Madera Canyon Birds –
December 1, 2013 to February 29, 2014
A complete checklist of Madera Canyon birds is available for download here and
can be found in brochure boxes at various trailheads and parking areas in the canyon, the Visitor Information Station at the canyon entrance.
The fall of 2013 was fairly quiet for Madera Canyon as far as bird watching activity goes. Following the poor monsoon season last summer, wild food supplies in and around Madera Canyon are fairly good. Birds have already begun to concentrate around bird feeders and very isolated wet spots this fall. As winter progresses, the wild food supplies will begin to dwindle and cold temperatures will force birds to easier accessed areas (for bird watchers) and should be more visible. In any case, we are now in what is called "winter" in southeastern Arizona. Temperatures may drop below freezing and snow on the upper slopes of the mountains is common, more so after New Years. As weather conditions become more winter-like, local high-elevation species should be dropping down into the canyon. For up-to-date information concerning bird watching in Madera Canyon and Arizona consult the Arizona/New Mexico listserver, see link below.
Most of the raptors near Madera Canyon will be encountered along the road from Green Valley. Red-tailed Hawks are fairly common, frequenting roadside power poles. Less commonly seen are American Kestrels perched and Northern Harriers cruising over the grasslands. Cooper's Hawks and occasionally Sharp-shinned Hawk may be found in the canyon proper. Northern Goshawks are rare residents in the canyon, are usually found at higher elevations. Look for Harris' Hawks in Green Valley before or after visiting the canyon. Other raptors rarely encountered include: Golden Eagle, and Prairie & Peregrine Falcons. Loggerhead Shrikes may be seen sitting on power lines or bush tops along Whitehouse Canyon Rd.
Three species of quail can be found nearby. Gambel's Quail are common in the desert scrub at lower elevations. Scaled Quail also inhabit the lower elevations, though rare, preferring the grasslands at the base of the Santa Ritas. Within the canyon, the only quail to be encountered is the much sought after Montezuma Quail. They can often be heard from the trails traversing the oak-savannah habitat. If seen, it is most often as they flush from under foot. Wild Turkeys can be found throughout, from the canyon bottom to the higher elevation oak covered slopes and occasionally out on the grasslands and where birds are fed. Mourning Doves are common all year in the canyon frequenting feeding stations. White-winged Doves are absent from the canyon in the winter, however a few remain in Green Valley and Continental. Band-tailed Pigeons are scarce in the mountains during the winter. Yet to be found in the canyon, Eurasian Collared Doves are a common sight in Continental. Inca and Common Ground-Doves are rare in the canyon at any season. Greater Roadrunners are common all year around Proctor and down into the desert and may sometimes be encountered at higher elevations.
Five species of Owls occur in the Madera Canyon during winter, they are difficult to find during the day but may be heard after dusk. Great Horned Owls are most often encountered (heard) from the lower portion of the canyon. Western Screech-Owls are common in the desert washes and along Proctor Rd among the primitive camping area. Whiskered Screech-Owls are common within the canyon, they can be heard from any of the parking/picnic areas from Whitehouse upwards. Northern Pygmy-Owls occur throughout the canyon from the Madera Picnic Area up and can sometimes be heard calling during the daytime. Spotted Owls inhabiting the forests of the upper canyon (beyond the Mt. Wrightson Picnic Area) are difficult to find because of scarcity and remoteness. Barn Owls are rarely encountered.
The southward migration of hummingbirds is over and only a few individuals winter in the canyon. A few Anna's and Costa's may winter in the desert washes at and below Proctor. Very few Magnificent and even fewer Blue-throated Hummingbirds may winter near feeders. Usually a male Elegant Trogon remains over winter, though it can be very difficult to find.
Acorn Woodpeckers are very conspicuous around all the parking/picnic areas above Proctor Rd. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are common along the Proctor trail and down into the desert. Arizona Woodpeckers are generally found from Proctor and higher in the canyon. A few Gila Woodpeckers wander into the canyon during the winter. Hairy Woodpeckers are uncommon in the forested area high in the mountains. Red-naped and Williamson's (rare) Sapsuckers can be found in the canyon, particularly at berry bushes. A rare Red-breasted Sapsucker has returned to the canyon for the fourth winter in a row; found in early November, it has been seen regularly since along the south edge of the Whitehouse Picnic Area. Northern Flickers are common throughout the canyon in the winter.
