Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bulletin #85 – SE Arizona #3

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
July 19, 2009

Bulletin #85 – SE Arizona #3

Hello friends,

I returned to Tucson AZ for another weekend of birding and photography to try and finish up on the areas birds. They are many summering migrants, which would be lifers for me.

I used my 2 previous guides for this trip.

Matt Brown is in Patagonia AZ. His web site is

Melody Kehl is in Tucson AZ. Her web site is

Both guides I recommend highly. I have used them twice each. They know where the birds are and can maximize your time and effort.

The Tyrannidae family (Tyrant Flycatchers) may well be the largest of the bird families with about 430 species – all in the new world. It includes birds such as kingbirds, pewees, phoebes etc. A number of these occur in Arizona. I found and photographed all the species that I needed on this trip. In general most of the flycatchers we see in the ABA area are rather drab colored.

The empids are small flycatchers that are distinguished by having both an eye-ring and wing bars. The first is the Buff-breasted Flycatcher (Empidonax fulvifrons). I had seen this bird in west Texas 2 months ago, but the photos were not great, so he was on my list for AZ. He has the orange-buffy breast.

The other empid is the Cordilleran Flycatcher (Empidonax occidentalis). This bird nests in the mountains of the west. Most empids are very similar looking and are best IDed by voice. Here is the bird showing his tear drop shaped eye-ring and the second photo is on the nest feeding babies. If you look closely, you can see two mouths wide open.

There were two kingbirds as well. Here is the Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) with the dark gray throat.

The other was a life bird for me, the Thick-billed Kingbird (Tyrannus crassirostris). This Mexican species just makes its range into the USA in southeast Arizona. As its name implies, it has a massive bill. Here are 2 photos with the second showing the bill size particularly well.

There are 2 contopus genus birds (pewees) as well. The first is the Greater Pewee (Contopus pertinax). He was another lifer for me. He is 8” long with a thin crest, wing bars and no eye-ring. Here are front and back views of the same bird. The wispy crest is well seen.

The other is the Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus). He is much smaller at 6.25” in length and doesn’t have the crest. Again, no eye-ring is present.

The last 2 flycatchers are different genuses from the above and each other and both are specialties of Arizona.

The Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Myiarchus tuberculifer) is a typical myiarchus with brown back, gray throat and yellow belly. He has rufous on the edges of the secondary wing feathers. He is occasionally found in Texas as well as Arizona.

Lastly was another lifer, the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes luteiventris). This distinctive bird has a brown back streaked with white, a rufous tail and yellow belly streaked in brown. I found this pair in Madera Canyon and they posed one above the other.

Finally, another lizard is the Clark’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarki). This is similar to the Desert Spiny Lizard in the last bulletin, but does not have the black patches on the sides of the neck.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonaldemail:

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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