USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Bird Checklists of the United States

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

Ajo, Arizona


Birding on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge is a challenge. The refuge includes some of the most arid desert in North America. Roads are rough, requiring 4WD and high ground clearance. There is no potable water. A permit is required to enter the refuge. Permits can be obtained at the refuge office in Ajo.

The best birding can be found in the lush vegetation along the washes, particularly in areas where there is a permanent source of water. The lushest of these areas occur in the northeast section of the refuge, near Ajo. The Camino del Diablo, Papago Well and Tule Well have a variety of good birding habitats within easy walking distance from your vehicle.

One group of birds, known as Neotropical migrants, are those species that nest in the United States or Canada, and spend the winter primarily south of our border in Mexico, Central or South America, or in the Caribbean. Many of them, including conspicuous or colorful hawks, hummingbirds, warblers, and orioles, and less colorful but no less important shorebirds, flycatchers, and thrushes, are experiencing population declines due to widespread loss of habitats important for their survival. Preservation of many different habitats for nesting, wintering, and migratory stopover sites is becoming vital for the survival of many of these birds. Those Neotropical migrants occuring on this refuge are identified with a "#".

Most of the birds on this checklist are migratory, passing through Cabeza Prieta in spring and fall. "Spring" and "fall" do not coincide with traditional calendar seasons, however, because some birds begin spring migrations in late February and fall migrations may start in late July.

Bird populations on the refuge are extremely variable. During a prolonged dry spell, even the most common birds will be difficult to find as their food sources are depleted. The key phrase in this designation is "suitable habitat" - the habitat is often affected by the weather.

This list of 212 species is based on known records of birds seen within and next to the refuge boundary. This list is in accordance with the Sixth Edition, 37th Supplement (AUK, July 1989) A.O.U. Checklist. Please report sightings to the Refuge Manager so this list can be kept up to date.


* - nesting species
# - Neotropical Migrant

Seasonal status and abundance are coded as follows:

Sp - late February - May                  a - abundant
S - June-July                             c - common               
F - August-November                       u - uncommon
W - December-early February               o - occasional
                                          r - rare
                                          x - accidental


