By Dan Weisz
Here are a few bird photos I’ve been saving for you. Most of these birds can be seen in the Foothills. See if you can figure out which ones. I’ll give you the answer at the end of the page!
A Northern Cardinal was hanging around my backyard. There are periods of time where I will see several cardinals thoughout the day but they haven’t been around for a while. Can’t wait for them to return soon.
Cactus Wrens are everywhere. Those bright white eyebrows and red eyes are special. The wrens are Arizona’s State bird and they are speckled across their white chest and cinnamon sides. In this shot, you can see that the cactus wren’s tail is barred from below.
At the golf course we found a group of Blue-winged Teal, here for the winter. This shot shows a pair, the male in front and female in the back. The male’s bold white crescent in front of his eyes are striking and his black bill stands out.
I like this shot because it shows that blue-winged teals are ‘dabbling’ ducks- birds who feed by dabbling and upending in shallow water. Also, you can see the powder blue patch on the female’s wings, usually hidden unless in flight.
The body shape of the bird below tells you this is a Cooper’s Hawk, deep in the shadows at Tohono Chul Park. It has short wings and a long tail and lives and hunts among wooded areas. Those short wings give it bursts of speed and the long tail is used as a rudder to give the hawk excellent maneuverability among the branches as it chases its prey- small birds.
By processing the photo above, the highlights of the bird come alive. This is probably a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk as it has a yellow eye and still has brown feathers on its back and has not yet developed the dark cap of an adult.
A different angle helps even more to bring out the highlights of this Cooper’s Hawk.
And here is a series of one Burrowing Owl from the agricultural fields of Pinal County. He’s squinting in the sun at the huge entrance to his burrow.
A bit further down the road and looking back, you get a different sense of the area where this owl is perched.
And a close-up of the shot above.
A local Vermilion Flycatcher perched in a mesquite tree. This a young male whose red color is still coming in.
Finally, two photos of a Horned Lark in the farmland of Santa Cruz Flats. Horned Larks range throughout most of the United States. They live in large empty fields and are the color and size of a large clod of dirt. They get their names from small hornlike feathers that they can stick up on the back of their heads.
Here is a short piece on Horned Larks from the blog “Birdnote”. You can hear the Horned Lark’s beautiful sound: https://www.birdnote.org/show/horned-lark
All of the birds in this group can be seen in the Foothills with the exception of the Blue-winged Teals, the Burrowing Owl, and the Horned Larks!! But each of those three species can be seen in Southern Arizona every year!