Madera Canyon Birds
September 1 to November 30, 2015
A complete checklist of Madera Canyon birds is available for download on the Friends web site (link below) and in print at the Visitor Information Station as you enter the canyon and in some brochure boxes attached to trail map panels in the canyon. To learn what unusual species are being seen in the canyon and southeast Arizona generally, go to the local birding hotline on the web at: http://birding.aba.org/maillist/AZ.
The middle of September marks the traditional end to the Monsoon Season for southeast Arizona. With an El Nino event in place the predictions are for a wet winter. In between we have Autumn. The canyon and surrounding desert grasslands are lush with fresh growth, flowers, and insects from the recent bountiful rains. These conditions signal good bird watching in the Canyon through the fall. Many of the fall migrants have already arrived while several of the summer breeders have or will soon depart. And some wintering sparrows have already arrived.
Read the following for more bird possibilities:
Three species of quail can be found in and near the Canyon; Gambel's Quail in the desert scrub at lower elevations, Scaled Quail in the grasslands below the Canyon, and Montezuma Quail within the Canyon. Montezuma Quail have been particularly plentiful recently with observations of them crossing the road from Proctor Rd all the way to the Mt Wrightson Picnic Area, along quiet trails, and near feeders/water features at the campground & lodges. Wild Turkeys are common in the Canyon, they can be found near feeders, on the road, and along any of the trails.
Summering Turkey Vultures depart the Canyon by October. Resident Cooper's Hawks can be seen throughout near concentrations of small birds (near feeders). A Northern Goshawk (rare) may be at higher elevations in the Canyon. Red-tailed Hawk numbers swell as northern birds migrant to winter in the area, most will be over the mesquite-grasslands. The few Swainson's Hawks depart by early-fall. A few Zone-tailed Hawks or a rare Golden Eagle may be found hunting over the grasslands or mountains through fall. The Gray Hawks, which nest in the Canyon, depart by mid-October. Northern Harriers return to the grasslands in early-fall and stay through winter. Harris's Hawks are not likely to be found in the Canyon, try Green Valley or Tucson. Four falcons may be encountered along the road to the Canyon during fall through winter; American Kestrel (fairly common), Merlin (rare), and Prairie (rare) & Peregrine (rare) Falcons.
White-winged and Mourning Doves are common in the grasslands and lower portions of the Canyon with the bulk of the White-winged population moving south by mid- to late-September. Individuals and small flocks of Band-tailed Pigeons wander widely in search of food (mostly acorns) throughout the Canyon, uncommon in early fall, becoming rare by winter. Inca & Common Ground-Doves are rare in the lower Canyon. Eurasian Collared-Doves outnumber all other doves in Continental, they have yet to find Madera Canyon. Greater Roadrunners are common around Proctor Rd and down Whitehouse Canyon Rd towards Green Valley. The few Yellow-billed Cuckoos that summered around Proctor Rd will likely leave in early-September.
Seven species of owls occur in the Madera Canyon, they are difficult to find during the day but can 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, fairly common within the Canyon, they can be heard from any of the parking/picnic areas from Whitehouse upwards. Elf Owls, the most common owl in the summer months, are rare to nonexistent in the fall. Northern Pygmy-Owls occur throughout the Canyon from the Madera Picnic Area up and can sometimes be heard calling during the daytime. Spotted Owls inhabit the forests of the upper Canyon (beyond the Wrightson Picnic Area) and are difficult to find because of scarcity and remoteness. Lesser Nighthawks may be seen at dusk & dawn along Whitehouse Canyon Rd and around streetlights in Green Valley through October. Common Poorwills cease calling from the base of the mountains and most leave as fall progresses. Similarly Mexican Whip-poor-wills of the upper portions of the Canyon have departed. The Buff-collared Nightjars that summered near the Proctor Road primitive camping area have probably dispersed. White-throated Swifts may be seen flying high near rocky cliffs.
