What kinds of birds can you find in Phoenix, Arizona?
Despite being a large city, I think you would be surprised at the number of species that you can find in downtown Phoenix and the surrounding areas. Many types of birds can adapt to the presence of humans, even building nests and raising their babies in close proximity. In addition, there are other parks and other green spaces that offer hiding spaces for shyer birds.
Below, you will learn the TEN most common birds that are found around Phoenix!
#1. Great-tailed Grackle
- Quiscalus mexicanus
- These blackbirds are fairly large, slender, and have long legs,
- Males are iridescent and completely black. Look for their bright yellow eyes and long V-shaped tail.
- Females are about half the size of males. Their upperparts are dark brown, while below, they feature paler brown plumage.
Great-tailed Grackles are brash birds in Phoenix that are often found in large flocks. It’s common to see them living near people, such as at parks, farms, landfills, or neighborhood backyards. Naturally, they live in open forests, marshes, and chaparral. Their range has spread over the past century because of their fondness for agricultural areas and urban areas. In fact, they are one of the fastest expanding species in North America!
Great-tailed Grackle Range Map
Interestingly, it’s common for “sex-biased” populations of Great-tailed Grackles to occur where female birds greatly outnumber males. This happens for two reasons.
- #1. Females have a higher survival rate in the nest since they are smaller and require less food.
- #2. On average, females live longer than males.
Because of their wide array of vocalizations, it’s hard to describe the sounds that these blackbirds make! Descriptions of their whistles, squeals, and rattles include everything from “sweet, tinkling notes” to “rusty gate hinges.” Regardless, Great-tailed Grackles can sure make a lot of loud noises, especially when they gather in enormous flocks numbering in the tens of thousands!
- Anas platyrhynchos
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black butt with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
- Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most recognizable birds in Phoenix!
Mallard Range Map
Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located. We even find Mallards in our swimming pool every summer and have to chase them away, so they don’t make a mess on our deck! 🙂
Mallards readily accept artificial structures built for them by humans. If you have a nice pond or a marsh, feel free to put up a homemade nesting area to enjoy some adorable ducklings walking around your property! Just make sure you put up predator guards so predators can’t get to the eggs. When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.
#3. Mourning Dove
- Zenaida macroura
- A mostly grayish dove with large black spots on the wings and a long thin tail.
- Look for pinkish legs, a black bill, and a distinctive blue eye-ring.
- Males and females look the same.
The Mourning Dove is the most common dove in Phoenix.
Look for them perched high up in trees or on a telephone wire near your home. They are also commonly seen on the ground, which is where they do most of their feeding.
Mourning Dove Range Map
Mourning Doves are common visitors to bird feeding stations!
To attract them, try putting out their favorite foods, which include millet, shelled sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, cracked corn, and safflower. Mourning Doves need a flat place to feed, so the best feeders for them are trays or platforms. They are probably most comfortable feeding on the ground, so make sure to throw a bunch of food there too. It’s common to hear Mourning Doves in Phoenix. Listen for a low “coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.” In fact, this mournful sound is how the dove got its name! Many people commonly mistake this sound for an owl. (Press PLAY below!) https://youtu.be/1N9nMkZt1l0
#4. Anna’s Hummingbird
- Calypte anna
How To Identify:
- Males: They are best known for their beautiful iridescent pinkish-red heads. Underparts are a mix between gray and green. Tail and back are dark green. Most of the time, a broken white eye-ring is visible.
- Females: Duller than the males, with a green cap and body. Their tail has a white tip. Many birds have a patch of metallic purple or red on their throat.
- *Similar Species: Costa’s Hummingbird, which is smaller with a purple throat and slightly down-curved bill.
These jeweled beauties are tiny birds that are no larger than a ping pong ball and weigh about the same as a nickel.
Anna’s Hummingbird Range Map
Anna’s are different from most hummers since they don’t migrate much, if at all. These hummingbirds are year-round residents from southern British Columbia to northern Mexico. They have varied habitats, including deserts, mountains, woodlands, gardens, and chaparral.
Anna’s Hummingbirds have a distinctive song! (Press play below)
To help locate these hummingbirds, listen for a long song that often lasts ten seconds or more. The song starts with a series of buzzes, which is then followed by a pleasant-sounding whistle. The entire sequence can last more than ten seconds and typically finishes with some chip notes. Personally, it’s hard to believe these noises are coming from a pretty little hummingbird!
- Anna’s Hummingbirds are known for their thrilling mating displays. The male starts by hovering in front of his chosen female for a few seconds. Then he flies straight up to heights of 130 feet (40m), concluding with him diving straight down and giving a loud squeak within a few feet of his target.
