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Birds of the Southwest Desert

Birds of the Southwest Desert Collection

When I think of the desert, I didn't used to think of birds. But after moving to Arizona from Oregon, I found that the desert is full of wildlife, especially birds, and that there are even a few that I wouldn't have associated with the desert, like shorebirds. Even more surprising was finding out that Southeastern Arizona is a birding hotspot! The summer monsoon season makes it wet and green - on my first visit to the Patagonia area I was astonished to see it so lush and green in the middle of August that I thought I was back in Oregon! This collection shows the birds that I've come to think of as birds of the Arizona and New Mexico deserts.


Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia - Dave Jasper's Feeders, Foothill Road - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A male Pyrrhuloxia perches on a branch. These birds are in the Cardinal family, but are just found in the southwest states. They're common in southern Arizona, although they are shy. This is a male and as you can see...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III at
Dave Jasper's Feeders, Foothill Road in Portal, Arizona


Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike - Whitewater Draw - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Loggerhead Shrike perches near the water. On a very cold day at Whitewater Draw in Southern Arizona, this Shrike seemed more interested in conserving energy than worrying about the photographer stalking him. I was...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III at
Whitewater Draw in McNeal, Arizona


Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher - Whitewater Draw - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Vermilion Flycatcher finds a perch on a twig. Here is a classic example of what you can do when you understand the habits of a bird species. Flycatchers often return to the same perch over and over again in between...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III at
Whitewater Draw in McNeal, Arizona


White-Winged Dove in Saguaro

White-Winged Dove in Saguaro - Piestewa Peak - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

I lugged a tripod and about 25 pounds of gear up Piestewa Peak hoping to find something interesting - and I did. White-Winged Doves are common in Phoenix neighborhoods and are not too thrilling in that setting. But...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D at
Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, Arizona


Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird - Piestewa Peak - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

An Anna's Hummingbird momentarily perches on a prickly twig. In the mornings, I would find these hummingbirds feeding on the small flowers of some scraggly trees at the top of Piestewa Peak in Phoenix....  »

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D at
Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, AZ


Common Raven at Canyonlands

Common Raven at Canyonlands - Canyonlands National Park - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

This Common Raven was perched on a branch just a few feet from my car at the Mesa Arch trailhead in Canyonlands National Park. Ravens are very smart birds, and this one was probably used to finding food left behind...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D at
Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah


Cranes in the Mist

Cranes in the Mist - Bosque Del Apache NWR - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A pair of Sandhill Cranes stand out in the early morning fog. Some mornings are too foggy at Bosque Del Apache to watch the flyout at the main pond, so that's when I like to go to the crane pools to try for...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache NWR in San Antonio, New Mexico


Sandhill Cranes Silhouetted at Sunset

Sandhill Cranes Silhouetted at Sunset - Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Sandhill Cranes fly across a neon sunset. For some reason, the sunrise and sunsets in New Mexico seem to be more colorful than in most places I've been. So when there's not enough light to photograph anything else,...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, New Mexico


Misty Morning Sunrise

Misty Morning Sunrise - Bosque Del Apache NWR - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Great Blue Heron quietly stalks its prey on a foggy morning at Bosque del Apache as the sun rises, while thousands of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes take flight. This photo won a fifth place in the...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache NWR in San Antonio, New Mexico


Sandhill Crane at Dusk

Sandhill Crane at Dusk - Bosque Del Apache NWR - © Copyright Ed Bustya

Bosque Del Apache is the most amazing place in November when about 60,000 Snow Geese and 10,000 Sandhill Cranes visit. It's a bird photographer's paradise! The Sandhill Cranes roost in ponds at night,...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache NWR in San Antonio, New Mexico


Sandhill Crane Foraging

Sandhill Crane Foraging - Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Sandhill Crane foraging for food in one of the fields at the Bosque. During midday, when most of the cranes are feeding in the corn fields, it's time to cruise the refuge roads to see what else might be found. The...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, New Mexico


Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher - Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Someone at the Wings Over Wilcox bird festival told me I could find Vermilion Flycatchers at Whitewater Draw, which was all the inspiration I needed to go check it out. I hoped I might see some, and maybe get a photo or two. But things...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area in Arizona


Gambel's Quail at Dawn

Gambel's Quail at Dawn - San Pedro House - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Gambel's Quail perches in brush in the light of early morning near San Pedro House. These quail are more skittish than most of the other birds, so it's hard to get very close to them. They are more abundant near...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
San Pedro House in Hereford, Arizona


Curve-Billed Thrasher in Cholla

Curve-Billed Thrasher in Cholla - San Pedro House - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Curve-Billed Thrasher perches atop a cholla cactus. The wild-eyed Curve-Billed Thrasher makes a loud whistling sound. If you whistle back at them, you can sometimes carry on a "conversation." San...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
San Pedro House in Hereford, AZ


Pyrrhuloxia Female

Pyrrhuloxia Female - San Pedro House - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A female Pyrrhuloxia perches in the leafless branches of a desert plant in winter. Pyrrhuloxia's are very common in the mornings near the feeders at San Pedro House in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The trick is...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
San Pedro House in Sierra Vista, AZ


Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl - Whitewater Draw - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Great Horned Owl watches from its perch at Whitewater Draw, a wildlife area run by the state of Arizona. I first learned about Whitewater Draw at the Wings Over Wilcox bird festival in January. A few hundred Sandhill...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Whitewater Draw in Sierra Vista, Arizona


Vermilion Flycatcher in Mesquite

Vermilion Flycatcher in Mesquite - San Pedro House - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

San Pedro House in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is a good place to find many different kinds of birds. Although many of the birds come to the feeders, the Vermilion Flycatcher catches all of its...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
San Pedro House in Sierra Vista, Arizona


American Avocets

American Avocets - Cochise Lake - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A pair of American Avocets look across the water. People are often surprised to learn that shorebirds like these can be found in the desert - most people expect to see them only on the ocean shore. But Avocets and...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Cochise Lake in Willcox, Arizona


Black-Necked Stilt

Black-Necked Stilt - Cochise Lake - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Many people are surprised to discover that there are shorebirds in the desert. They can be found at certain times anywhere there's a decent-sized body of shallow water and/or muddy shores. The trick to making good images of shorebirds...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Cochise Lake in Willcox, Arizona


American Avocet

American Avocet - Cochise Lake - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

The trick to making good images of shorebirds is to get the background to be more interesting than the normal bright, glaring water or the weedy unattractive mudflats. One of the things I teach in my Bird Photography Workshop is how...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Cochise Lake in Willcox, Arizona


White-Winged Dove in Saguaro

White-Winged Dove in Saguaro - Mohave Trail, Squaw Peak Park - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

I lugged a tripod and about 25 pounds of gear up Piestewa Peak hoping to find something interesting, and I did. White-Winged Doves are very common in Phoenix in the neighborhoods and are not very interesting in that setting. But it...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Mohave Trail, Squaw Peak Park in Phoenix, AZ


Dove and Thrasher Standoff

Dove and Thrasher Standoff - Mohave Trail, Piestewa Peak - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

This White-Winged Dove and Curve-Billed Thrasher stare each other out to determine which will enjoy the fruits of this saguaro cactus. They seem to be annoyed with each other, but there were so many...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Mohave Trail, Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, Arizona


American Kestrel

American Kestrel - Gilbert Water Ranch - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

An American Kestrel perches at the top of a tree. These small, colorful falcons are fun to watch. They hunt for bugs and small rodents in the fields. They'll often flap their wings wildly and hover about 20 feet above...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Gilbert Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona


Sandhill Crane Deep in Thought

Sandhill Crane Deep in Thought - Bosque Del Apache - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Sandhill Crane pauses to reflect as it moves from one corn field to another. It was one of those days where the cranes were far from sight except for a small group near the road, but they had their heads to the ground...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache in San Antonio, NM


Snow Goose Banks for Landing

Snow Goose Banks for Landing - Bosque Del Apache - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Snow Goose banks as it prepares to land in the corn fields. These birds are skittish and take off and land everytime they get spooked, so it's pretty easy to get photographs of these birds all day long. But during midday, the light...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache in San Antonio, NM


Sandhill Crane Altercation

Sandhill Crane Altercation - Bosque Del Apache - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A pair of Sandhill Cranes appear to be fighting over something....  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache in San Antonio, NM


Snow Geese Landing

Snow Geese Landing - Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A pair of Snow Geese land in the corn field. When you see them "waddle" out of the sky like this, it makes you wonder how the heck they can fly......  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in San Antonio, New Mexico


Common Raven

Common Raven - Canyonlands National Park - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Ravens make all kinds of odd sounds. In red rock country, it's common to hear a lone raven flying along the cliffs, their caw-cawing echoing through the canyon. But they also make some guttural noises that almost sound like they're...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah


Common Raven

Common Raven - Canyonlands National Park - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Ravens make all kinds of odd sounds. In red rock country, it's common to hear a lone raven flying along the cliffs, their caw-cawing echoing through the canyon. But they also make some guttural noises that almost sound...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah


California Condor

California Condor -  - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

The California Condor is an endangered species. When there were only 22 birds left in 1987, the remaining birds were captured in order to build the population in captivity. Beginning in 1991, a few have been reintroduced...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Marble Canyon, AZ


California Condor

California Condor -  - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

The California Condor is an endangered species. When there were only 22 birds left in 1987, the remaining birds were captured in order to build the population in captivity. Beginning in 1991, a few have been reintroduced...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Marble Canyon, AZ


Spotted Towhee in Berry Bush

Spotted Towhee in Berry Bush - Bubbling Ponds - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

In a secluded thicket near Page Springs in the Verde Valley, I found a Spotted Towhee eating from the same bush as a Hermit Thrush, and a small group of Javelina came through the area while I was...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bubbling Ponds in Page Springs, Arizona


Hermit Thrush And Berries

Hermit Thrush And Berries - Bubbling Ponds - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

