10 Rare Birds in Arizona: A Guide for Birdwatchers (2023)

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Arizona is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 500 species of birds calling the state home. While many of these birds are common, Arizona is also home to a variety of rare and beautiful species.

From the elegant trogon to the five-striped sparrow, there is something for every birdwatcher in Arizona. However, with so many rare birds in Arizona to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start.

In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the best places to see rare birds in Arizona and how to identify them. We will also provide tips on how to increase your chances of seeing these rare and elusive birds.

What are The Rare Birds in Arizona?

BirdPopulationWhere to See in Arizona
Elegant Trogon100Madrean Sky Islands
Arizona Woodpecker50Pinyon-juniper woodlands of central and eastern Arizona
Mexican Jay200Mountains of southeastern Arizona
Rose-throated Becard150Riparian forests of southeastern Arizona
Thick-billed Kingbird100Riparian forests and oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona
Violet-crowned Hummingbird75Mountains of southeastern Arizona
Varied Bunting50Riparian forests and oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona
Five-striped Sparrow25Arid grasslands of southeastern Arizona
Lucifer’s Hummingbird10Riparian forests and oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona
Blackburnian Warbler5Eastern United States and Canada, but occasionally strays west to Arizona
table: Rare Birds in Arizona

Rare Birds in Arizona: Elegant Trogon

Elegant Trogon
Image: Elegant Trogon

The Elegant Trogons are sought-after bird in the United States, and rare birds in Arizona, primarily in the southeast.

Elegant Trogons are found in riparian forests and oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona. They typically nest in tree cavities that have been made by woodpeckers.

Elegant Trogons are omnivores and eat a variety of insects, fruits, and berries. Elegant Trogons are easy to spot due to their striking appearance.

Males have a green back, red breasts, and a unique black-and-white tail. Females look similar but with a brown back and white breast.

Unfortunately, Elegant Trogons are vulnerable due to habitat loss and climate change.

Here are some tips for finding them in Arizona:

  • Go to the right places: Look in specific mountain ranges in southeast Arizona, like the Atascosas, Chiricahuas, Huachucas, and Santa Ritas.
  • Visit during spring and summer for the best chances.
  • Be patient as they can be hard to find.

If you’re lucky enough to see one, report your sighting to help other birders enjoy this beautiful bird.

Related: The State Bird of Arizona (2023)

Rare Birds in Arizona: Arizona Woodpecker

Arizona Woodpecker
Image: Arizona Woodpecker

The Arizona woodpeckers (Melanerpes arizonae) are rare birds in Arizona and also native to the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. Here are some key facts about this bird:

Appearance: Arizona Woodpeckers are small woodpeckers with black and white wings and a distinct black and white head. Males have a small red patch on their neck, while females do not.

Habitat: They are commonly found in dry regions, such as oak woodlands, pine-oak forests, and areas with saguaro cacti. They prefer locations with dead trees or branches for nesting and foraging.

Diet: Arizona Woodpeckers eat insects like ants, beetles, and caterpillars. They also eat fruits and berries, especially during the winter when insects are scarce.

Nesting: They love to nest in dead trees, cacti, or wooden poles, creating cavities for laying eggs and raising their young.

Conservation: Currently, the Arizona Woodpecker is not considered endangered. However, their populations can be affected by habitat loss and degradation.

Geographic Range: These woodpeckers are primarily found in the southwestern United States, including Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of western Texas. They are also present in Mexico, particularly in the Sierra Madre Occidental.

Arizona Woodpeckers are fascinating birds known for their striking appearance and their ability to thrive in arid environments.

Related: Doves in Arizona

Rare Birds in Arizona: Mexican Jay

Mexican Jay
Image: Mexican Jay

The Mexican Jays are another type of rare birds in Arizona. The Mexican Jay is a bird found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Here’s what you need to know:

Looks: Mexican Jays are medium-sized birds. They have blue feathers with a gray crown and white throat. Their distinctive feature is the black “face mask” around their eyes.

Habitat: You can spot Mexican Jays in pine-oak woodlands and pine forests, often in higher mountainous areas. They’re well-suited to these terrains.

Food: They eat a bit of everything, from acorns and pine nuts to insects, small animals, fruits, and even human food when it’s around.

Social Birds: Mexican Jays are highly social. They often live in big family groups and work together to raise their young.

Nesting: They build cup-shaped nests in trees, especially pine trees, using twigs and grass.

Conservation: Mexican Jays aren’t endangered, but their homes can be threatened by deforestation and development.

Range: You’ll find Mexican Jays in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, particularly in hilly regions.

Mexican Jays are not only visually striking but also known for their cooperative family life.