- In addition to nectar, these hummingbirds consume a wide variety of insects. Their favorites are smaller bugs, such as whiteflies, midges, and leafhoppers. They will even pluck insects off that are caught in spider webs!
- Anna’s Hummingbirds enjoy supplementing their diet with tree sap. When available, they will eat sugary sap that is leaking out of holes made by sapsuckers.
#5. Northern Mockingbird
- Mimus polyglottos
- Medium-sized grey songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
- Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.
These birds are NOT easy to miss in Phoenix!
First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂 In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, it’s common for them to harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.
Northern Mockingbird Range Map
These grey birds are common in backyards, but they rarely eat from bird feeders. Nonetheless, I have heard from many people complaining that mockingbirds are scaring away the other birds from their feeding station, even though mockingbirds don’t even eat from feeders themselves!
6. Cactus Wren
- Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
Cactus Wrens are common in the deserts of the southwestern United States. Look for a rather large wren with a long tail and long bill, but short rounded wings. They are beautiful birds with their distinctive bright white eyebrow, brown spotted belly, and a brown and white streaked back.
Cactus Wren Range Map
These birds are known for their active and bold personalities. If you spend enough time in their range, you are almost guaranteed to see them as they are always up to something. They can be found doing any number of things, such as singing from the top of a cactus, chasing each other around, mobbing predators that come too close, and fanning their tails. Cactus Wrens are true desert birds and don’t need to drink water, since they can obtain all their moisture from the insects, spiders, and fruit that they eat. It’s also common for them to take a dust bath on the dry, dusty ground before heading to their nightly roost.
Press PLAY below to hear a Cactus Wren!
If you’re in the desert and you hear a noise that sounds like a car won’t start, you may be hearing a Cactus Wren. These birds omit a loud, harsh, raspy series of “guah guah guah” notes, which gains in speed towards the end of the four-second song.
#7. House Finch
- Haemorhous mexicanus
- Adult males are rosy red around their heads and upper breasts. They have brown streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
- Females are brown with streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
- Both sexes have conical beaks designed to eat seeds and notched tails.
House Finches are prevalent birds in Phoenix near people. Look for House Finches around buildings, backyards, parks, and other urban and suburban areas.
House Finch Range Map
House Finches are often the first birds to discover new bird feeders. These birds are intensely curious and rarely travel alone, so their arrival often helps other birds find your feeders too! I see them eating sunflower seed, Nyjer seed, and safflower the most in my backyard.
House Finches have a pleasant and enjoyable song, which can be heard year-round. Listen below to a series of jumbled, warbled notes.
#8. Costa’s Hummingbird
- Calypte costae
I “mustache” you a question: Have you ever seen a hummingbird quite like this one?
How To Identify:
- Males: Their large, iridescent purple gorget makes them easy to identify, as it covers their head, along with flaring out along the sides of their neck like an overgrown mustache.
- Females: Females have a white throat and underparts, along with a green back and head. Look for white-tips on the green tail feathers. Both sexes appear compact with a short tail.
Costa’s Hummingbirds have a limited range in North America. They are found in various habitats, including desert scrub, chaparral, sage scrub, and even in deciduous forests in their Mexico wintering grounds.
Costa’s Hummingbird Range Map
Males have a spirited mating display used to attract females. They typically perform a series of dives and loops in front of the female in hopes of impressing her, and they even position themselves at the correct angle to the sun to show their violet plumage!
- Researchers have found that Costa’s Hummingbirds need to visit up to 1,800 flowers per day to obtain enough energy to sustain themselves.
- Costa’s Hummingbirds are shyer than other larger species. In hopes of attracting them to your yard, try offering multiple feeders to give them a place to feed away from these more aggressive hummingbirds.
#9. Rock Pigeon
- Columba livia
- A plump bird with a small head, short legs, and a thin bill.
- The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. But their plumage is highly variable, and it’s common to see varieties ranging from all-white to rusty-brown.
Rock Pigeon Range Map
#10. American Coot
- Fulica americana
- Entirely black, except for a white sloping bill.
- Red eyes.
- Toes are NOT webbed, but instead, they are long and lobed.
American Coot Range MapBecause they don’t have webbed feet, American Coots can walk quite well on land. But don’t let this fact fool you into thinking they can’t swim, because they are EXCELLENT swimmers. Each one of their long toes has lobes of skin that help them propel through the water. These water birds are quite vocal. Listen for a variety of squawks, croaks, and grunts.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Phoenix?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds you may see in Phoenix, check out my other guides!
25 Types of WATER BIRDS That Live in Arizona (Ducks, herons, loons, etc.)
19 Types of BIRDS OF PREY That are Found in Arizona (Hawks, owls, eagles, etc.)
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!