In a secluded thicket near Page Springs in the Verde Valley, I first spotted this Hermit Thrush plucking berries from a bush that was covered in fruit. I also found a Spotted Towhee eating from the...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bubbling Ponds in Page Springs, Arizona


Spotted Towhee Eating Berries

Spotted Towhee Eating Berries - Bubbling Ponds - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

In a secluded thicket near Page Springs in the Verde Valley, I found a Spotted Towhee eating from the same bush as a Hermit Thrush, and a small group of Javelina came through the area while I was...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Bubbling Ponds in Page Springs, Arizona


Gila Woodpecker Eating Berries

Gila Woodpecker Eating Berries - Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

The woodpecker that I notice most often in Central Arizona is the Gila Woodpecker. You can always tell when they're around because of the frequent squeaking noises they make. They will peck at anything searching for...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Page Springs, Arizona


Northern Cardinal Female in Winter

Northern Cardinal Female in Winter - Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

The female Northern Cardinal looks drab from a distance, but up close in the warm morning light you can see that they are very pretty and colorful. This was the mate to the cardinal in the male cardinal photograph....  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Page Springs, Arizona


Northern Cardinal Male

Northern Cardinal Male - Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

At the Page Springs fish hatchery, which is in the Lower Oak Creek Canyon Important Bird Area (IBA), I found a pair of Northern Cardinals. During the winter, the bare branches of the trees make it easier to find and...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Page Springs, Arizona


Belted Kingfisher at the Hatchery

Belted Kingfisher at the Hatchery - Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

This Belted Kingfisher gorges itself on fish it plucks out of the show pond at the fish hatchery. I've watched it catch fish, after fish, after fish, until I thought it wouldn't be able to fly because of all the weight...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Page Springs, Arizona


Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler - Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Yellow-Rumped Warbler pauses briefly on a reed. This little fellow would not sit still for long and made it very difficult to photograph. But it didn't seem to mind me, so I was able to get within 20 feet or so. It finally sat still...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Page Springs, Arizona


Great Horned Owl Chicks

Great Horned Owl Chicks - Hospital - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

The Great Horned Owl chicks in this image are known in Cottonwood, Arizona as the "hospital owls." For several years, owls have been nesting in the eaves above the entryway to the hospital. I made this image of the...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Hospital in Cottonwood, Arizona


Black-Headed Grosbeak

Black-Headed Grosbeak -  - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Black-Headed Grosbeak perched in an apple tree. These birds seem to be common in the Verde Valley in the Spring, but then disappear in late Summer or early Fall. They'll come to the feeders for sunflower seeds....  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Clarkdale, Arizona


Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager - Dead Horse State Park - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Summer Tanager sits on a stump waiting for bees to catch and eat. Several bees were caught while I watched, so there must've been a hive nearby....  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Dead Horse State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona


Phainopepla in Mesquite

Phainopepla in Mesquite - Page Springs Fish Hatchery - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Although they occur in other parts of Arizona, it seems like Phainopeplas are much more common in the southern part of the state. These birds' lives are intertwined with mistletoe....  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Page Springs Fish Hatchery in Page Springs, Arizona


Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker - South Fork Road - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Acorn Woodpeckers can look very comical, especially when in groups such as at the hummingbird feeders at the SW Research Station near Portal, Arizona. This image with colorful cliff walls as a backdrop was made near...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
South Fork Road in Portal, Arizona


Roadrunner Searches for Lizards

Roadrunner Searches for Lizards - Foothill Drive - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Roadrunners are curious, funny birds. The sound that roadrunners make is interesting too - they bend over and puff up their chest, then make a sort of cooing sound like a mourning dove. They also make a fast clicking...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Foothill Drive in Portal, Arizona


Western Kingbird on Barbed Wire

Western Kingbird on Barbed Wire - Whitewater Draw - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

A Western Kingbird perches on a barbed-wire fence along a dirt road near the Whitewater Draw wildlife conservation area in the Sulphur Springs valley. It is in a very remote, dusty part of Southern Arizona. Old ranches...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Whitewater Draw in McNeil, Arizona


Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner - Willow Tank - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Roadrunners are curious, funny birds. The Roadrunner in the photo to the right decided it needed to inspect my gear and got so close I had to switch to a camera with a smaller lens. Until I saw them up close, I didn't...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Willow Tank in Rodeo, Arizona


Sandhill Cranes Banking on Approach

Sandhill Cranes Banking on Approach - Whitewater Draw - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

Sandhill Cranes bank as they approach the ponds of the Whitewater Draw wildlife conservation area in the afternoon. In 2008, a record number of Sandhill Cranes, over 30,000, were reported to be wintering in the Sulphur...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II at
Whitewater Draw in McNeal, Arizona


Cactus Wren in Cholla

Cactus Wren in Cholla - Sabino Canyon - Image © Copyright Ed Bustya

What better place for an image of a Cactus Wren than on a cactus? Cactus Wrens are little birds that make a loud, distinctive noise that makes them sound much bigger than they are. Somehow, these birds know how to...  »

Taken with a Canon EOS 20D at
Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Arizona


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