Related: Discover When Hummingbirds Leave Arizona

Rare Birds in Arizona: Rose-throated Becard

Rose-throated Becard
Image: Rose-throated Becard

The Rose-throated Becards are charming and rare birds in Arizona known for their eye-catching looks. Here are some straightforward details about it:

Appearance: These birds are small and gray with a distinctive pinkish throat and breast. They have a dark mask-like pattern around their eyes. Both males and females look quite similar.

Habitat: You can find Rose-throated Becards in woodlands, forests, and areas with lots of shrubs in parts of Mexico and Central America. They like places with dense vegetation and are often spotted in the lower parts of these areas.

Food: Their diet consists mainly of insects and spiders. They’re skilled at catching flying insects during aerial sallies, where they quickly dart out to snatch them.

Nesting: They build cup-shaped nests in trees or shrubs, often using spider silk to help secure their nests. These nests are well hidden among the thick vegetation.

Song: Rose-throated Becards are known for their pleasant songs, which include various whistles and chattering sounds. They use these vocalizations for communication and attracting mates.

Conservation: Currently, their conservation status is not a significant worry. However, in some places, their habitat could be at risk due to deforestation and habitat changes.

Where to Find Them: Rose-throated Becards are mainly found in Mexico, including the Yucatan Peninsula, and extend into parts of Central America.

These birds are not only lovely to look at but also fascinating in their hunting and nesting behaviors.

Related: 2 Types of IBIS in Arizona

Rare Birds in Arizona: Thick-billed Kingbird

Thick-billed Kingbird
Image: Thick-billed Kingbird

The Thick-billed Kingbirds rare birds in Arizona have some special qualities. Here’s the lowdown in simple terms:

Appearance: Thick-billed kingbirds are medium-sized birds, with gray-brown feathers and a yellow belly. What makes them unique is their thick, slightly hooked bill.

Habitat: You can find them in a variety of places, from woodlands to open areas with trees and shrubs. They like perching up high to catch flying insects.

Food: They mostly eat insects but may nibble on fruit now and then.

Nesting: Thick-billed Kingbirds build their nests high in trees or shrubs and defend them fiercely.

Sounds: They’re known for their loud, sharp calls and frequent “kip” sounds, which they use for communication and defending their turf.

Where to Spot Them: You’ll come across Thick-billed Kingbirds in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, typically in areas with a mix of trees, open spaces, and water sources.

Conservation: They’re not considered endangered, but changes in their habitat due to human activity can be a challenge.

These birds are intriguing due to their appearance and behaviors. If you’re in their habitat, especially where they can perch and hunt insects, you might get the chance to observe and enjoy the Thick-billed Kingbirds.

Rare Birds in Arizona: Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Image: Violet-crowned Hummingbird

The Violet-crowned Hummingbird, with its striking appearance, is a unique bird found in parts of Arizona. Here’s the lowdown:

Looks: These small hummingbirds are famous for their colorful feathers. They sport an iridescent violet crown, a greenback, and a white throat, making them easy to spot.

Habitat: In Arizona, they make their home in various settings, like desert canyons, areas near water, and pine-oak woodlands. They’re often drawn to places with flowers and water.

Diet: These little birds mainly sip nectar from a variety of flowers, helping to pollinate them. They also munch on insects and spiders for a protein boost.

Nesting: They create tiny cup-shaped nests on branches, usually in well-hidden spots. These nests are skillfully crafted using plant materials and spider silk.

Song: While they don’t sing like other birds, you might hear the faint hum of their wings as they hover near flowers and feeders.

Where They’re Found: Violet-crowned Hummingbirds can be spotted in the southwestern United States, including Arizona. They tend to be more common at higher elevations.

Conservation: Although they’re not considered endangered, it’s essential to ensure they have suitable habitats and enough food sources, including nectar-rich flowers.

These hummingbirds are not only a visual delight but also contribute to the ecosystem by pollinating plants.

Rare Birds in Arizona: Varied Bunting

Varied Bunting
Image: Varied Bunting

The Varied Buntings are colorful birds and rare birds in Arizona and can be found in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Here’s what you need to know:

Appearance: These birds are quite small, about 6-7 inches in length, with a wingspan of 10-12 inches. The males are the real showstoppers in Arizona, sporting a bright blue forehead, a red throat and breast, and a purple back and rump. Females, on the other hand, are less colorful, mainly brown with a whitish belly.

Habitat: Varied Buntings habitat include riparian forests and oak woodlands, especially in dense thickets with lots of hiding spots. You might also spot them in overgrown clearings and streambeds.

Food: They’re insect-eaters and enjoy a variety of bugs like beetles, caterpillars, and spiders. They also munch on berries and seeds.

