oriolebullocksmaletinneyApril is such a great time for bird watching in the central highlands of Arizona. Spring migration will be kicking into high gear by mid-month and some of North America’s most beautiful migratory songbirds will begin to appear at seed, suet and nectar feeders.

Each spring at least three oriole species arrive in the Prescott area; Bullock’s, Scott’s, and hooded. It was just a few years ago that a Baltimore oriole showed up in Victorian Estates subdivision on Highway 69. If you don’t have your oriole feeder out yet, I would encourage you to clean your feeder, and fill it with fresh sugar water. Additionally, grape jelly, citrus and live mealworms are a great way to attract orioles to your yard.

Some other colorful birds that will start showing up over the next few weeks are tanagers. There are three varieties that occur here; Western, summer and hepatic. Tanagers, like orioles, are not seed-eaters but can be tempted to visit backyards with fresh fruit, grape jelly, and mealworms-and most importantly, a source of water.
Another family of spring migrants is grosbeaks. The most common variety is the black-headed grosbeak, but we also get blue grosbeaks, and a handful of rose-breasted rrosbeaks are sighted each spring in the Prescott area. I have never seen a rose-breasted in my yard, but over the years several of our customers have documented their rare occurrence here.

Then there are hummingbirds. Anna’s hummingbirds have already been here for several months, but mid-April is when many migratory hummingbird species start showing up in Prescott including black-chinned, broad-tailed, Rufous, and low numbers of Calliope hummingbirds. If you don’t have your hummingbird feeders up yet – now is the time.

With all of these returning songbirds it is no wonder that the Highlands Center for Natural History is kicking off their third annual ‘Birding Spree’ program this Saturday at 8 a.m. I invite you to join me Saturday for a brief presentation on bird identification followed by a free guided bird walk. If you have not picked up your Birding Spree brochure they are available at Jay’s Bird Barn and at the Highlands Center campus on Walker Road.

Every Saturday in April and May there will be free guided bird walks to help you see many of these returning spring migratory birds. Volunteers from the Prescott Audubon Society will be leading bird walks to a variety of local birding hot spots such as the Highlands Center property, Watson Woods, White Spar Campground, Granite Basin, and other destinations. For more information on the Birding Spree, contact the Highlands Center at 776-9550.

Another upcoming event to celebrate the diversity of wild birds in this area is the “Get Out … Get Into It! Discover Prescott’s Natural History” one-day festival on Saturday, April 16. The crowning event is the dedication of the Watson Willow Lakes Ecosystem Important Bird Area (IBA). This is a community event and is being sponsored in part by the Prescott Audubon Society, Prescott Creeks, Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, the Highlands Center for Natural History and the City of Prescott.

There will be interpretive walks throughout the day at both Willow and Watson lakes and at Watson Woods Riparian Preserve that highlight the area’s birds, plants, geology, archeology, and trail system. For more information on this event visit the Prescott Audubon Society website at www.prescottaudubon.org.