Arizona offers some of the best and most unique birdwatching in America. The state is rich with vegetation along streams and rivers and contains four distinct desert regions with their own flora and fauna. Many species live within their boundaries. Some birds on this list are common, while others are exotic. Whether you are a beginner or an expert birder, you’ll find several must-see birds in Arizona!
Black Birds in Arizona
Habitat: The red-winged blackbird is one of the most abundant birds in North America. It lives year-round in Arizona, inhabiting weedy fields and brushy swamps.
Appearance: Stocky and broad-shouldered, the red-winged blackbird is black all over with bright red and yellow wing patches.
Diet: These black birds eat insects and seeds.
Vocalizations: They have a rich, musical call that sounds like, “conk-la-ree!”
Nests: Red-winged blackbirds build bulky, open cup nests attached to standing vegetation.
Habitat: The Brewer’s blackbird has permanent residents in Northern Arizona and wintering populations throughout the rest of the state. Look for them in fields, prairies, farms, and parks.
Appearance: They are full-bodied medium-sized blackbirds with glossy black plumage and yellow eyes.
Diet: They rely on insects, seeds, and berries for sustenance.
Vocalizations: Their songs are shrill squawks and whistles.
Nests: They make a nesting cup out of bulky twigs and grass, with dried mud or manure.
Habitat: Arizona has year-round, migrating, wintering, and breeding populations of yellow-headed blackbirds. You can find them in marshes, fields, pastures, and open country.
Appearance: They are large and stout with black bodies and yellow heads and breasts. Their wings have white patches.
Diet: Their favorite foods are insects and seeds.
Vocalizations: You’ll hear their musical notes and screeching buzzes.
Nests: They weave deep cups out of aquatic plants.
Red Birds in Arizona
Habitat: Summer tanagers breed in Southern Arizona, where they build their nests in cottonwood-willow forests along streams.
Appearance: These plump, medium-sized tanagers have large heads and thick, blunt-tipped bills. Males are bright red, and females are greenish yellow.
Diet: Insects and berries are enough to keep these birds thriving.
Vocalizations: The tanagers’ song is soft and sweet.
Nests: Their grass nests are loose and shallow.
Habitat: Arizona has sporadic year-round and breeding populations of vermilion flycatchers, most abundant in the southeastern portion of the state. They live along streams in arid country, such as deserts with scattered trees.
Appearance: They are medium sized flycatchers with short tails and shaggy crests. They sport dark wings, which stand out against their bright fire-engine red body. The male it quite vibrant in color, which the female is a more subtle shade.
Diet: They consume mainly insects.
Vocalizations: They project soft, tinkling songs.
Nests: Their nests are compact cups, built from twigs and grass.
Yellow Birds in Arizona
Habitat: Western tanagers breed in Northeastern Arizona and migrate through the rest of the state before reaching their Mexican wintering grounds. They breed in forests and woodlands and stop in deserts, parks, and other habitats during migration.
Appearance: Stocky and heavy-bodied, the intensely colorful western tanager features bright yellow, flame orange, and black plumage.
Diet: They forage for fruits and berries and also like insects.
Vocalizations: These birds sing flute-like songs similar to the tunes of a robin.
Nests: Nests are shallow and open, comprised of twigs and grass.
Habitat: The yellow-breasted chat spends its springs and summers throughout Arizona. They breed in dense scrub along streams and ponds.
Appearance: They are bulky birds with long tails and big heads. They are olive-green above and white and yellow below with white “spectacles.”
Diet: Insects and berries are their foods of choice.
Vocalizations: These bright birds emit croaks, whistles, and repeated phrases.
Nests: They use dead leaves and straw to construct large, open cups.
Habitat: Western kingbirds are another breeding bird in Arizona. You can find them across most of the state, inhabiting open terrains like desert scrub, farms, and roadsides.
Appearance: This species is a large flycatcher with a thick bill and broad shoulders. Their plumage is gray, white, and black, and they feature a bright yellow underbelly.
Diet: Their diet is almost exclusively insects.
Vocalizations: These are loud birds with sharp calls.
Nests: They tend to nest in tree forks, amid compiled grass and weeds.
Birds of Prey in Arizona
Habitat: The red-tailed hawk is prolific in North America, but it’s always exciting to see! They live year-round in Arizona across the state, where they inhabit open country and woodlands.
Appearance: These large birds have rounded wings and broad tails. They feature rich brown plumage with warm red tails.
Diet: They hunt small mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Vocalizations: You can’t miss their high-pitched scream!
Nests: They nest in trees, where they build bulky stick bowls.
Habitat: The peregrine falcon is a permanent resident throughout most of Arizona. You can find them in many habitats, from open country to desert mountains.
Appearance: They are the largest falcon on the continent, and the fastest birds in the world. Their plumage is bluish gray above and streaky white below. Additionally, they have long tails, pointed wings, and dark heads.
Diet: These predators mostly eat other birds.
Vocalizations: They sound loud and raspy.
Nests: They nest in scrapes on a cliff ledge.
Habitat: The California condor lives year-round in the far northwest corner of Arizona. They inhabit rugged terrain with steep cliffs and forage over open grasslands.
Appearance: They are the largest birds in North America, featuring exceptionally long, broad wings that reach 9 feet across. They have black plumage with distinctive white patches under their wings.
Diet: They are scavengers and eat carrion.
Vocalizations: These huge birds are typically silent, but they may hiss and snort.
Nests: Their unique nests are simply stones and debris placed on the bottom of a cave.
Small Birds in Arizona
Habitat: Anna’s hummingbird lives permanently in Southern Arizona, particularly the southwest corner. They live in open woods, chaparral, parks, gardens, and streamside groves.
Appearance: They are stocky, medium-sized hummingbirds (though tiny in general). They are green, gray, orange, and iridescent pink.
Diet: Nectar and insects make up their diet.
Vocalizations: They emit sharp chips and rapid calls.
Nests: They create compact nests of plant fiber and spider webbing.
Habitat: The bushtit lives year-round in Eastern Arizona, where they inhabit scrublands, mixed woods, and other brushy or wooded habitats.
Appearance: Tiny and plump, bushtits have long tails and short bills. Their plumage is monochrome in brown, gray, and tan.
Diet: These little guys eat only insects.
Vocalizations: They have high trills and light ticking calls.
Nests: They create nests from spider and moss in trees or shrubs.
Birds in the Arizona Desert
Habitat: The cactus wren lives in the deserts and arid brush in Southern Arizona. Look for them among cacti, yucca, and mesquite.
Appearance: These large, chunky wrens have heavy bills and long tails. Their plumage is speckled and streaky brown, cinnamon, white, and black.
Diet: Insects, fruits, and seeds make up the bulk of their diet.
Vocalizations: Listen for their rapid, mechanical songs.
Nests: A bulky weed and grass mass is used as a nest.
Habitat: Gila woodpeckers live in the desert habitats of Southern Arizona. Look for them in saguaros, desert washes, and river groves.
Appearance: They are medium-sized woodpeckers with long tails. Their plumage is grayish brown with black and white wings and a red forehead patch.
Diet: They eat an assortment of insects, fruits, berries, nectar, and seeds.
Vocalizations: They sing an interesting rolling series of notes.
Nests: Of those on this list, Gila woodpeckers have the most interesting nest: a cavity inside giant cacti!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/G Parekh
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