GREBES Sp S F W ___ Pied-billed Grebe - - r - ___ Eared Grebe x - r x
FRIGATEBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Magnificent Frigatebird - x - -
PELICANS Sp S F W ___ American White Pelican - - x -
BITTERNS & HERONS Sp S F W ___ Great Blue Heron x - r - ___ Great Egret o - - - ___ Snowy Egret r - r - ___ Green Heron - - x - ___ Black-crowned Night-Heron x - x -
STORKS Sp S F W ___ Wood Stork - x x -
SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Sp S F W ___ Snow Goose - - x - ___ Canada Goose - - - x ___ Green-winged Teal - - o r ___ Mallard - - - o ___ Northern Pintail - - o - ___ Cinnamon Teal - - o - ___ Northern Shoveler - - o o ___ Gadwall - - x - ___ American Wigeon x - o x ___ Redhead x - - - ___ Lesser Scaup - - x - ___ Common Goldeneye - - - x ___ Bufflehead x - x - ___ Common Merganser - - - x ___ Red-breasted Merganser - - x - ___ Ruddy Duck - - o -
AMERICAN VULTURES Sp S F W ___ Black Vulture x - x - ___ Turkey Vulture* c c c r
KITES, HAWKS & EAGLES Sp S F W ___ Osprey# x - - - ___ Black-shouldered Kite* x x - - ___ Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk)# u - u c ___ Sharp-shinned Hawk# o - o o ___ Cooper's Hawk# u - c u ___ Harris' Hawk* r r r r ___ Swainson's Hawk# r - r - ___ Red-tailed Hawk*# c c c c ___ Ferruginous Hawk r - - r ___ Golden Eagle*# u u u u
CARACARAS & FALCONS Sp S F W ___ Crested Caracara x - - - ___ American Kestrel*# c u c c ___ Merlin# - - x x ___ Peregrine Falcon# - - x x ___ Prairie Falcon o o o o
TURKEYS & QUAIL Sp S F W ___ Gambel's Quail* c c c c
RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Sp S F W ___ Virginia Rail - - x - ___ Sora - - x - ___ American Coot - - x -
PLOVERS Sp S F W ___ Killdeer# x x o x
STILTS & AVOCETS Sp S F W ___ Black-necked Stilt# x - o - ___ American Avocet# - - r -
SANDPIPERS & PHALAROPES Sp S F W ___ Greater Yellowlegs# x - o - ___ Solitary Sandpiper# r r o - ___ Willet# - - x - ___ Spotted Sandpiper# o - o - ___ Long-billed Curlew# x - x - ___ Western Sandpiper# r r o - ___ Least Sandpiper# - - o - ___ Baird's Sandpiper# x - x - ___ Pectoral Sandpiper# - - x - ___ Long-billed Dowitcher# x - x - ___ Common Snipe# - - x x ___ Wilson's Phalarope# - - o -
SKUAS, GULLS, TERNS & SKIMMERS Sp S F W ___ Ring-billed Gull r - - - ___ Black Tern - - r -
PIGEONS & DOVES Sp S F W ___ Band-tailed Pigeon - x x - ___ White-winged Dove*# c c c - ___ Mourning Dove*# c c c c ___ Common Ground-Dove x x r -
CUCKOOS, ROADRUNNERS & ANIS Sp S F W ___ Greater Roadrunner* u u u u
BARN OWLS Sp S F W ___ Barn Owl - o r r
TYPICAL OWLS Sp S F W ___ Western Screech-Owl* u u u u ___ Great Horned Owl* u u u u ___ Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl x - - - ___ Elf Owl*# c c u - ___ Burrowing Owl - - r r ___ Long-eared Owl r - r o ___ Short-eared Owl# - - x x
NIGHTHAWKS & NIGHTJARS Sp S F W ___ Lesser Nighthawk*# o u u - ___ Common Poorwill*# u u u r
SWIFTS Sp S F W ___ Vaux's Swift# o - o - ___ White-throated Swift# r r r o
HUMMINGBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Black-chinned Hummingbird# r - - - ___ Anna's Hummingbird# - - x x ___ Costa's Hummingbird*# c o u c ___ Calliope Hummingbird# r - - - ___ Rufous Hummingbird# u - x - ___ Allen's Hummingbird# x - - -
KINGFISHERS Sp S F W ___ Belted Kingfisher# x - - -
WOODPECKERS Sp S F W ___ Gila Woodpecker* c c c c ___ Red-naped Sapsucker# x - - - ___ Ladder-backed Woodpecker* u u u u ___ Northern Flicker (Common Flicker)*# c c c c
TYRANT FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Olive-sided Flycatcher# r - r - ___ Western Wood-Pewee# c - c - ___ Willow Flycatcher# u - u - ___ Least Flycatcher# - - x - ___ Hammond's Flycatcher# r - x - ___ Dusky Flycatcher# o - o - ___ Gray Flycatcher# u - o x ___ Pacific-slope Flycatcher# c - c x ___ Black Phoebe r - r x ___ Say's Phoebe*# c o c c ___ Vermilion Flycatcher*# x - - x ___ Ash-throated Flycatcher*# u u o o ___ Brown-crested Flycatcher*# o o - - ___ Tropical Kingbird# - x - - ___ Western Kingbird*# c o c -
LARKS Sp S F W ___ Horned Lark*# o o o o
SWALLOWS Sp S F W ___ Purple Martin# - o o - ___ Tree Swallow r - - - ___ Violet-green Swallow# u - o - ___ Northern Rough-winged Swallow# r r o - ___ Bank Swallow# - - o - ___ Cliff Swallow# o o o x ___ Barn Swallow# r - o -
JAYS, MAGPIES & CROWS Sp S F W ___ Steller's Jay - - x - ___ Western Scrub-Jay - - x x ___ Pinyon Jay - - x - ___ Clark's Nutcracker - - x - ___ Common Raven* c c c c
VERDINS Sp S F W ___ Verdin* c c c c
NUTHATCHES Sp S F W ___ Red-breasted Nuthatch - - x -
WRENS Sp S F W ___ Cactus Wren* c c c c ___ Rock Wren*# c u c c ___ Canyon Wren* u u u u ___ Bewick's Wren - - r u ___ House Wren# o - o o
