Birding in Wickenburg
By Richard Fredrickson, Resident Naturalist at Rancho de los Caballeros
Wickenburg is becoming a not-so-well-kept secret area for birding in Arizona – with over 280 species of birds confirmed! The jewel in our birding crown is undoubtedly the Hassayampa River Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy, and stretching five miles along the Hassayampa River. For most of it’s course through the desert, the Hassayampa runs beneath the surface and is invisible except for the cottonwoods and willows tracing it’s flow; however through the Preserve, the water is forced above ground by the granite bed rock.
There are also natural springs and a small man-made lake at the Hassayampa River Preserve. Water in the midst of the Sonoran Desert is the draw for many of those 280 species: bitterns and herons (7); geese and ducks (19); raptors (20), with probably 7 species nesting including the first ever recorded nesting of red-shouldered Hawks in the state; hummingbirds (6); “flycatchers” (17); warblers (21); sparrows (21) blackbirds and orioles (11).
A short trip up the Hassayampa River puts you in Box Canyon, often showing surface water to draw many species, including Peregrine Falcons.
Wickenburg’s two golf courses have become oasis for many species of desert wildlife, certainly for many birds. The Wickenburg Country Club and Los Caballeros Golf Club course are both home to resident Harris’ Hawks, the Los Caballeros course also is blessed with resident Vermilion Flycatchers. Late spring and summer bring Orioles and Zone-tailed Hawks to the courses.
Last, but certainly not least, Wickenburg is surrounded by thousands of acres of Arizona Uplands sub-division of the Sonoran desert. Gila Woodpeckers and Gilded Flickers nest in the saguaros, and their abandoned nests provide homes for at least a dozen species of secondary cavity nesters, including Kestrels, Elf Owls, and Ash-throated Flycatchers. Phainopeplas are abundant, with plenty of Canyon and Abert’s Towhees.
With more and more people birding, sightings of “rare” birds are on the increase, the last couple of years have brought us Ruddy Ground Doves, a Rufous-backed Robin, and Lawrence’s Goldfinches.
Bring your binoculars and enjoy the beautiful outdoors birding “Out Wickenburg Way!”