If you continue on the road from Sunset Crater Volcano to Wupatki National Monument, you descend from ponderosa pine forest, through the pinyon/juniper woodland, to the grassland and cold desert shrub zone at Wupatki National Monument. All this in a distance of only 18 miles. With the change in landscape come changes in the kinds and numbers of birds.
Some species of birds are seen frequently in one park and rarely in the other. The Steller's jay can be seen at Sunset Crater. Its blue body and black crest distinguish it from all other jays. The call of the Steller's jay is a harsh "caw" and it can also imitate the call of other birds. At Wupatki you may find the greater roadrunner scurrying along the desert floor. It is a large ground- dwelling cuckoo streaked with brown and white, it speeds across the desert on long, strong legs. The long white-edged tail and long, heavy beak are its outstanding features.
Bird populations at Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments also change with the season. In the summer you may see the western bluebird and mountain bluebird at higher elevations at Sunset Crater Volcano, while Wupatki is frequented by the western kingbird and black-throated sparrow. Fall is full of surprises as birds migrate from higher elevations to lower ones. The raven is often heard with its distinctive "caw," its dark feathered body playfully soaring in the sky. The drumming of the red- shafted flicker is often heard. This jay-sized woodpecker uses its strong bill to search out wood-boring insects. Look for the dark silhouette of a golden eagle against the sky, and listen for the musical descending notes of the canyon wren.
Did You Know?
In the 1960s, astronauts practiced for the first lunar landings on cinder fields in and around Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument