When I bird in the Tanque Verde Wash, the convenience of metropolitan Tucson is close at hand, but I feel like I am far off the beaten path. You won’t find marked trails through the sandy bottom, or signs that indicate this is an excellent place to walk with binoculars and peer into the thick canopy of the cottonwood trees. Yet a quick check of eBird shows that many birders have managed to find this tucked-away gem.
Anyone who watches the Southeast Arizona Rare Bird Alert knows the wash has hosted Broad-winged Hawk, Gray Catbird, and Northern Parula — all extremely rare in the Tucson area. In vegetation made lush by seasonal rains, I have watched a female Lesser Goldfinch settle into her snug cup nest. I’ve seen large groups of wintering Western Bluebirds and flocks of Cedar Waxwings gobbling berries, and I’ve watched puffed-up male Vermilion Flycatchers perform their courtship flight in spring. Other highlights include nesting Gray Hawk, Abert’s Towhee, and Yellow Warbler.
The Tanque Verde Wash is an excellent example of how a corridor of good habitat threading through an urban area can support many species of birds. — Jennie MacFarland
Jennie MacFarland is the conservation biologist for the Tucson Audubon Society and the coordinator of the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program and the Tucson Bird Count. She also wrote about the Patagonia Mountains, Hotspot Near You No. 237, in Patagonia, Arizona.