Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bulletin #57 – Southeast Arizona #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
November 18, 2008

Bulletin #57 – Southeast Arizona #2

Hello friends,

Southeast Arizona is one of those unique birding areas in the USA where Mexican species extend their range into the USA. I had birded there once before on my own, but I went back to take photographs of the birds and hired a guide to maximize my time.

The local guide was Matt Brown in Patagonia AZ. His web site is
I highly recommend Matt if you need a guide out there, as he knows the birds and where to locate them.

John Cassin (1813-1868) was a scientist and ornithologist. He was appointed honorary curator at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences in 1842 where he studied the world’s largest collection of bird skins from the USA and around the world. As he was considered the foremost expert at the time, he also received specimens from the Smithsonian for identification. He described almost 200 new species. He only collected a single new species in the field (Philadelphia Vireo), but did all his work on the preserved skins. 5 western USA species have been named for him. Cassin’s Sparrow, Finch, Kingbird, Vireo and Auklet. The Cassin’s Vireo he initially described, but it was lumped into the Solitary Vireo complex, until about a decade ago, it was split and received full species status.

I had not seen any of the 5 species until 1 year ago when I started traveling to photograph the birds. In Oct 2007, I found the Cassin’s Sparrow in the south Texas. In June 2008, I saw the Cassin’s Finch in the Sierra Mountains of California, and on this trip to Arizona, I found the kingbird and vireo.

Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) is similar to Western and Tropical Kingbirds, but the gray of the throat and chest is much darker. Because the gray is so dark, they show a white malar patch on the face. They are easy to see as they sit on wires etc in the open.


The Cassin’s Vireo (Vireo cassinii) is a small (5.5”) greenish backed vireo with gray head and the white spectacles that are characteristic of the old ‘Solitary’ Vireo.


I also found another vireo species, Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni). This is a tiny (5”) drab greenish-gray bird that occurs in 2 separate populations – Pacific coast and Mexican that extends into SE Arizona. The hooked beak ID it as a vireo.


The Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarine) is similar to the scrub jay but a paler blue color. The adult in the first photo has a black bill. The juvenile in the second photo has a yellow bill.

http://www.pbase.com/davidmcd/image/106100220 click ‘next’ once

We encountered several raptor species.

The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) is a large (24”) buteo of the arid southwest USA. It has reddish back and wings, with a white chest and abdomen. The legs are reddish as well. Here are a couple of photos of the same bird on a power pole. I n the second photo, you can see a little of his reddish legs.

http://www.pbase.com/davidmcd/image/106100244 click ‘next’ once

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) occurs all across the USA and southern Canada. This rufous morph color variety has dark brown back and red-brown underparts.


The last raptor was a female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). This small falcon (9”) has rufous back and wings and 2 facial black lines. In the male, the wings are gray.


There were also a number of sparrow species including juncos and buntings.

The Rufous-winged Sparrow (Aimophila carpalis) is a SE Arizona specialty. It has a rufous crown and small rufous shoulder patch. The face has 2 black stripes.


Another SE Arizona specialty bird is the Yellow-eyed Junco (Junco phaeonotus). It is a gray bird with reddish back, black facial mask and bright yellow eye. Here are 2 photos, with the second a close-up head on. The bird looks almost comical with the bright yellow eye.

http://www.pbase.com/davidmcd/image/106100284 click ‘next’ once

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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