Must-See Birds in Arizona

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: March 8, 2023
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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

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds are stocky and broad-shouldered, featuring bright red and yellow wing patches.

©iStock.com/Michael-Tatman

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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.

Brewer’s Blackbird

Slightly right of center frame, a lone blackbird is perched on a naked branch, facing left. He's is mostly black against a cloudless blue sky.

The Brewer’s blackbird lives permanently in Northern Arizona and winters in the rest of the state. They live in fields, prairies, farms, and parks.

©John Rakestraw/Shutterstock.com

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.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

The yellow-headed blackbird is a large, stout bird with a black body and yellow head. They also have white wing patches.

©iStock.com/Nancy Strohm

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

Summer Tanager

summer tanager perched high in the tree

The summer tanager builds its nest in cottonwood-willow forests near streams. You can find them in southern Arizona during spring and summer.

©iStock.com/SteveByland

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.

Vermilion Flycatcher

vermilion flycatcher perched on small branch

The male it quite vibrant in color, which the female is a more subtle shade. They are medium sized with short tails and shaggy crests.

©iStock.com/jsdeoliv

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

Western Tanager

Western Tanager on tree branch

Stocky and heavy-bodied, the intensely colorful western tanager features bright yellow, flame orange, and black plumage.

©Laura Mountainspring/Shutterstock.com

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.

Yellow-Breasted Chat

Birds with yellow chests: Yellow-Breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted chats breed throughout Arizona. You can spot them in dense scrub along streams or near ponds.

©iStock.com/Warren_Price

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.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird

They are large flycatchers with thick bills and broad shoulders, and they feature a bright yellow underbelly.

©Wildvet/Shutterstock.com

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

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawk pair perched on a tree branch

These large birds have rounded wings and broad tails. They feature rich brown plumage with warm red tails.

©Ronnie Howard/Shutterstock.com

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.

Peregrine Falcon

Cool Types of Birds

Peregrine falcons are permanent residents in Arizona, inhabiting open country and desert mountains.

©iStock.com/DawnKey

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.

California Condor

California condor bird on a rock with wings spread against blue sky

California condors are the largest birds in North America, featuring exceptionally long, broad wings that reach 9 feet across.

©Barbara Ash/Shutterstock.com

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

Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna's Hummingbird

The tiny Anna’s hummingbird features green, gray, orange, and iridescent pink plumage.

©Devonyu /Shutterstock.com

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.

Bushtit

tiny American bushtit perched on cut branch

They are tiny, plump birds with long tails and short bills. Their plumage is monochrome in brown, gray, and tan.

©iStock.com/Jeff Huth

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

Cactus Wren

Animals in Arizona - Cactus Wren

Cactus wrens live in Southern Arizona deserts and arid brush. You will find them among cacti, yucca, and mesquite.

©Sean R. Stubben/Shutterstock.com

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.

Gila Woodpecker

gila woodpecker

Gila woodpeckers live in saguaros, desert washes, and river groves in southern Arizona.

©iStock.com/tntphototravis

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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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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