This blog is all about the birds we have seen recently at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. Enjoy!

This bright fellow is a male Lesser goldfinch.


This male Phainopepla posed nicely on one of the sunny days that we visited the museum.


The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is not a typical museum. Most of the displays are outdoors. Many of animals that are on display have huge natural enclosures. There are two enclosed aviaries; one for hummingbirds and one for other desert birds.

From the end of October to the middle of April, they have an extraordinary bird of prey exhibition called “Raptor Free Flight.” The birds fly completely untethered in the open desert. We went to a couple of the presentations and Doug took his larger lens to capture these amazing shots.

Here’s a Barn owl. Barn owls feed almost exclusively on rodents and is nocturnal in the wild.


The raptors will swoop from perch to perch to feed on the meat scraps that have been placed there by the trainers.


Barn owls have the most accurate ability to locate prey by sound out of any animal tested. The shape of their face helps to focus sounds.

This Great-horned owl was injured when it was young and has imprinted on humans. It vocalized throughout the presentation with a call that normally would be used by very young owls.


Great-horned owls are found throughout North America. They forage for birds and small mammals up to the size of rabbits.


The broad ear tufts of feathers are not horns at all, but they help to focus sound.


Below is a Gray hawk. They are found in Southeast Arizona in the summer. Their banded black and white tail is a good identifying feature.


Here’s a photo of a Harris’s hawk. They are found throughout Mexico, and into Southeastern Arizona and a small part of Texas.


Their white uppertail coverts and tail tip and their rufous shoulders make them very distinctive.


Harris’s hawks are the only hawks known to hunt in family groups.

Here’s a view of a Ferruginous hawk. They have a wider range in North America and hunt over arid grasslands and the adjacent farmland. Ferruginous refers to their rusty colour. (Fe: symbol for iron) The feature photo of this blog (visible when you view the blog using an internet browser) is also a Ferruginous hawk.


This strange-looking bird is a Crested caracara. Although it is in the falcon family, it has scavenging behaviour closer to a raven. It will fly relatively low in search of prey (lizards, mammals) and patrol roadways in the early morning to find carrion before vultures fly.


Notice the lack of feathers on its beak, which is an adaptation for eating carrion.


If you are ever in the Tucson area, we highly recommend visiting the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.

Our next blog will include photos of hiking and biking, and likely some birds as well!

One thought on “Birds at the Desert Museum

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