Say's Phoebe can usually be found near the entrance station and along Proctor Road. Other flycatchers that could be encountered include: Greater Pewee, Hammond's, Dusky, Gray, and Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Black Phoebe.
An occasional Plumbeous Vireo may remain in the canyon through the winter. Hutton's Vireos are fairly common throughout the lower canyon; identification becomes the challenge with the return of the wintering Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Mexican Jays are a standard feature throughout the canyon. Steller's Jays (uncommon) are in the fir forest high on the mountains. The Common Ravens are the more common of the two ravens in the canyon with some flocks of Chihuahuan Ravens in the mesquite grasslands. Western Scrub-Jays are rare.
White-breasted Nuthatches, Bridled Titmice, Bushtits, Brown Creepers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are commonly found in flocks in the juniper-oak woodlands. In some winters they are joined by Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches. Pygmy Nuthatches have been seen this fall at higher elevations in the pine forest and should be more widely distributed as winter progresses. Verdins are permanent residents found in the mesquite grasslands at and below Proctor.
Five species of wrens are often found in and around the canyon: Cactus at lower elevations, House, Bewick's, Canyon, and Rock in the canyon. Winter and Pacific Wren have been found in past winters in the canyon.
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are present in winter, though rare. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers might be found in the mesquite grasslands below Proctor. There have been no recent reports of Black-capped Gnatcatchers, try Montosa Canyon.
During the winter, thrushes gravitate towards berry producing bushes anywhere in the canyon; American Robins are regular but uncommon, Eastern Bluebirds are uncommon at higher elevations, Western Bluebirds appear to be common this year, Townsend's Solitaires are rare, and Hermit Thrushes are common all year. Aztec Thrushes have occurred at this time of year but should not be expected.
Northern Mockingbirds and Curve-billed Thrashers remain along Whitehouse Canyon Rd. Crissal Thrashers can sometimes be found on the Proctor trail where it crosses the road and stream. Phainopeplas are common in the mesquite grassland all year. Cedar Waxwings are more often in Green Valley but might be found in the canyon in winter.
Only a few warblers remain in the canyon in winter, usually found associated with roaming flocks of titmouse and bushtits: Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, and Olive Warblers. A few Painted Redstarts setup winter territories near the few pools of surface water. There is always hope for a rare eastern warbler spending the winter in the canyon.
Hepatic is the only Tanager that regularly overwinters. A few Northern Cardinals and Pyrrhuloxias can be found in the mesquite grasslands on the way up to the canyon and around Proctor. The rest of the grosbeaks and buntings should have moved south.
Green-tailed, Spotted, and Canyon Towhees can be found throughout the canyon, particularly along the canyon bottom. There should be lots of sparrows in the grasslands below the canyon. The first few hours after sunrise between Florida Wash and Proctor Rd can be productive for sparrows. Possibilities include: Cassin's (rare), Rufous-winged, Rufous-crowned, Chipping, Brewer's, Black-chinned (rare), Grasshopper (rare), Vesper, Lark, Black-throated, Savannah, Lincoln's, and White-crowned Sparrows, and Lark Bunting. Dark-eyed Juncos (of several subspecies) are common throughout particularly around feeders and Yellow-eyed Juncos that nested high on the mountain come down to feeders in winter.
Eastern (Lilian's) Meadowlark is common in the grasslands; sometimes Western Meadowlarks may be found. Scott's Orioles rarely overwinter.
Lesser Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and House Finches dominate the feeders in the canyon. Other cardueline finches are rare in the canyon but there might be an irruption of Cassin's Finch or Red Crossbill. Lawrence's Goldfinches are rare in the canyon, more common in the valley in winter. Let us know if you spot an Evening Grosbeak, possible in winter.
To view or print a copy of the new Madera Canyon checklist, click here.
If you see an unusual bird or one not on this or the bird checklist – please let us know by writing an email to: email@example.com.
To learn more about past hummingbird research in the Canyon, sign on to: www.birchsidestudios.com and click on Hummingbird Research at the top of the page.
To learn about hummingbirds in southeastern Arizona & the monitoring program, sign on to: www.HumMonNet.org and http://humbander.net.
To learn what unusual species are being seen in the canyon and Arizona in general, check http://birding.aba.org/maillist/AZ
For the Friends of Madera Canyon
Additional birding information is available at Laurens' birding and nature guiding site, Desert Harrier.