Sweetwater Birdwatching

This has been on my list for months now, and having my parents in town was the perfect excuse to sign up for the early morning Audubon Society-guided birdwatching walk in the Sweetwater Wetlands. Quarter past six is pretty early in the morning for me, but it’s cool enough for a lazy meander and the birds are more likely to be out.

Gambel’s Quail

These guys are everywhere in Tucson, and their little bobbing topknots are adoreable!

Redwing Blackbirds

Our guide says we saw twenty of them, but I’d call that a low estimate. Every time I turned around, there was another redwing blackbird on a reed, on a tree branch, winging across the wetlands, fluttering down with its red shoulders on full display. And if it wasn’t a blackbird, it was a Great-tailed Grackle or a European Starling.

… and those blackbirds are aggressive, too! We even saw one attacking a…

Black-crowned Night-heron

Eventually he shook off the blackbirds and perched in the top of a tree, unusual for a heron.


I’m not sure I actually saw one, but I heard them, and their nests were everywhere. They enter the nests from underneath what looks like just a messy pile of sticks in the crook of the branches.


There were, as usual, so many of them everywhere that I hardly bothered photographing them: Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Eurasian Collared Pigeon.

little yellow birds

There sure are a lot of varieties of little yellow birds in the Sweetwater Wetlands: Western Kingbird, Common Yellowthroat, Lesser Goldfinch, Western Tanager, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler….

Ducks: Coots and a Mallard with ducklings

Apparently there were more ducks than these, but these are the ones I saw myself.

And later in the morning we saw some more coots with a turtle and that black-crowned night-heron lurking back left in the shadows.

Abert’s Towhee

Someone said these are rare finds for many bird-watchers, but incredibly common in Tucson, especially at Sweetwater Wetlands. They have incredibly powerful back legs that they use to dig through the dirt for bugs to eat.

American Bittern

This species is also apparently be quite elusive, but one has been hiding in the reeds at the eastern end of the wetlands. I just managed to grab two shots of the edges of the little guy before a big sound startled him back into the reeds….


Of course, I couldn’t resist some wildflower pictures, too, and in that first shot you’ll find a white-crowned sparrow.

… and more!

Then there’s a bunch more birds I wasn’t able to capture with my camera: (top to bottom from the column on the left) the White-crowned Sparrow, Anna’s Hummingbirds, a very mouthy Bell’s Vireo, Cliff Swallows, a Gila Woodpecker, a Green Heron, House Finch, at least one Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a cormorant overhead, lots of Northern Rough-winged Swallows, a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks atop an electric tower in the distance, Song Sparrows and a Vermillion Flycatcher either feeding her babies or trying to get a moment’s peace.

It was a great morning, and the kind of thing you could do over and over different times of year and see different kinds of birds passing through what is apparently a fairly busy migration route.

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