A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Northern Arizona's Canyons and Condor I 2022

June 4-10, 2022 with John Coons guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Grand Canyon is an incredibly impressive sight no matter how many times one has seen it. Photo by guide John Coons.

We had a great time exploring mountains, canyons, forests, and deserts in and around Flagstaff in search of our local avifauna. Our week of birding started off with a visit to the managed Kachina Wetlands on our first afternoon. We found a good number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a few waterfowl, had a Peregrine go rocketing past, and saw an Osprey flying off with a sizable goldfish in its talons. The next morning found us in the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountains in Arizona, where we enjoyed a Williamson Sapsucker, Red-faced Warblers, Dusky Flycatcher, and an afternoon scurry to see a Long-eared Owl that Jan spotted across the pond. We finished up with great views of a Lewis's Woodpecker.

The following day we headed north to Grand Canyon where we were hoping for good luck as we scanned for California Condors. We didn't find them this day but had nice views of a number of pinyon-juniper birds such as Gray Vireo, Scott's Oriole, Black-chinned Sparrow, and Black-throated Gray Warbler. All of these were against the backdrop of some of the greatest scenery in the world at Grand Canyon and the nearly equally amazing Little Colorado River Gorge.

A trip south the next morning was to visit a friend's property and bird a very nice stretch of Oak Creek below Sedona, Arizona. We got into some lowland species that are not normally found around Flagstaff. Here we scoped a calling Common Black-Hawk, Bridled Titmice, Vermilion Flycatcher, Abert's Towhee, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Hooded Oriole among others. In the afternoon we checked some areas in well-known Oak Creek Canyon where we tracked down a singing Painted Redstart, Rivoli's Hummingbird, and the unusual Phainopepla. A wonderful singing Olive Warbler and Graces's Warbler capped off the afternoon.

A trip north through the edge of the Navajo Indian Reservation took us to Marble Canyon where, on Navajo Bridge, spanning the Colorado River far below, we found four California Condors! Two were adults with colorful orangey heads and two were immatures. We watched them sitting on cliff ledges, making short flights, perching under the bridge, and we saw one gain altitude and fly off. One of our birds even disappeared into a small cave where it certainly is nesting or feeding a chick.

Our final birding day found us heading south again where we had the best possibility of new species. A singing Canyon Wren beat out an early Rufous-crowned Sparrow for top bird but we also had a nice Gray Flycatcher, a locally uncommon species. During the week we made several efforts to track down Pinyon Jays which have become exceedingly difficult in the last two years. We only managed to hear a couple of distant birds and we have our fingers crossed these will recover from what has to be drought-related problems.

It was great birding with all of you in my home patch and sharing some of the great vistas of North America. I really look forward to seeing all of you again in the near future.


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

We saw hundreds of these on the golf course near the motel.

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We saw several California Condors from Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River including this immature bird that sailed right overhead. Photo by participant Joe Trapani.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

Danny and Jan saw a female slip into the reeds at the Sedona Wetlands.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

On our first afternoon we saw a few of these mostly western beauties.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

We saw a late male at the Sedona Wetlands.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

It was a surprise to see a male standing on the edge of the pond at the Sedona Wetlands. This is quite unusual here in June.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

This was pretty cool. While enjoying the views of California Condors from Navajo Bridge we saw a duck far below in the Colorado River. The scope revealed it to be a female Common Merganser and we could see it swimming underwater from our high perch.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

We saw a handful and most of the males had the bright blue bills.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii) [*]

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)

We saw one, in breeding plumage, at the Sedona Wetlands.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

We saw these almost everyday.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

We heard these on several occasions and saw a handful, with our best views from Lipan Point at Grand Canyon.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

This species is at the northern edge of its range and we saw one visit a feeder in Oak Creek Canyon.

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)

We had a few here and there in the lower areas we visited.

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

This is the most common breeding hummingbird around Flagstaff. We had nice views of a few males at Hart Prairie.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)

We heard a good number of these at the Kachina Wetlands and a couple of us saw one cross an opening in the vegetation.

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One of the iconic birds of the Colorado Plateau is the Canyon Wren, which loves the rocky ledges of the gorges. Photo by participant Joe Trapani.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

We only had a few.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

We had ones and twos before we saw a few at nests in Oak Creek Canyon.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

We saw one at Kachina Wetlands where this is a quite uncommon bird in June.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

CALIFORNIA CONDOR (Gymnogyps californianus)

We had a great experience with this magnificent bird at Navajo Bridge, high above the Colorado River. We saw at least four individuals perched and flying, and saw one disappear into its nesting cave. I looked at the Peregrine Fund website and found some info on our adult condors. They did not have info on the immatures, Z9 and K, that we saw. R5 - the first one Jan spotted on the cliff, is a female that was hatched in captivity in April 2015 and released in Sept 2017. H9 - the one we saw enter the cave, is a female that was hatched in June 2008 and released in Sept 2011, so it has been flying in the wild for nearly eleven years!

