• Sonoran Desert at Organ Pipe NM

    Organ Pipe Cactus

    National Monument Arizona

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Birds

Curious Gila Woodpecker

Who are you looking for?  This Gila Woodpecker is one of several hundred species birders look for in the monument

Don Dirks, NPS volunteer

It seems like just about everything at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is in a hurry to get someplace else. Our fantastic birds are a primary example. We sit along a primary migratory flyway and because of this, birding is a popular and fantastic recreational opportunity.

Over 270 bird species have been recorded in the monument. The vast majority visit the monument only while migrating, taking advantage of the desert’s seasonal flowers, fruits, and warm winters. There are 36 species of resident birds that can be found throughout Organ Pipe Cactus NM, from the oasis at Quitobaquito to the cliffs in Arch Canyon.

Some of the more common bird species sighted regularly at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument include:

  • Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)
  • Curve-Billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)
  • Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis)
  • Common Raven (Corvus corax)
  • Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)
  • Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
  • Costa’s Hummingbird (Calypte costae)
  • Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
  • Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi)
  • Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii)
 
Male Costa's hummingbird drinking from a pentstemon plant

Costa's hummingbirds are a treat that can be found year round in front of the Kris Eggle Visitor Center

Don Dirks, NPS volunteer

While there is an opportunity to round out a birding “life list” anywhere in the monument’s borders, birders have best luck in a few specific spots.

Kris Eggle Visitor Center:
Both at the picnic ramadas by the parking lot and the “Ciénega” out back are prime spots for bird watching. Birds seen very frequently over the past years include Northern Cardinals, Cactus Wrens, Curve-billed Thrashers, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Gila Woodpeckers, Canyon Towhees, Black-throated Sparrows, Gambel’s Quail, and Phainopeplas. Expect to see some of these in each visit. Also observed there, in much lesser numbers, are Costa’s Hummingbird, Sage Thrashers, Cooper’s Hawks, Verdins, Pyrrhaloxia, and Varied Buntings.

 
northern cardinal

Northern Cardinals are the ultimate "snowbird" spending their winters with us.

Don Dirks, NPS volunteer

Alamo Canyon:
Perhaps the best birding area in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is up in Alamo Canyon. This verdant trail testifies to increased rainfall in this part of the park. Hike up the trail, passing the old ranch building on the left, to the end of the corral near the terminus of the trail. You will pass a stock tub and water tank. Take the trail to the wash and sit down on a rock. The best time to watch for birds in this area is usually from 8:00 am to 10:00 am during March and April. Lucy's warbler has been seen near mesquite trees in early April.

 
Arizona's State Bird, the cactuswren

Our statebird, the cactus wren, is usually mischievious and always around

Don Dirks, NPS volunteer

Twin Peaks Campground:
You might be able to add either a Hooded or Scott’s Oriole to your list in Mid-march. Listen for owls and Common Poorwills, particularly after Evening programs when the weather is warm.

Ajo Mountain Drive:
Several Bird of Prey species can be seen soaring around the mountains, including Golden Eagles. Be sure to look closely at groups of Turkey Vultures, they may include Caracaras or Zone-tailed Hawks.

 

General Birding Tips:
During periods of extended dryness, areas which hold water are usually good. Tinajas are small depressions which hold water for long periods. Watch for an explosion of birds out of the tanks as you approach. Enjoy the tinajas, but please do not stay too long. Wildlife also use these places to drink.

Before starting out, stop to talk with a member of the staff at the VC. Usually, at least one birder is on duty and they may be able to fine-tune your trip. But, most birders know that birding does not always mean finding.

Patience is the key, the longer you can look, the more likely you will find. And remember, most of our migratory birds are on their way to someplace else, just like our visitors who also move on to other destinations.

 
Phainopeplas can be seen most of the winter, look for them near desert mistletoe when it is in fruit.
Phainopeplas can be seen most of the winter, watch for them near desert mistletoe while it is in fruit.
Don Dirks, NPS volunteer
 

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