Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the Hummingbird Festival hosted by the International Hummingbird Society, in Sedona, Arizona. This week I have been watching hummingbirds!
I am currently down in Sierra Vista, Arizona, attending the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival. Southeastern Arizona has long been considered the hummingbird capital of the United States.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I have been leading a group of bird watchers from Las Vegas on bird walks. We visited many of the famous birding destinations found in southeastern Arizona including Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary, Ramsey Canyon, Miller Canyon, Madera Canyon, and Patagonia.
On Monday our group saw nine different hummingbird species; rivoli’s, rufous, Lucifer’s, white-eared, violet-crowned, broad-tailed, broad-billed, black-chinned and Anna’s. We also missed seeing several hummingbird species that had been seen recently at some of these locations including the blue-throated mountain gem (formerly called a blue-throated hummingbird) and Berylline hummingbird.
There are 358 known hummingbird species in the world—all occurring in the New World. The largest number of hummingbird species are found in the tropics, particularly in northern South America. While Arizona can boast having seventeen to eighteen species of hummingbirds, it is nothing in comparison to the number of hummingbirds found in places like Ecuador, Columbia, and Peru.
It has been very enjoyable to be back at these festivals that were suspended in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid-19 concerns. The last time I attended the Hummingbird and Southwest Wings Festival was 2019. After a three-year gap it has been really enjoyable to gather together to celebrate birds and help individuals strengthen their connection to nature through bird watching with quality optics.
Each day, before and after staffing our vendor booth, I took the opportunity to get out and do some birdwatching on my own. While in Sedona this past week, I visited Bubbling Ponds, which is adjacent to the Page Springs Fish Hatchery, the Sedona Wetlands, and Cave Springs in Oak Creek Canyon.
Leaving Sedona, I headed down to Sierra Vista, to be a guide for a couple of days before jumping into the festival which starts today. The birdwatching has been phenomenal. Part of our itinerary was to visit several pay yards. Some of these are operated by non-profits, and others are private property.
Pay yards are an easy way to get out and go bird watching. You literally drive up to the property, get out of your car, and walk into their yard (after paying a small fee of $5 to $10 dollars). Some of the pay yards have probably thirty to forty bird feeders—including nectar, seed, suet, and fruit feeders.
One of the advantages of birding at a pay yard is the fact that the birds are acclimated to the presence of people close to the feeders. The birds in these yards are not flighty, allowing for easy viewing of the birds.
At one pay yard, just south of Sierra Vista, we found a bizarre looking house finch with a deformed beak. The structure of its beak reminded me of the shape of a petrel’s beak. Despite its handicap, it seems to feed and socialize with other birds of the same species.
As a reminder, our local Prescott Audubon Society chapter will be offering a free guided bird walk this Saturday, August 6th, at 7:30 a.m. at Watson Woods Riparian Preserve. Experienced local bird watchers will guide participants on a bird walk that is open to the public. Park in the Peavine Trail parking lot on Sundog Ranch Road.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.