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

This species has become fairly common around Flagstaff and we saw two active nests. One highlight was seeing one carrying a sizable goldfish at Kachina Wetlands.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus)

We had great views of one near a nest at John and Becky's place near Page Springs.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

We saw a handful during the week, including a juvenile on the ground while Mom circled above calling.

Strigidae (Owls)

LONG-EARED OWL (Asio otus)

After getting word from a friend of this bird at a waterhole, we blasted up to have a look, and Jan spotted it across the water as it was in the shade of the trees. This is a species that we rarely encounter on trips and especially here in Northern Arizona.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus thyroideus)

We had nice views of the unusual looking female of this species in the mixed-conifer forest of the San Francisco Peaks.

RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus nuchalis)

It was a surprise to hear, then see a male, where this species has gotten more difficult in recent years.

LEWIS'S WOODPECKER (Melanerpes lewis)

Two individuals showed very well for us outside of Flagstaff. This is a great looking woodpecker.

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

This colorful woodpecker showed well in the Sedona area.

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)

A few were seen and one may have been going to a nest hole at John and Becky's place.


We saw a few in the desert and lowland riparian areas we visited.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

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We saw a handful of Acorn Woodpeckers in the mixed pine-oak habitats we visited near Flagstaff. Photo by guide John Coons.

NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)

We ended up seeing several.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

A presumed male shot over the marsh at the Kachina Wetlands on our first afternoon. It stayed low as it rocketed through, then we saw it flying and soaring higher about 30 minutes later.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


A singing bird was scoped in the pine forest south of Flagstaff.

WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

Fairly numerous; we heard more than we saw.

GRAY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax wrightii)

After hearing one in a burn on our way to Grand Canyon, we searched and eventually found one in the pinyon-juniper habitat south of Flagstaff.

DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri)

We had nice looks at calling individuals at Hart Prairie, where this species was first described to science. It is a quite local breeder in Arizona.

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

We saw one near a nest during our rest stop on our first morning.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

We saw a couple in the riparian areas, with a good view of one at Montezuma Well.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

Our first was hanging near a nest at the Kachina Wetlands.

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

We saw a nice colorful male at John and Becky's place along Oak Creek.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

This mostly riparian species showed well at John and Becky's property.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

We saw a few of these here and there.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Our first was in our backyard at dinner.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

On our final day in the field we saw 2-3 individuals near Montezuma Well.

GRAY VIREO (Vireo vicinior)

After leaving Grand Canyon, we had great looks at this uncommonly seen species as it sang from the junipers and other shrubs.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

We heard or saw these every day of the trip.

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Black-tailed Jackrabbits are not common at the higher elevations around Flagstaff so it was somewhat of a surprise to see this one in Hart Prairie. Photo by participant Danny Shelton.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

We saw a few in the aspen groves of the San Francisco Peaks.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

PINYON JAY (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) [*]

We heard a couple of individuals calling in the distance but never got one close to us. This species is of concern, in that it has really dropped in numbers over the last five years. We sure looked for it a lot.

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Seen daily.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

We saw a few with our first at dinner on the deck.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

This species is pretty common right in Flagstaff.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)

We ran into these a handful of times in the pines and mixed-conifer forests.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

We saw our first at John and Becky's property then again in Oak Creek Canyon.

JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)

We saw our first good ones in Valle just before our pit stop on the way to Grand Canyon.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

We had nice looks at one on our last morning in the lower desert.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

A few were seen, with our first around Rimmy Jim Tank.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

We saw these daily.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Seen daily, with a few nesting around the motel in Flagstaff.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

About 2-3 were coming in to the water at the small pond on our way out to the San Francisco Peaks on our first morning.

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (Psaltriparus minimus)

We saw our first at Grand Canyon.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

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In the taller ponderosa pines, we encountered several Grace’s Warblers, and Joe Trapani captured this one just after take-off.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

Only a few here and there.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

We had nice looks on our first afternoon and a few more later in the week. They also came to the water on the deck during dinner.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

It was bizarre to see this bird perched under and on the railing of Navajo Bridge while we were watching California Condors. It seemed to be on a territory, as it moved about 80 yards each way from the center of the bridge. I'm sure it found insects in crevices of the bridge.

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)

We enjoyed nice looks at a bird on the rim of Montezuma Well, as its song echoed through the sinkhole.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

We heard more than we saw, which is typical for this species.

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

A few showed well, with our first one scoped while it was calling from a treetop in Valle.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

This species is absent from Flagstaff some years, but we saw about three here with a few more in the lower habitats we visited.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

We had good views of a few on several day of the trip. This is the more common of the two bluebird species near Flagstaff.

MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)

A pair showed well for us in a neighborhood just off the road on our first morning. This is a nice looking bird to have in your yard.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

We had a nice look in the San Francisco Peaks and heard a few more giving their beautiful song.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

These were seen in all habitats except the lowest deserts we visited.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

After a nice male was seen feeding in a mulberry tree in Oak Creek Canyon; we saw a few more at Cameron where they were also going after mulberries.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

A brightly colored male gave us great views at the upper end of Oak Creek Canyon. Formerly placed with the other warblers, it is now the sole member of its family.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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Common Black Hawks reach the northern limit of their breeding range just south of Flagstaff. We had nice looks at this individual along Oak Creek. Photo by participant Danny Shelton.

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)

We heard two fly over us while in the mixed-conifer forest on the San Francisco Peaks.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW (Spizella atrogularis)

One showed very well along the slope just off the road near Gray Mountain.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

This handsome sparrow showed well a few times in the desert.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

We had a scope view of one that was singing at Picture Canyon.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (RED-BACKED) (Junco hyemalis dorsalis)

This is the common breeding subspecies of junco in Northern Arizona.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

This nice song led us to a few perched on shrubs and mullein stalks.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

This is a riparian species in Arizona and we saw a few along Oak Creek south of Sedona.

ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)

Sometimes these are skulkers, but we had several nice looks at birds in the open.

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

After some looking, we finally got a scope view of one on a rocky slope south of Flagstaff.

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus)

A quite local breeder in Arizona; we saw or heard 6-8 individuals at Hart Prairie on our first morning.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


Like the Olive Warbler, this species was long considered a warbler but has now been placed in its own family. We had very nice views at John and Becky's property along Oak Creek.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

Several were seen well at Kachina Wetlands on our first afternoon.

WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta)

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

At John and Becky's place we had great looks at a female, then a stunning male.

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A bird we saw every day and often was Common Raven, which occupies every habitat in Northern Arizona. Photo by participant Joe Trapani.

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

Our first came to join us for dinner on the deck.

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

A nicely colored male showed well along the rocky slope near the Grand Canyon, and it has a beautiful song.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)


BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

These are quite common around Flagstaff.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

A singing bird finally popped up for us in Hart Prairie.

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

This desert species showed well, first at the I-17 rest stop on our way south.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

We heard a few and got a nice singing bird in the scope at Hart Prairie.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei)

Another quite local breeder in Arizona; we saw a singing and chipping individual at Hart Prairie.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

We saw a few along Oak Creek and another at Montezuma Well.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

A good number were seen in the San Francisco Peaks and in the pine forest near Flagstaff.

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

A few gave us rather close views in the pine forests outside of Flagstaff.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

This species inhabits lower elevations than the pines in Flagstaff. We had nice looks, especially at the Grand Canyon.

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)

A great looking bird; we saw a few on our first morning in the Hart Prairie area then another in Oak Creek Canyon.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

A pair of birds were just above us in Oak Creek Canyon; this is another dazzler.

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Not much of a photo, but this captures our encounter with the Long-eared Owl that was across the pond that we dashed to after a friend found it earlier in the morning. This is a rarely encountered bird in the Flagstaff area. Photo by guide John Coons.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

A male showed well at Picture Canyon and even sang a bit for us.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

We saw a few along the streams in the lower elevations including a couple at John and Becky's property.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

Another fancy looking species; we saw them in Oak Creek Canyon.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

A pair met us as we arrived at John and Becky's house.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

A loud singer; we had nice scope views in Oak Creek Canyon and again on our final day in the field near Stoneman Lake.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

We saw one at John and Becky's and another singing individual at Picture Canyon.

LAZULI BUNTING X INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina amoena x cyanea)

A singing bird at Cave Springs in Oak Creek Canyon has been here for the past three years. It is mostly blue but with wing bars.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Danny spotted one in a yard outside of Flagstaff.

BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus)

This large rabbit was loping along in the pine forest near Hart Prairie.

CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)

We saw a few at Grand Canyon but not many.

GRAY-COLLARED CHIPMUNK (Tamias cinereicollis)

One was spotted in Hart Prairie. This species has a quite limited range overall.

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

We saw a handful, but I was stunned at how few we saw at Grand Canyon where they are normally quite numerous as they seek handouts.

GUNNISON PRAIRIE DOG (Cynomys gunnisoni)

These entertaining pups showed well a few times at their colonies.

ELK (Cervus canadensis)

We saw a female at Grand Canyon then about 300-400 in Mormon Lake on our final day of birding.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

A pair joined us for dinner at the house as they munched on a neighbor's shrub.

PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)

We saw these a couple of times in the grasslands north of Flagstaff.

Totals for the tour: 127 bird taxa and 9 mammal taxa