I’ve been birding the Henderson Wastewater Treatment Facility since moving to Las Vegas in 1988. That was a decade before the Red Rock Audubon Society and the city created the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. It opened on May 8, 1998.
Last year 178 species were recorded, and I saw 164, but my best find came two years earlier, on October 28, 2004, when I walked out of the visitor center and spotted a Groove-billed Ani on the island in Pond 1. Needless to say, my feet did not touch ground all day. It was the fourth state record. I traveled to Texas to find my life Least Bittern, only to have it start showing up at the preserve on a regular basis in 2003. Now it’s one of my favorite birds to look for. Some years they’re hard to find; other years I see a lot of them.
My favorite time of year at the preserve is spring, when newly hatched birds appear. You can see chicks from April into September. I enjoy watching the bills of young Black-necked Stilts or American Avocets grow, and seeing young Pied-billed and Eared Grebes riding on their parents’ backs, especially when the other parent is feeding them. Trying to tell American Coot from Common Moorhen chicks is also fun.
No matter what time of the year you visit, you can always find good birds. If the weather is not nice, bird from the windows of the visitor center. I’ve had 35-40 species without stepping outdoors. — Je Anne Strott-Branca
Water-treatment ponds lined with cattails and reeds, saltbush shrubs, mesquite and cottonwood trees.
13 evaporating ponds, 9 available for birding. A paved path three-quarters of a mile long circles three; level dirt paths surround the others.
243 species, 178 in 2006. Verdin, Abert’s Towhee, Gambel’s Quail, Crissal Thrasher, Greater Roadrunner, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, six duck species, and other desert birds. Winter: 12 duck species, geese, Tundra Swan, raptors, and gulls. Migration: flycatchers, swallows, sparrows, shorebirds, warblers. Breeders: Pied-billed and Eared Grebes, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Common Moorhen, Black and Say’s Phoebes, Black-chinned and Anna’s Hummingbirds.
When to go
Year-round. Hatchlings from April into September. 130 species recorded in September 2006.
Visitor center with restrooms, water cooler, soda machine, gift shop, classroom, and exhibits. Map, checklist, wheelchair, and loaner binoculars available. Benches. Two portable toilets.
City wastewater-reclamation facility. Admission free. Open daily 6-3, last entry at 2:45 pm. Use call box at entry gate to summon visitor center upon arrival. Park in lot adjacent to center. Visitors must sign in. Preserve may be closed when the national security level is raised to Orange.
Dress in layers. Wear a hat and sunscreen. Bring water and a spotting scope. Come early on summer days. Plan to spend at least two hours.