KINGLETS & GNATCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Golden-crowned Kinglet - - - x ___ Ruby-crowned Kinglet# c - c c ___ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - - x x ___ Black-tailed Gnatcatcher* c c c c
THRUSHES Sp S F W ___ Western Bluebird# - - - r ___ Mountain Bluebird# x - x o ___ Townsend's Solitaire r - r o ___ Swainson's Thrush# c - x - ___ Hermit Thrush# u - u o ___ American Robin# r - r o
MOCKINGBIRDS & THRASHERS Sp S F W ___ Northern Mockingbird*# c o c c ___ Sage Thrasher# u - x u ___ Bendire's Thrasher*# o o o - ___ Curve-billed Thrasher* c c c c ___ Crissal Thrasher* u u u u ___ Le Conte's Thrasher* u u u u
WAGTAILS & PIPITS Sp S F W ___ American Pipit (Water Pipit)# - - o - ___ Sprague's Pipit# - - - x
WAXWINGS Sp S F W ___ Cedar Waxwing# x - - x
SILKY-FLYCATCHERS Sp S F W ___ Phainopepla*# c r c c
SHRIKES Sp S F W ___ Loggerhead Shrike*# c u c c
STARLINGS Sp S F W ___ European Starling - - - r
VIREOS Sp S F W ___ Bell's Vireo*# r r - - ___ Gray Vireo# u - u u ___ Solitary Vireo# o - x - ___ Yellow-throated Vireo# - x - - ___ Warbling Vireo c - c -
WOOD-WARBLERS Sp S F W ___ Orange-crowned Warbler# c - c o ___ Nashville Warbler# c - c - ___ Lucy's Warbler*# u u - - ___ Yellow Warbler# c - c - ___ Yellow-rumped Warbler# c - c u ___ Black-throated Gray Warbler# c - u r ___ Townsend's Warbler# c - o - ___ Hermit Warbler# o - r - ___ Blackpoll Warbler# - r - - ___ American Redstart# - - x - ___ MacGillivray's Warbler# c - c - ___ Common Yellowthroat# o - - - ___ Wilson's Warbler# c - c - ___ Yellow-breasted Chat# x - r -
TANAGERS Sp S F W ___ Western Tanager# c o c - ___ Summer Tanager# x - x -
GROSBEAKS & BUNTINGS Sp S F W ___ Pyrrhuloxia* r r r r ___ Black-headed Grosbeak# c o c - ___ Blue Grosbeak# x x x - ___ Lazuli Bunting# u - u - ___ Indigo Bunting# o x - - ___ Varied Bunting# - r - -
SPARROWS Sp S F W ___ Green-tailed Towhee# u - u u ___ Rufous-sided Towhee# r - r o ___ Canyon Towhee* r r r r ___ Cassin's Sparrow# - - r - ___ Chipping Sparrow# u - u u ___ Brewer's Sparrow# c - c c ___ Black-chinned Sparrow# r - r x ___ Vesper Sparrow# u - c c ___ Lark Sparrow# o x u o ___ Black-throated Sparrow*# c c c c ___ Sage Sparrow# u - c c ___ Lark Bunting# u - u u ___ Savannah Sparrow# - - u o ___ Grasshopper Sparrow# - - r r ___ Fox Sparrow# - - r r ___ Lincoln's Sparrow# o - o o ___ White-crowned Sparrow# c - c c ___ Dark-eyed Junco# r - o u ___ Chestnut-collared Longspur# - - r -
BLACKBIRDS Sp S F W ___ Red-winged Blackbird# r r r - ___ Western Meadowlark*# o - u u ___ Yellow-headed Blackbird# r r o - ___ Rusty Blackbird - - x - ___ Brewer's Blackbird# r - o - ___ Great-tailed Grackle r - r - ___ Bronzed Cowbird# r r - - ___ Brown-headed Cowbird*# u o u - ___ Hooded Oriole*# u o r x ___ Bullock's Oriole# c u - - ___ Scott's Oriole*# c c - -
FINCHES Sp S F W ___ Cassin's Finch# - - x - ___ House Finch* c c c c ___ Pine Siskin# r - r - ___ Lesser Goldfinch*# o o o o ___ Lawrence's Goldfinch# r - r - ___ American Goldfinch# - - - o
OLD WORLD SPARROWS Sp S F W ___ House Sparrow o - o r

EXPECTED BUT NOT SEEN

The following birds have not been seen within the refuge boundary, but there are records from nearby areas, such as Ajo and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument:

Brown Pelican                           Inca Dove
Northern Cardinal

Contributors include Gale Monson and Sarah Vetault. For additional information contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
                 1611 North Second Ave.
                 Ajo, Arizona 85321
                 Telephone: 520/387-6483
                            520/387-5226
This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1991.  Birds of Cabeza Prieta National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1991.  Birds of Cabeza Prieta National 
     Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Unpaginated.
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.govcabeza.htm 
     (Version 1995).

On November 28, 1990, President Bush signed the Arizona Wilderness legislation which included approximately 803,418 acres of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has been managed as "de facto" wilderness since 1974. The Wilderness Act of 1964 describes a wilderness area as "an area essentially untrammeled by man which is managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." We hope you will accept the challenge to preserve this special segment of the Sonoran desert ecosystem.

"In wildness is the preservation of the world." Thoreau


Return to Bird Checklists of Arizona
Return to Bird Checklists of the United States

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/chekbird/r2/cabeza.htm
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 18:44:07 EST
Menlo Park, CA [caww54]