Finding the Birds

Southwest winter resident Loggerhead Shrike, perched on dead sunflower stalk

Southwest winter resident Loggerhead Shrike, perched on dead sunflower stalk

If you're brand new to bird watching, you'll soon discover that, wherever you are, bird populations vary with the season of the year, the time of day, and availability of cover and food—offering what Ernest Hemingway might have called "a moveable feast." In many areas, local birding clubs as well as regional guides and checklists offer invaluable tips on the locations of the birds. 

- Bird Watching Basics
- Finding the Birds
- A Bird Watching Journal
- A Backyard Bird Sanctuary
- Bird Photography


In the spring and fall – seasons treasured by birders – you will find migratory birds such as waterfowl, song birds and raptors moving through the American Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyway corridors, heading north to summer nesting grounds or south to wintering sites. In the winter, some birds may take up local residence to wait for frozen northern prairies and forests to thaw. In the summer, local nesting birds go about the business of raising their families. 

At New Mexico's famous Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, for instance, snow geese and greater sandhill cranes arrive by the thousands in the fall, along with a few bald eagles, often spending the winter. Various waterfowl, raptors, wrens, thrashers, swallows, towees and other birds go about the business of nesting through the summer. 

Time of Day

Most of the bird community reaches the peak of activity in the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset, although waterfowl and raptors keep busy throughout the day and owls, whip-poor-wills and even mockingbirds (during the spring mating season) issue their calls into the night. (Early morning and late afternoon bring dramatic light for photographing the birds. See Bird Photography.)

Preferred Places

In the arid Southwestern United States, hosts of birds frequent the rivers, lakes, wetlands and playas, but perhaps the greatest diversity of species occurs at the intersections of environmental regimes. For instance, in southeastern Arizona's 1000-square-mile Chiricahua Mountain range, where the Sierra Madre, the Chihuahuan Desert, the Sonoran Desert and riverine systems converge, nearly 400 species of birds, including the elegant yrogon and 15 species of hummingbirds, congregate every summer. They account for nearly half the species in the continental United States. 

Birding Clubs

In communities across the United States, birding clubs hold meetings and conferences, organize field trips, conduct seasonal bird counts, publish newsletters, issue sightings notices, and maintain Internet sites. You will find extensive information about U. S. birding clubs and birding at

Regional birding checklists, which are available at many wilderness area visitor centers

Regional birding checklists, which are available at many wilderness area visitor centers

Regional Guides and Checklists

Across the country, at visitor centers of federal, state and local parks, especially those with wilderness areas, you'll find field manuals and checklists for the local bird population. These references offer guides for identifying birds, information on species' seasonal abundance, and descriptions of species' habitats and locations. (For additional information, see Bird Watching Basics, A Bird Watching Journal, and A Back Yard Bird Sanctuary.)

The bird clubs, guides and checklists serve as a perfect entrée to the adventure of birding. 

For information on other aspects of birding, see
Birdwatching Basics

A Bird Watching Journal
A Back Yard Bird Sanctuary
Bird Photography

Bird Watching Tips & Interesting Facts about Birds
Bird Watching at the Salton Sea
Wildlife Viewing at Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego



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