Hummingbird numbers were fantastic in the late summer around the feeders and good numbers should continue through mid-October. The bulk of the south bound migrants pass through before mid-fall, many of the local breeders also leave about the same time, a few pass through late in the fall, and fewer still may winter in the Canyon. Hummingbirds normally concentrate near feeding stations at the Chuparosa B&B, Madera Kubo, Santa Rita Lodge, and the Bog Spring Campground Host (if occupied). The few Rufous, a possible Allen's (rare), Broad-tailed, and Calliope Hummingbirds passing through are mostly females & juveniles and will depart by October. The two most common nesting species, Broad-billed and Black-chinned are gone by September & October respectively. Anna's have arrived, the peak of their migration is in October and some will remain to winter with a few Blue-throated (rare) and Magnificent Hummingbirds. At the beginning of September, a Plain-capped Starthroat was visiting the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge. How long will it continue? Last year one remained until 10 Sept. And will they be joined one of the other rare species such as Berylline, Violet-crowned, or Lucifer Hummingbirds.
Elegant Trogons are most reliably found along the Carrie Nation Mine Trail. For the most part family units will have broken up and mostly silent individuals may be encountered foraging for caterpillars and berries in the upper drainages of the Canyon. An individual or two may linger through late fall and into winter; if present they may be encountered anywhere along Madera Creek above Proctor Rd. Ladder-backed (lower Canyon), Arizona (mid-to-upper), and Acorn (throughout) Woodpeckers are common residents. Northern Flickers and Hairy Woodpeckers (uncommon) are resident in the pine forests of higher elevations in the Canyon with the flicker population moving downhill and supplemented with wintering birds through the fall. Red-naped and Williamson's Sapsuckers begin arriving in September for a stay through winter; hopefully a Yellow-bellied, Red-breasted, or some hybrid Sapsucker will also make a appearance.
Of the numerous species of flycatchers recorded in the Canyon, the most sought after Sulphur-bellied is one of the earliest to leave (by mid-September). A few of the resident species may be found around Proctor; Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and Black & Say's Phoebes. Most of the breeding and migrant species are gone by October; Olive-sided (rare), Cordilleran, Pacific-slope, Dusky-capped, Ash-throated, and Brown-Crested (usually leave in August) Flycatchers, Western Wood- & Greater Pewees, and Western & Cassin's Kingbirds. A few Hammond's, Dusky, & Gray Flycatchers may linger through late fall and into the winter in the lower portion of the Canyon.
Loggerhead Shrikes may be encountered in the grasslands below Proctor Rd. All the nesting vireo species remain in the Canyon through October including Plumbeous, Hutton's (resident), Warbling, & Bell's and the migrant Cassin's. Mexican Jays are a standard feature of Madera Canyon. The adults can be distinguished from the juveniles as the young birds have a pinkish bill that darkens with age. Steller's Jays typically stay in at the higher elevations and are not common here. The Common Ravens are the most commonly encountered raven in and around the Canyon. Rarely a flock of wandering Chihuahuan Ravens may be found in the mesquite grasslands but never in the Canyon. Western Scrub-Jays are rare.
The few Violet-green Swallows that nested at higher elevations have moved away. Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows are sometimes encountered on the grasslands near water tanks. Other swallow species are rare.
White-breasted Nuthatches,Bridled Titmouse, and Bushtits are common in the juniper-oak woodlands. Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches are irregular visitors, having been absent for the most part recently; they may be encountered in the pines at higher elevations. Verdins are permanent residents; found in mesquites near Proctor.
Five species of wrens are resident in or near the Canyon. Cactus Wrens inhabits the scrubby desert at and below Proctor. House, Bewick's, and Canyon Wrens can be found throughout the Canyon. Rock Wrens are rarely encountered because their favored habitat is where few birders venture. Though rare, a Winter or Pacific Wren may inhabit damp brushy areas in the Canyon through fall and winter.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets return in September, becoming one of the most common birds seen and an identification challenge for those seeking Hutton's Vireos. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, though fairly common on the oak-savannah hillsides during the summer, their numbers diminish through fall to be absent by winter. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers are residents of the mesquite grasslands below Proctor. Black-capped Gnatcatchers were sporadic this summer along the Proctor Road Trail and hopefully continuing through the Fall.
The local population of Eastern Bluebird, though rare begins to form flocks and wander throughout the Canyon. Flocks of Western Bluebirds may be found wandering through the grasslands and lower Canyon by mid-October. Townsend's Solitaires are uncommon fall transients in the Canyon. The resident population of Hermit Thrushes is supplemented by northern breeders, which stay for the winter. Swainson's Thrush is an uncommon fall migrant in the Canyon. Migrant American Robins arrive in mid-October supplementing the local breeding population, forming flocks searching the Canyon for berries. Look in berry producing bushes for the rare Aztec Thrush that very rarely occur in the fall.
