This steep mountain northeast of Phoenix is where to find Arizona’s mountain warblers — Virginia’s, Black-throated Gray, Grace’s, Olive, and Painted Redstart — and many other birds.
By Jim Burns | Published: 2/14/2014
Mount Ord is a favorite of Phoenix-area birders for two reasons: A daytrip up Ord during breeding season gets them out of the low-desert heat, and it is the only place in central Arizona where geography and habitat concentrate all of the state’s mountain warblers — Virginia’s, Black-throated Gray, Grace’s, Olive, and Painted Redstart.
Arizona’s high-desert specialty species, Gray Vireo and Black-chinned Sparrow, along with Scott’s Oriole, are almost guaranteed at the beginning of the drive, and Western and Hepatic Tanagers, Band-tailed Pigeon, and Northern Pygmy-Owl inhabit the pine/oak forest near the top.
Most birders make two stops on Ord. The first is at Forest Service Rd. 1688, about halfway up. Don’t even consider driving up this 4×4 trace; hike it. An early-morning walk will produce the vireo and the sparrow along the southwest-facing chaparral slopes. The second is near the top. Continue on the main road around the backside of the mountain to the locked gate. A hike to the lookout should give you warblers and tanagers; overhead watch for Golden Eagle, Zone-tailed Hawk, and Northern Goshawk. — Jim Burns
Jim Burns also wrote about the Salome Highway Thrasher Site in Maricopa County, Arizona, Hotspot Near You No. 7, Gilbert Water Ranch, Gilbert, Arizona, No. 43, Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, Superior, Arizona, No. 53, Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, Show Low, Arizona, No. 143, Canoe Creek Road, Osceola County, Florida, No. 150, and Francis Beidler Forest, Harleyville, South Carolina, No. 158.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
High-desert chaparral foothills, pine/oak forest above.
Steep mountain grades, dirt roads, and 4×4 trails.
Late spring into summer: Turkey Vulture, Golden Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Zone-tailed and Red-tailed Hawks, Band-tailed Pigeon, Greater Roadrunner, Barn Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Common Nighthawk, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Cordilleran and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Gray and Plumbeous Vireos, Bridled and Juniper Titmouse, Verdin, Bushtit, Brown Creeper, White-breasted, Red-breasted, and Pygmy Nuthatches, Blue-gray and Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Western Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Crissal Thrasher, Virginia’s, Black-throated Gray, Grace’s, and Olive Warblers, Painted Redstart, Hepatic and Western Tanagers, Canyon and Spotted Towhees, Rufous-crowned, Black-chinned, and Black-throated Sparrows, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scott’s Oriole, and Red Crossbill. Fall migrants: Townsend’s, Hermit, MacGillivray’s, and Wilson’s Warblers. Winter: Lewis’s Woodpecker and Red-naped Sapsucker.
When to go
Mid-March through October.
None. Dispersal camping (camping outside of designated campgrounds) allowed if you can find a flat spot.
National forest. No fees.
Don’t try driving Forest Rd. 626 in snow or heavy rain. It has some one-lane stretches with pullouts and a few rutted and rocky sections, but it’s passable for all but the lowest-clearance passenger cars. Drive cautiously; bring sunscreen and water; dress in layers.
For more info
Tonto National Forest, (602) 225-5200.