Birds

Although Tonto National Monument was established to preserve two prehistoric cliff dwellings, it also protects a great diversity of plant and animal life. Over 160 species of birds have been observed or heard within the Monument. Learn about the most commonly seen species below or download our bird list for a complete listing.

 
American Kestrel on a branch.
American Kestrel

NPS Photo/ H. Clark

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

Length: 9"
Wing-span: 22"
Diet: Insects and small animals

American Kestrels are one of the smallest falcons and most colorful raptors. Males have a blue head and wings which contrast with the rusty-red back and tail. Females are red on the wings, back, and tail. They are solitary and hunt within a small range.

 
black tailed gnatcatcher sitting on a bare branch

NPS Photo/M Pereira-Barros

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Polipotila melanura

Length: 4.5"
Wing-span: 5.5"
Diet: Small insects

This tiny songbird has a thin, straight bill and a long black tail. Dark gray above and paler gray underneath, their eyes stand out due to the white rings around them. Their call is a dry hissing pssh sound and a very harsh tssh-tssh-tssh series. Rarely heard, their song is a jumble of high chips and warbles.

 
Black-throated Sparrow sitting on the rocky ground.
Black-throated Sparrow

NPS Photo/ H. Clark

Black-throated Sparrow

Amphizspiza bilineata

Length: 5.5"
Wing-span: 7.75"
Diet: Insects and seeds

This relatively small sparrow has brown plumage, black throat and breast, and a white eyebrow. Juveniles do not yet have a black throat. Their calls are a jumble of notes that sound like tinkling bells.

 
Cactus Wren sitting on branch.
Cactus Wren

NPS Photo/ H. Clark

Cactus Wren

Campylohynchus brunneicapillus

Length: 8.5"
Wing-span: 11"
Diet: Insects and fruit

The Cactus Wren is a large, chunky bird with a long heavy bill, a long, rounded tail, and short, rounded wings. They are a speckled brown with bright white eyebrows. Often, their oval nests can be found in cacti. Their call is a low hallow kot given in a series. Their song is a log, chugging, unmusical series of krrr krrr krr.

 
Canyon Towhee sitting on a branch.
Canyon Towhee

NPS Photo/ H. Clark

Canyon Towhee

Pipilo fuscus

Length: 9"
Wing-span: 11.5"
Diet: Seeds, fruit, and insects

These large, warm-brown sparrows have long tails, chunky bodies, short rounded wings, and a short, thick bill. They are commonly seen on the ground in parking lots and underneath shrubs. Their call is a nasal tinny kidl or kilt while their song is a methodical, slow trill of short whistled notes: kild ti ti ti ti ti ti ti ti kill.

 
Canyon Wren sitting in a rock crevice.
Canyon Wren

Photo courtesy of Kevin Smith

Canyon Wren

Catherpes mexicanus

Length: 5.75"
Wing-span: 7.5"
Diet: Insects and spiders

This small songbird has a brown body, a white throat, and a long, thin bill. They usually climb around on rock faces looking for food. Their call is a high ringing buzz jink while their song is a cascading series of clear whistles ending with nasal hissing noises.

 
Male cardinal sitting on a rock.
Male Cardinal

NPS Photo

Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

Length: 8.75"
Wing-span: 12"
Diet: Seeds, fruit, and insect larvae

Cardinals are a fairly large, long-tailed bird with a short, very thick bill and prominent crest. Adult males are uniquely colored, with a bright red body, a black face, and an obvious, pointed crest. Adult females are similarly shaped, but are pale brown in color, with a reddish tinge on the wings, tail, and crest. Their call is a sharp, somewhat metallic chip. While their song is a series of high, clear, and mostly slurred whistles woit woit woit chew chew chew chew chew or pichew pichew tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw with many variations.

 
 
Common Raven in flight.
Common Raven

NPS Photo/ J. Smith

Common Raven

Corvus corax

Length: 24"
Wing-span: 53"
Diet: Opportunist feeders

This massive, entirely black bird has a thick neck and shaggy throat feathers. In flight, ravens have long, wedge-shaped tails. They are larger than crows with longer and more narrow wings. Their common call is a deep baritone croak brrrronk but they can make a wide variety of sounds.
 
Costa's Hummingbird in flight.
Adult Male Costa's Hummingbird

NPS Photo/ M. Stewart

Costa's Hummingbird

Calypte costae

Length: 3.5"
Wing-span: 4.75"
Diet: Nectar and insects

Adult males have a purplish crown and long flared throat feathers. The throat and under side of adult females are dingy white to pale gray with a pale "eyebrow". Their call is a very high, musical chip. Their song is a very high, thin, rising, and falling buzz.

 
Curve-bill Thrasher sitting on a Saguaro.
Curve-bill Thrasher

NPS Photo/ W. Moore

Curve-bill Thrasher

Toxostoma curvirostre

Length: 11"
Wing-span: 13.5"
Diet: Forages on the ground, tossing leaves and debris with their bill to expose insects and other invertebrates

This dull grayish brown bird is a large, long-tailed songbird. It has a long, thin, slightly down-curved bill. Its call is a distinctive, sharp, liquid whistle wit-WEET-wit. Its song is similar to other thrashers, but more harsh and hurried with many short, sharp notes such as quit quit and weet.

 
Gamble's Quail sitting on a branch.
Adult Male Gamble's Quail

NPS Photo/ M. Stewart

Gamble's Quail

Callipepla gambelii

Length: 10"
Wing-span: 14"
Diet: Seeds, leaves, and insects

This quail is plump, short-tailed, and has grayish plumage. Both adult males and females have the prominent tear-drop shaped head plume or double plume. Males give a repeated nasal pup waay pop with a short clipped final note call.

