows nearly 8 inches in length. The plumage is colored in a combination of brown and white; brown remains on the top included with a darkish rump and white underbody is marked with brown spots. They typically possess white bars on the wings as well as two white lines across the face which again joins with another white bar on the neck. Male Arizona woodpeckers are having a red mark on the nape which is found missing on females.

Call Type:

The species call sharply with squeaky Keech and also, and also gives rattle downward calls.

Habitat

Native to southern Arizona and New Mexico/western Mexico, Arizona woodpecker is widely found in oaks of foothill areas, and pine-oak woods in the mid-level part of mountains. The bird is seen through the northernmost range in southeastern Arizona.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

Search insects from the top branches of pines, oaks, other plants, and also flaking off tree bark to find insects. Live on eating insects of different kinds.

Eggs/Incubation/Nurturing Young

Females lay 3-4 eggs of white. Incubation is done for both sexes and takes nearly 2 weeks. Both parents feed and care for nestlings.

Bridled Titmouse

Family: Chickadees and Titmice

Appearance

The species length ranges from 11.5 – 12.7 cm or 4.5 to 5’’. It has a small body and face is small, black and white-crested patterned face, with a black bib. Its crested part is boarded with black and white and also has gray underparts.

Habitat

Their most preferred habitat is pine-oak, oak-juniper woodlands in the riparian range of mountains in eastern as well as southeastern Arizona, The White Mountains, and the Mogollon Plateau of Arizona. They are also found in the extreme southwestern parts of New Mexico (the Madrean sky islands region and Sonora Desert in the US through southern Mexico.

Call Type

Calls similar to other chickadees or titmice, however, calls more rapid and on a relatively higher pitch. One of its usual calls is faster and variant sounds like – chick-a-dee.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

It forages insects in a range of trees, bushes like oaks, hopping aggressively among tree branches and twigs. Comes to bird feeders for seeds and prefers a mix of peanut butter. The bird breaks seeds by hitting the bill while holding them with feet.

Mainly eats insects – especially caterpillars, beetles, pupae, and also nuts, seeds, and berries. They also store food for further use.

Nesting

They build nests in the tree holes, be it the natural cavity of discarded woodpecker nests – above 6 – 28’ the ground. They gather soft materials like stems, leaves, grass, as well as cottonwood for preparing the nest.

Eared Quetzal

Family: Trogons

Availability: Relatively limited in number round in Mexico Arizona and other parts. .

Appearance

The species is 35 cm (13’) in length and both sexes are having shimmering green backs with shining dark blue central tail feathers. The outer tail feathers are primarily white with a strip of black at their base. They possess a dull gray-colored bill that has a darker band at the tip. Both sexes boast of having wispy hair-like auricular plumage that makes it distinctive in look. Compared to other trogons, the head and bill of eared quetzal are small and narrow.

The male (adult) has a blackish head and gleaming green breast with a geranium-red belly as well under-tail coverts. Conversely adult female is having a gray head, upper belly, and breast and lower belly are reddish.

Call Type

The bird’s tremolo call is a sequence of whistling notes and increasing in volume. Calls also include lower voice squeals and often rising in pitch while a louder squeal ends with a deep “chuck,” sound.

Habitat

They are found in the mountain forests and in several canyons as well as pine-oak forestry areas in Arizona. In Mexico, they are seen mostly at an altitude of 8,000′ in ranges of mountains and through sought to western Michoacán. Also found in northern Sonora.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

They quietly the insects on the flower leaves and foliage or branches on the trees and swiftly fly down or hover as plucking them back the branch for eating instantly. Other than insects like caterpillars, katydids, small lizards, or moths they also love eating warty fruits.

Nesting

While breeding behavior is not well known, however, their preferred season for breeding is early fall and late summer. Nests are found in tree cavities and branches of partly and fully dead plants as well as in the slanting parts of canyons.

You will also see:

  • Gila Woodpecker

  • Greater Roadrunner

  • Green Heron

  • Hooded Oriole

  • Lesser Goldfinch

  • Phainopepla

  • White-Crowned Sparrow

  • Abert’s Towhee

  • Burrowing Owl

  • Northern Mockingbird

  • American Coot

  • Cactus Wren Bird

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler, more yellow birds

  • Mourning Dove

Rare Arizona Birds

Berylline Hummingbird

Family: Hummingbirds

Accessibility: Rare in Arizona but widespread in Mexico.