Northern Mockingbirds and Curve-billed Thrashers can usually be found along Whitehouse Canyon Rd. Crissal Thrashers can sometimes be seen or heard along Proctor Road and at Florida Wash. Phainopepla are common in the mesquite grassland all year feeding on mistletoe berries. An occasional flock of Cedar Waxwings might be found passing through the Canyon in search of berries.
Thirty-four species of wood warblers plus the Olive Warbler have been documented in the Canyon. Many are accidentals so don't expect to see them all! Migrants that move through the Canyon, most depart by late fall, include Orange-crowned, Nashville, Virginia's, Lucy's, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, Hermit, Grace's, Wilson's, and MacGillivray's Warblers along with Northern Waterthrush (rare) and Yellow-breasted Chat (rare). Red-faced Warbler will depart by the end of September. The few warblers that remain in low numbers to winter include Painted Redstart, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, and Olive Warblers.
A few Hepatic, Western, and Summer Tanagers will remain in the Canyon in fall but will then depart south. A few Northern Cardinals may be found at Proctor and in the mesquite grasslands below. Pyrrhuloxias can sometimes be found at the Florida Wash crossing on the way up to the Canyon. Black-headed Grosbeak is abundant throughout the Canyon in the fall and rarely a migrant Rose-breasted Grosbeak stops by as well. Blue Grosbeak and Varied Bunting wrap up their late breeding season in the mesquite-grasslands and move south by mid-October. They may be joined by a rare Indigo or even rarer Painted Bunting. Green-tailed Towhees arrive in September while Canyon Towhees are resident around Proctor. Spotted Towhees perform an altitudinal migration through the fall, from the higher mountains to the lower Canyon.
Sparrows can be numerous in the grasslands during fall. Some breeding species remain but arrive from the north to winter here. Those to find in fall include Botteri's, Cassin's, Rufous-winged, Rufous-crowned, Chipping, Brewer's, Black-chinned (rare), Vesper, Lark, Black-throated, Savannah, Lincoln's, and White-crowned Sparrows from Proctor to the Santa Cruz River. Dark-eyed Juncos will return in late fall and Yellow-eyed Juncos will come down the mountain to feeders.
Eastern (Lilian's) Meadowlark is common in the grasslands. A few Western Meadowlarks may wander to the grasslands in late fall to winter. Most Hooded and migrant Bullock's Orioles leave the area by mid-fall, leaving a Scott's Oriole or two to overwinter in the Canyon. Most Brown-headed & Bronzed Cowbirds leave the Canyon by the end of September. Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, and Pine Siskins dominate the feeders in the Canyon through the fall. An early Cassin's (rare) or Purple (very rare) Finch may show up at the feeders. Lawrence's Goldfinch might be found in the grasslands but they are very rare and irregular. Red Crossbills may be present but they are irregular (not every year) at higher elevations.
See an unusual bird or one not on this or the bird checklist – Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, link to: http://birding.aba.org/maillist/AZ
For the Friends of Madera Canyon
Note to eBirders:
If you are entering eBird data for Madera Canyon there are a number of eBird hotspots in Madera Canyon. There are hotspots for each of the parking & picnic areas, feeding stations, and a number of the trails. Please use these hotspots when ever possible and do not merge a hike or drive through the canyon into one checklist. Also beware that the Pima – Santa Cruz County line cuts east-west through Madera Canyon. County boundaries are important for eBird data collection & reporting. The county line crosses Madera Canyon Road at the Madera Picnic Area, about at the midpoint of the big parking area on your left as you head up canyon. If you can see the Santa Rita Lodge, you are in Santa Cruz County so please use the "Madera Canyon—Santa Rita Lodge" hotspot. Otherwise use the "Madera Canyon—Madera Picnic Area" hotspot. If birding at the Bog Springs Campground, which is bisected by the county line, use the "Madera Canyon—Bog Springs campground" unless the birds you are noting are on the north side of the campground, then create a personal spot that is in Pima County.
Editor's Note: Additional birding information is available at Laurens' birding and nature guiding site, Desert Harrier.