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Birds & Birding Regional Birder

This is regional birding information for:

Southwest & Texas
January 2017

North America has four distinct deserts, all located in the Southwest: The Great Basin desert, dominated by sagebrush, and colder than the others; the Mojave, in Nevada and California, where Death Valley is located; the Chihuahuan, in Texas and New Mexico, known for its century plants (agaves); and the Sonoran desert, the most beautiful of all, in Arizona and California, famous for its giant saguaro cactus.

There are also mountains in the Southwest, sometimes referred to as "islands in the sky." Yet, the overriding influence throughout the Southwest is its dryness. The lack of water affects the entire ecosystem. In fact, that's what makes it so different from any other region of the country.

Backyard Birds

The most common backyard birds in the Southwest include white-winged, mourning and Inca doves; gila and ladder-backed woodpeckers; cactus wren; great roadrunner; curved-billed thrasher; Mexican and pinyon jays; bridled titmouse; pygmy nuthatch; Anna's and black-chinned hummingbirds; spotted, Abert's, and green-tailed towhees; dark-eyed junco; western bluebird; black-headed grosbeak; western tanager; phainopepla; Gambel's and scaled quail; great-tailed grackle; Bullock's and Scott's orioles; house and Cassin's finches; and lesser goldfinch.

Regional Birds

Most of birds in the Southwest are those that have adapted to the arid climates of the deserts, canyons and mountains. The woodpeckers often excavate their nesting cavities in the trunks and arms of giant cacti. Elf owls also use those cavities to raise their young. There are several species of doves, thrashers, quail and orioles, and there are many hummingbirds. In fact, one canyon in southeast Arizona brags of recording 15 species of hummingbirds.

What's happening in your backyard this month
  • Peak of winter bird feeding season; greatest number and varieties of winter birds are present.
  • Owls are singing: great horned are hooting; spotted owls are barking and screech-owls are whistling.
  • Sign of spring as American goldfinches show spots of yellow; dark-eyed juncos are singing.
  • As storms approach, birds feed more heavily in anticipation of severe weather.
What to do in your backyard this month
  • Feed suet to maintain birds' high energy.
  • Collect discarded Christmas trees to create instant cover for birds.
  • Put up one bird house for birds to roost in during cold weather.
  • Keep feeders filled; offer a variety of food in different feeder types and locations.