Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> City Birds

Common Urban Area Birds in the Sonoran Desert

The birds listed here are those that are likely to be seen in residential neighborhoods and along city streets in the heavily urbanized cities of Tucson, Phoenix, Glendale, Tempe and Mesa, Arizona. Some are birds typical of the desert areas as well that happen to find what they need in the city. Others are birds that have been introduced from the Eastern Hemisphere and have long lived near human habitations. Some city birds are not found at all in the pristine deserts; they are entirely dependent on man-made habitats. During migrations or extreme drought many other kinds of birds will be found in the Sonoran Desert cities. Birds more likely to be seen in and near water or riparian zones are shown on Riparian and Wetland Birds and those in the desert itself on Sonoran Desert Birds.

Great-tailed Grackle ♂
Quiscalus mexicanus
 © by Steve Maslowski

Very common glossy black birds with huge tail. Males irridescent black; female brown. Almost always near water. Also in cities. Year-round resident. More info

Great-tailed Grackle ♀
Quiscalus mexicanus
 © by Steve Maslowski

Very common black or brown birds with large tail. Males irridescent black; female brown. Almost always near water. Also in cities. Year-round resident. More info

White-winged Dove
Zenaida asiatica
 © by Mike Plagens

Larger. White patch in wing. Tail squared off. Spring and summer, rare rest of year. More info

Mourning Dove
Zenaida macroura
 © by Mike Plagens

Common year-round esp. near agric. and cities. Long, tapering tail. Blue skin around eyes. More info

Inca Dove
Columbina inca
 © by Mike Plagens

Very small doves restricted to town/farm areas - forages on ground. Rufous patch in wing. Long tail. Calls incessantly with soft coo. More info

House Sparrow ♂
Passer domesticus
 © by Mike Plagens

Abundant birds in yards, around garbage cans, and outdoor dining areas. Males richer brown and dark bib. More info

Anna's Hummingbird ♂
Calypte anna
 © by Wikimedia User:Mdf

When sunshine is behind the observer, head and throat appear magenta. Common in cites, desert washes and riparian habitats. More info

Anna's Hummingbird ♀
Calypte anna
 © by Mike Plagens

A few speckles of magenta possible on throat. Females of Costa's, Anna's and Black-chinned v. similar. More info

Eurasian Collared Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
thumb photo © by ornitholoco in Flickr

Grayish dove with black ring behind neck and rounded tail. Common near farm fields and urban yards; abundance increasing. More info

European Starling
Sturnus vulgaris
 © by Evil Saltine

Common to abundant black birds with a yellow beak and speckles or irridescence on feathers. More info

Rock Pigeon
Columba livia
 © by Mike Plagens

The common pigeon of cities everywhere, including the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. More info

Northern Mockingbird
Mimus polyglottos
 © by Mike Plagens

Musical singer and common in many habitats. Largely gray color with bold black and white in long tail and wings. More info

House Finch ♂
Carpodacus mexicanus
 © by Robert Shantz

Males have red on upper chest and head. Brown streaking lower belly. Common to abundant along washes, in cities and at feeders. More info

House Finch ♀
Carpodacus mexicanus
 © by Mike Plagens

Females are brown with a white belly. Heavy streaking on chest and belly. Common to abundant along washes, in cities and at feeders. More info

Abert's Towhee
Pipilo aberti
 © by Rich Ditch

Large, brown overall with thick seed-eating bill. Common near edges of irrigated yards and golf courses. Kicks leaves from soil to feed More info

Gila Woodpecker ♀
Melanerpes uropygialis
 © by Evil Saltine

These woodpeckers normally associated with Saguaros are also happy with palm trees. Adobe brown head; black & white banded back. Female w/o red on head. More info

Black Phoebe
Sayornis nigricans
 © by Mike Plagens

Common along the canals that pass through the Phoenix Metro area. Also around ponds and wastewater recovery. Silky black except for a lily white lower belly. Year round resident. More info

White-crowned Sparrow
Zonotrichia leucophrys
 © by Mike Plagens

Sharply contrasting black and white crown. Seed-eating bill orange-pink. Fairly common in-town during the winter months. More info

Peach-faced Lovebird
Agapornis roseicollis
 © by Mike Plagens

Colorful parrots often heard flying noisily overheard. Native to sw Africa! Nesting in palms. More info

Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis
 © by Robert Shantz

Very common soaring bird with pale tail reddish on *top*. Black feathers on wrists. Most common in winter and near agric. fields. More info

Verdin
Auriparus flaviceps
 © by Mike Plagens

Common in cities as well as the desert. Yellow head and small maroon patch on shoulder. Overall light gray. More info

Curve-billed Thrasher
Toxostoma curvirostre
 © by Mike Plagens

Likes fruit trees. Almost uniformly gray-brown bird with very faint speckles on chest. Long curved bill, long tail, yellow-orange eyes. Fantastic singer! More info

Lesser Nighthawk
Chordeiles acutipennis
 © by Jack Newville

Crepuscular and nocturnal. Acrobatic flights chasing insects in sky. White bands near wing tips. Cryptic plumage for daytime resting. More info

Brown-headed Cowbird ♂
Molothrus ater
 © by Robert Shantz

Glossy black with brown head. Strange gurgling call. Females all brown. Common near agriculture but also riparian and city areas. More info

Say's Phoebe
Sayornis saya
 © by Robert Shantz

Upright posture. Sits in open 1 to 2 meters above ground. Pale salmon color on chest/belly. Open areas as near athletic fields and large yards. More info


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