 
Gila Woodpecker on the side of a Saguaro cactus.
Adult Male Gila Woodpecker

Photo courtesy of Kevin Smith

Gila Woodpecker

Melanerpes urophyialis

Length: 9.25"
Wing-span: 16"
Diet: Insects, fruit, seeds, occasionally bird eggs, and lizards

This medium to large woodpecker has a barred black-and-white back, and a brown face and neck. Adult males have a red cap. They are a characteristic bird of Saguaro cactus forests. Their call is a loud harsh quirrrr. They drum long and steady.

 

Gilded Flicker

Colaptes chrysoides

Length: 11"
Wing-span: 18"
Diet: Insects, fruits, and seeds

This medium to large woodpecker is grayish brown, with a barred pattern on top and spotted pattern below. They have a black crescent on their chest. While in flight, their white rump and yellow wing patches are obvious. Their call is a long series of long wik-wik-wik notes.

 
House Finch sitting on a cactus.
House Finch

NPS Photo/ J. Smith

House Finch

Carpodactus mexicanus

Length: 6"
Wing-span: 9.5"
Diet: Seeds, fruit, and other insects

These small-bodied birds have fairly large beaks and somewhat long, flat heads. Their wings are short, making their tail seem long by comparison. Adult males are red around the face and upper breast, with a brown back, belly, and tail. Adult females are not red; they are a plain grayish-brown. Their flight call is a soft husky fidlp or vweet. Their song is a varied warble with a steady tempo; it begins with high clear notes and ends with lower blurry notes.

 
Adult Male Lesser Goldfinch sitting on a branch.
Adult Male Lesser Goldfinch

NPS Photo/ H. Clark

Lesser Goldfinch

Carduelis pstaltia

Length: 4.5"
Wing-span: 8"
Diet: Seeds

These tiny, stub-billed songbirds have long, pointed wings, and short, notched tails. Adult males are bright yellow below a black cap with white patches on their wings. Adult females have olive colored backs, dull yellow underparts, and black wings marked by two white wingbars. Their call is a high, clear wiry tleeee, teeeyEE, or teseeeeeeeeew. Their song is slow and hoarse, often imitating other species.

 
Phainopepla sitting on a branch.
Adult Male Phainopepla

NPS Photo/ M. Stewart

Phainopepla

Paihopepla nitens

Length: 7.75"
Wing-span: 11"
Diet: Berries

The phainopepla is a slender, long-tailed, round-winged bird with red eyes and a shaggy crest. Adult males are shiny black with white wing patches; adult females are grayish with white edging on all wing feathers. Their call is a low questioning hoi. Their song is a series of disjointed, short, warbled phrases that may be grating in quality.

 

Rock Wren

Salpinctes obsoleuts

Length: 6"
Wing-span: 9"
Diet: Insects and other arthropods

This small songbird has a pale gray back, faintly striped throat, a long tail, and a long, thin bill. They often stand on top of rock and bounce (as if doing deep knee-bends) while giving a ringing call. Their call is a ringing buss pdzeeee which can be heard from a great distance. Their song is series of buzzy, trilled, ringing phrases which are repeated three to six times in regular rhythm.

 
Say's Phoebe sitting on a roof.
Say's Phoebe

NPS Photo/ W. Moore

Say's Phoebe

Sayornis saya

Length: 7.5"
Wing-span: 13"
Diet: Insects

This slender, long-tailed flycatcher appears to have a large head for a bird of its size. They are a pale brownish color on their back with a cinnamon belly, a blackish tail and a gray breast. Their call is a low, plaintive, whistled pdeer or tueee. Their song is a series of relatively low, whistled phrases pidiweew and pidireep.

 
Turkey vulture flying above.
Turkey Vulture

NPS Image

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Length: 26"
Wing-span: 67"
Diet: Carrion

Turkey Vultures are large dark birds with long, broad wings. These wings have pale flight feathers giving them a two-toned appearance. Their head is red and featherless with a pale bill. While flying, they teeter. They make soft hissing and clucking noises which are seldom heard.

 
Verdin sitting amongst Saguaro fruit.
Verdin

NPS Photo/ C. Sadler

Verdin

Auriparus flaviceps

Length: 4.5"
Wing-span: 6.5"
Diet: Small insects, fruit, and nectar

Verdins are a small dull gray bird with a yellow face and chestnut shoulders. Their call is a clear tschep and rapid chip notes. Their song is a three-note whistle, tee tyew too, with the second note higher.

 
White-crowned Sparrow sitting on the ground.
White-crowned Sparrow

NPS Photo/ H. Clark

White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

Length: 7"
Wing-span: 9.5"
Diet: Seeds and insects

This large sparrow has a small bill and a long tail. They are a plan, pale-gray bird with a very bold black-and-white strip on the head and a pale pink or yellow bill. Their call is a sharp plink. Their song varies regionally, but often contains a series of buzzy trills on different pitches: feeee odi odi zeee zaaaa zooo.

 
White throated swift flying out of rock crevice.
White-throated Swift

NPS photo

White-throated Swift

Aeronautes saxatalis

Length: 6.5"
Wing-span: 15"
Diet: Flying insects

This small bird has a black back, wings, and tail and a white throat, belly, and sides of the rump. Their wings are long, pointed, and swept back. They are mainly seen around their nests on rocky cliffs, especially above the Lower Cliff Dwelling. Their call is a long descending series of scraping notes ki ki ki ki kir kir kir kiir kiir kirsh krrs krrsh.

 
 

Last updated: June 23, 2021

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