Appearance

They are medium-sized hummingbird and approximately 8–10 cm in length and weighs 5 gr. Adults are primarily colored metallic olive green included with a rusty-gray lower belly. The primary wings, underwing, and tail are rufous (reddish-brown or brownish-red) in color and somewhat forked. The male has straight and very thin sharp bills of very dark red (appears almost black) color while females are less colorful.

Call Type

Softer three-noted calls appear like a tiny trumpet or repeated buzzy twitters, dzzzzrrt or dzzzir.

Habitat

Found in southeastern-most mountains, forests, mountain forests, canyons in Arizona, and most above 5,000-7,000’ areas. Also found in shady canyons, pine-oak woods, and sycamores in Arizona as well as in the foothills, oak woodlands, and lower slopes of Mexico.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

Apart from catching insects while hovering in the mid-air and from foliage, they love taking juice or nectar of flowers by extending its bill and long sharp tongue into the flowers.

Eggs/ Incubation/Young Nurturing

Eggs are white in color. Incubation is by only female and takes nearly a fortnight. Female feeds the nestlings sticking her beak into their mouth and feeds tiny insects with nectar. Young leave the nest after 18-20 days.

Buff-breasted Flycatcher

Accessibility: Rarest

Arizona population tends to be hardly a few dozen pairs, as of now.

Appearance

The buff-breasted flycatcher is amidst the smallest flycatcher groups and its size typically ranges from 11.5 to 13 cm or4.5 to 5 inches. Adult birds possess olive-gray color on the upper bodies with a darker shade on the wings and tail, white wing bars, orange-buff color breasts, small bills, short tails, and well noticeable with their white eye-rings.

Call Type

They call that sounds like Pidew-Pidew repeatedly and the voice is loud and dry.

Habitat

The species and seen across the region extending from extreme southeastern Arizona in the US through Mexico to the southern part of Honduras. They are partially migrant birds.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

They forage insects from the tree branches and fly down sharply to capture the prey, and once again return to the same perch or some other. It’s capable to grip insects while hovering from foliage or mid-air as well. Also drop on the ground to get insects and are insectivorous and prefer insects like ants, beetles, moths, wasps, bugs, spiders, and more.

Nesting

The main nest site is at the base of tree branches like pine above nearly 25’ of the ground. Nests shape open cup type are built by female birds only gathering rootlets, leaves while the outer part is decked with leaves, lichens, flakes of bark, and feathers, and fine grasses.

Elegant Trogon Rare

Family: Trogon

Accessibility: As expected up to 50-60 pairs are nesting.

Appearance

The species measures 30 cm (12 ‘’) long and weighs 75 grams. Akin to other trogons, males boast a distinctive appearance from female plumages – sexual dimorphism, with squashy feathers. Both are having an orange-red under-tail, lower belly, a yellow bill, and a white parallel strip on the breast apart from their white under-tail is found with very fine parallel black barring with larger white tips uniformly spaced and ending with a black band.

Additionally, the male elegant trogon is having a deep metallic green head, black face, and throat, red-orange lower belly, lower breast, and grey upper-wing coverts. Conversely, the female one has a metallic bronze-colored head while she shows a dull whitish upper belly, and also having a tiny white upright stripe behind her eyes.

Call Type: General call type sounds “co-ah co-ah co-ah” and also include some kind of chattering notes.

Habitat

Found in the Mountain forests, sycamore canyons, and pine-oak plants in Arizona, the US and also breeds in canyons as well as pine-oak zones of mountains. Also found in canyons and dray lowland woods and rain forest in Mexico and Central America.

Feeding Behavior/Diet

The species perch quietly, tilting and turning its head and once insects are spotted sitting on flowers, foliage and leaves, instantly fly out and grab them in seconds.

It feeds on a range of insects preferably bigger ones including cicadas, katydids, larger caterpillars, and also small lizards; and also prefers small fruits and berries like wild grape, chokecherry especially during the summer days and fall.

Eggs/Incubation/Young Nurturing

Egg ranges 2- 4 and white in color; both parents involve in incubation, which takes 22 days (female incubates at mid-day and at night while male in the early morning as well late afternoon. Young ones are cared for as well-fed by both parents. After hatching young leaves the nest or often depends on parents for some more time.

Nesting

The main nesting is in tree cavities, old flicker cavity in a dead tree, and especially in sycamores above 20-50′ the ground; they lay eggs on the bottom of the cavity and also on debris build-up.

Birds of Minnesota