Year of the Bird August Action – Discover Your National Parks

The National Park System in the United States preserves the most unique, noteworthy, and visually stunning natural (and historic) areas in the country—so it’s no surprise that they provide great birding opportunities! If you haven’t explored some of the local nationally designated areas, now is the time to get out there and see what they have to offer. The most well-known national park in Arizona is of course Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, a World Heritage Site, and encompassing five different life zones in its boundaries. Less well-known but worth visiting (both for their distinctive beauty and for some great birding!) are Lake Mead National Recreational Area (268 species spotted!) and Petrified Forest National Park in the northern part of the state and Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument down south. Don’t forget some of our nearby national monuments—Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot National Monuments near Camp Verde even offer bird walks on alternating weekends, and Sunset Crater National Monument east of Flagstaff often pops up on our bird sightings forum at azbird.net with unusual bird sightings!

Beyond Arizona, some of the best national parks for birding are nearby—Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico has tallied 310 species of birds, Death Valley National Park in California/Nevada has counted 357, and a 13-hour drive from Northern Arizona in either direction will take you to some of the best birding destinations in the country:  If you head east, Big Bend National Park has 360 recorded species, and if you head west over to Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, California, you would be in the #1 Birdiest U.S. National Park with 444 recorded species! For the Top 10 National Parks for Birding, follow this link to an Audubon article:  https://www.audubon.org/news/10-national-parks-are-surprisingly-great-birding

Pro Tip:  If you’re feeling inspired to visit several national parks, national monuments, national historic sites, etc. this year, save money by visiting https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm and finding one of their passes that works for you—there are annual passes, free passes for active military and families with 4th graders, and inexpensive annual and lifetime senior passes for those 62 and over!

Here is a list of national parks and other nationally designated areas in Arizona that make interesting birding destinations (based on eBird reports and listed from north to south based on location in state):

Pipe Spring National Monument – Mohave, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park – Grand Canyon, AZ
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument – Northern Arizona
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – Glen Canyon, AZ
Lake Mead National Recreation Area – Mojave Desert, AZ
Canyon de Chelly National Monument – Chinle, AZ
Sunset Crater National Monument – Flagstaff, AZ
Walnut Canyon National Monument – Flagstaff, AZ
Petrified Forest National Park – Holbrook, AZ
Tuzigoot National Monument – Clarkdale, AZ
Montezuma Castle/Montezuma Well National Monument – Camp Verde, AZ
Saguaro National Park – Tucson, AZ
Fort Bowie National Historic Site – Willcox, AZ
Chiricahua National Monument – Willcox, AZ
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – near Sonoyta, Mexico
Tumacacori National Historic Park – Sahuarita, AZ

For a complete list of the 24 nationally designated sites in Arizona with a map and descriptions, visit https://www.nps.gov/state/az/index.htm

Year of the Bird Actions so far (more information at https://www.audubon.org/yearofthebird):

January – Take the Year of the Bird Pledge
February – Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, join and use eBird
March – Grow Native Plants
April – Speak Up for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
May – Citizen Science:  Global Big Day and Climate Watch
June – Reduce Your Plastic Use
July – Take a Child Into Nature

Written by Amy Zimmermann