Granada Park

Granada Park in Phoenix, Arizona

This large Phoenix, Arizona, park, located south of Glendale Avenue near 20th Street, has two ponds open to recreational fishing, large grassy areas with plenty of shade trees, an exercise track, and a wide perimeter of more-or-less native desert habitat. As a result this park affords ample opportunities to view a variety of urban wildlife, especially birds and insects.

Phoenix City Parks Official Web Page

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Most kinds of birds have a preferred habitat type where they get food. At Granada Park there are three main habitats. The most expansive of these is mown grass lawn of mostly bermuda grass turf. Depending on the recent management these lawns might also have some weeds growing with the grass. Among the most conspicuous birds on the lawns are doves. The doves, working in groups of three to a dozen, are nipping off developing seed and flower heads from the grass plants. If they spot an insect or spider they might grab it too, but mostly they are herbivores: Miniature lawn mowers with wings?

Rock Dove

Photo © by Michael Plagens

To non-bird watchers this bird is simply called a Pigeon. They were brought to America as domesticated birds and many escaped and began breeding on their own in cities everywhere. Their original habitat was rocky cliffs for which man-made structures and bridges make good substitutes. Many multicolored forms have been bred over the past millennia, but most of those that breed out of captivity have reverted to the "wild-type" pattern: grey back, mantle, and tail; darker head, collar, and upper chest and often quite iridescent in the males. When cooing a potential mate, the males puff up their chest to display iridescent feathers. More info ...

Mourning Dove

Photo © by Michael Plagens

Mostly gray-brown, with a long tapered tail and a slender build. The wings produce a whistling sound as the birds fly off. Their forlorn cooing is a characteristic sound of farms and suburbs across America. More info ...

Inca Dove

Photo © by Michael Plagens

This is the smallest of the four doves likely to be seen here. At rest the birds have distinctive scalloped markings. As they fly off, the rich, brick-red patches show in the wings. The tail is rather long with conspicuous white on the sides. In Arizona these birds are mostly restricted to cities and agricultural areas where water is readily available. At Granada Park they seem partial to bare patches where they find scattered seeds. More info ...

White-winged Dove

Photo © by Mike Plagens

White-winged Doves are seen at Granada Park in the late spring and summer only. The fruit and seeds of the saguaro cactus are a vital food source for White-winged Doves. But in the cities they also eat great quantities of grass seeds. It is considerably larger than the Mourning Dove, has a squared off tail, and as the name suggests, broad white bands in the wings. This white band is conspicuous in flight. More info ...

Other Birds likely to be seen on turf grass at Granada Park:

Great-tailed Grackle

Photo © by Mike Plagens

This is the male Great-tailed Grackle. He's jet black with iridescence, piercing yellow eyes, and the trademark keel-like tail. Look for them at water's edge or catching bugs on freshly irrigated turf. More info ...

Great-tailed Grackle

Photo © by Mike Plagens

Female grackles look quite different. Muddy brown with an ample, but not huge, tail. Female Great-tailed Grackles feed the same way but mostly not in the company of the males. Males are often seen in small groups, strutting about, hoping to gain their attention. More info ...


Photo © by Michael Plagens

Killdeer are frequent birds at sea and lake shores, but they have also found expanses of open, mowed lawns suitable for hunting invertebrates. Note the double band at neck. More info ...

Northern Mockingbird

Photo © by Michael Plagens

When not seeking fruit, these birds hunt relentlessly for spiders, caterpillars and crickets in mown lawns. A patch of white flashes in the wings on flight and the tail is long, black with white on the edges. More info ...

Rosy-faced Lovebird

Photo © by Michael Plagens

After escaping from pet owners these small parrots found the desert city environment very kind. They are now among the most common birds around Phoenix! Native to Namibia. More info ...


Like ponds everywhere, there are plenty of dragonflies. The ones patrolling back and forth over the water are mostly males. They have established territories that they defend vigorously against intruders of the same species. Body contact and vigorous chases often ensue. Female dragonflies that enter a defended patch are chased away too, unless they submit to mating. Other dragonfly species may be chased as well. At least three species were present on June 1st: (1) Flame Skimmer aka Flame Skimmer (Libullela suturata) - brick-red body with red patches in the wings; (2) Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) - A dark brown bodied species with dark patches at the wing bases. (3) Sky-blue body with clear wings.

In September and October I have found Common Green Darner Dragonflies (Anax junius), including some pairs flying in tandem. The male is in front and grasps the female dragonfly just behind her neck with special claspers at the tip of his tail. The male thus escorts the female as she dips the tip of her abdomen into the water to lay eggs.

Pale blue Damsel Flies, a small, delicate relative of dragonflies can also be found. They sit with their wings folded above their back, whereas typical dragonflies hold their wings flat. Damsel flies frequently perch on poles of quietly patient fisherman.


Along the south driveway there are patches of Desert Senna (Senna covesii) (about 40 cm tall) with conspicuous yellow flowers in bloom. These flowers are attractive to yellow & black Sonoran Bumble Bees (Bombus sonoras) and to a lesser extent the much larger, jet-black Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa). (These docile bees rarely sting. Unless you squish the bee or attack its nest you won't get stung. They would rather flee than fight.) The abundant bean pods of Desert Senna suggest the Bumble Bee is a good pollinator. The pods are held on the plant until they ripen and split open. They face up so that a basket is formed holding the beans inside. Only when the plant is shook by strong winds as in a thunderstorm are the seeds bounced out ..... just when it's a good time to get dispersed!

Another flower belonging to the same subfamily of legumes (Ceasalpinioideae) is also blooming in the park, Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii), with brilliant orange and yellow flowers on a meter tall bush. It is very fascinating to contrast the two bees working these flowers. The nectar is too far down inside the floral tube, however, the bees gather only pollen which is born at the tips of the very long stamens. The bees hover out at the ends of the stamens brushing their hairy bodies against the anthers thus gathering pollen. Later the bees rake the yellow dust up into special pollen baskets on their third pair of legs. Only a few bean pods are set because the bees just aren't designed for this flower. Rather the flower is designed to be pollinated by butterflies, especially large swallowtail butterflies, which are rare in Phoenix this year. Down Tucson way large butterflies are more abundant and so the Bird of Paradise sets a lot more seed.

Sonoran Bumble BeeCarpenter Bee
Sonoran Bumblebee
Carpenter Bee




Can flies be interesting? Don't think of House Flies and Blow Flies that gather about human-generated filth! There are thousands of fly species that avoid such material, never bother people, and have fascinating stories to tell. For example, at the shore of the ponds can be found Dance Flies (Empididae) that rarely venture far from the water's edge. Male Dance Flies, roughly 5 mm, can be found guarding the tops of flat stones. They run swiftly about the rock challenging intruders to side-to-side maneuvering and head butting. Like miniature rams, they defend their right to mate with female empidids that come to lay their eggs in the mats of dead algae that have washed up on shore.

Other Urban Habitats

Phoenix & Scottsdale Canals           Scottsdale Ponds           Desert Botanical Garden

Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page

Sonoran Desert Places

Urban Habitat Index Page

Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1998-2011
Updated 24 Nov. 2019.