Migration: These birds are migratory, flying down to Mexico and Central America for the winter, and returning to Arizona in the spring, leaving again in the fall.

Conservation: Varied Buntings are a concern in Arizona due to their limited habitat and declining numbers. They’re at risk of losing their homes, habitat fragmentation, and climate change.

Where to See Them: If you want to spot Varied Buntings in Arizona, your best bets are the Madrean Sky Islands, which include the Huachuca, Chiricahua, Santa Rita, and Atascosa Mountains. You can also try your luck in Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains and Oak Creek Canyon in the Red Rock Mountains.

Rare Birds in Arizona: Five-striped Sparrow

Five-striped Sparrow
Image: Five-striped Sparrow

The Five-striped Sparrows are small, slim, and rare birds in Arizona mostly found in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Physical Features: These sparrows measure about 5-6 inches in length, with a wingspan of 8-10 inches. They’re primarily brown with a white belly and a distinctive white stripe above each eye. Their name comes from the five dark stripes on their throat and breast.

Habitat Preference: Five-striped Sparrows are at home in arid grasslands, shrublands, and dense thickets that provide good cover. They also inhabit rocky canyons and arroyos.

Diet: They’re insect-eaters, with a menu that includes beetles, caterpillars, and spiders, along with some seeds.

Migration: These sparrows are migratory, spending the winter in Mexico, returning to Arizona in the spring, and leaving in the fall.

Conservation Status: In Arizona, the Five-striped Sparrow is a species of concern due to its limited habitat and declining numbers. Threats include habitat loss, fragmentation, and climate change.

Prime Spots for Sighting: To catch a glimpse of a Five-striped Sparrow in Arizona, head to the isolated canyons in the southeastern part of the state, such as the Huachuca Mountains, Chiricahua Mountains, and Santa Rita Mountains. You can also explore the Altar Valley and the San Pedro Valley for potential sightings.

Rare Birds in Arizona: Lucifer’s Hummingbird

Lucifer's Hummingbird
Image: Lucifer’s Hummingbird

Lucifer’s Hummingbirds are rare birds in Arizona and dazzling and distinctive hummingbird species found in the southwestern United States, including Arizona. Here’s a brief overview:

Appearance: Lucifer’s Hummingbirds are small and known for their vibrant colors. Males have iridescent, vibrant red throats and crowns, while their bellies are a brilliant green. Females are usually more subdued, with greenish feathers and white underparts.

Habitat: You can spot them in a variety of habitats, including desert scrub, chaparral, and areas with agave and other desert plants. They are often found in arid and open landscapes.

Diet: Their diet mainly consists of nectar from a variety of desert flowers, which they sip with their specialized long bills. They also catch small insects for added protein.

Nesting: These hummingbirds build tiny cup-shaped nests in shrubs, often incorporating spider silk to help anchor their nests.

Song: While they aren’t known for their songs, you might hear the soft humming of their wings as they hover near flowers.

Range: Lucifer’s Hummingbirds are commonly found in the southwestern United States, including Arizona, as well as parts of Mexico. They can be seen year-round in warmer areas and may migrate to lower elevations in the winter.

Conservation: At present, these hummingbirds are not considered endangered, but maintaining their suitable habitat and food sources is essential.

These charismatic hummingbirds are a delight to observe, especially in the arid landscapes of Arizona, where they can be found sipping nectar from desert blooms.

Rare Birds in Arizona: Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler
Image: Blackburnian Warbler

The Blackburnian Warblers are small, vibrant, and rare birds in Arizona with some distinctive features:

Looks: Males are striking with an orange throat, black crown and face, and white belly. They’re mostly black and white. Females have a yellow throat and lack the bold black markings but share the black and white patterns.

Habitat: You’ll find them in mature coniferous forests, especially in hilly areas and mixed deciduous forests.

Food: They love to munch on insects, particularly caterpillars, and they’re great at picking bugs off leaves and branches.

Nesting: Their nests are cup-shaped and often perched in coniferous trees, close to the trunk. Both parents take care of eggs and chicks.

Travel Plans: These warblers are migratory. They spend summers in North America and head to Central and South America for the winter.

Conservation: They aren’t considered endangered, but preserving their forest homes is essential.

Blackburnian Warblers are a treat to spot, especially during the warmer months when they grace North American forests with their colorful presence.

Conclusion for Rare Birds in Arizona

Arizona is a great place to see rare birds, but it is important to be respectful of the birds and their habitat. Please do not disturb the birds or damage their environment. If you are lucky enough to see a rare bird, please report your sighting to a local birding club or online birdwatching resource. This will help other birders to find and enjoy these rare and beautiful birds.

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