Birdwatching in Sedona: Best Locations - Visit Sedona Blog

Birdwatching in Sedona: Best Locations

There are many fantastic birding locations across the USA, and some offer the opportunity to spot a range of exciting, rare and unusual species. Where are we suggesting you go for a birdwatching holiday in 2020? James Morgan of BirdwatchingBuzz has been at the forefront of bird spotting in the USA and in many other parts of the world for many years, and he offers his expertise here. Specifically, he suggests you check out Sedona – in Arizona – for its rich variety of bird life, so here are his suggestions for the best birding spots in Sedona this year.

Why Sedona?

The amazing Verde River is a short 15-minute drive full of rich vegetation, and the perfect habitat for birds of all kinds. Sedona is a prime location for birding, and you can enjoy guided tours here that take in the very best places in the region.

Below, we will talk specifically about a few of the best locations, and tell you what you can expect to see in the Verde River Valley and around the Sedona region, and when is best to visit. If a place where you can see eagles and herons, hawks, cardinals and kingfishers – and those are just a few to begin with – appeals to you, then Sedona is a place you should make a point of visiting, so let’s look at some of the recommended places to go birding.

Slide Rock State Park

This wonderful wildlife park, a 43-acre site that was formerly an apple farm nestled in the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, is one of the foremost wildlife spotting destinations not just in Sedona, but in all of the USA. Here, the sheer diversity of the animals and birds that love and visit is beyond all expectations, and for bird spotters few places offer such wonderful opportunities.

The park is home to around 140 species of bird throughout the year, with many using this locations as part of the migration route, and among them are some real gems you may struggle to find elsewhere. Golden Eagle are present all-year around here with the Bald Eagle nesting in the park in winter, and the Osprey – a rare sight – passing through during spring and fall. Various species of hawks are often seen – including the Peregrine – and the park also attracts herons, grebes and the Turkey Vulture.

Smaller yet equally interesting are the American and Lesser Goldfinch, plus a few species of Oriole and various Tanagers. Flycatchers, woodpeckers, thrushes, mockingbirds and warblers abound in what is a fantastic places to spend your time. We could go on, but suffice to say of you are visiting Sedona or Arizona, you need to take time at the Slide Rock State Park, where you will also spot rare deer and various other animals that are hard to find.

Sedona Wetlands Preserve

The Sedona Wetlands Preserve is a dedicated site that offers a choice to spot some very rare species indeed, although you need to be there at the right time! Nevertheless, this birdwatchers delight is a fabulous place that is popular with birding enthusiasts from across the globe, and is certainly worth dedicating some time to when you plan your Sedona adventure.

The 27-acre site is famous for its water birds, as it is set around three water basins that each offer excellent habitats for wildlife, and you can often see the likes of Cinnamon Teal and American Pipit, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat and no fewer than six different species of swallow, which make for a magnificent sight with their swooping and unique flight. You can also see various species of gull and sandpiper, and a look at the list of birds that have been spotted at the Wetlands Preserve makes exciting reading for the birding enthusiast.

Just a few miles from Sedona itself, the Preserve is signposted from the main roads out of the city, and is very easy to find. Examples of ‘extremely rare’ birds that have recorded sightings here should be enough to entice you to make a visit: Broad-Winged Hawk has been seen in both spring and fall, passing through during migration, while the Black-bellied Plover is a spring visitor, so that’s the time to be there if you want to tick off rare species.

Very rare birds include various species of owl, plus several swans and wading birds, so there is always something to see of interest. Indeed, the list of recorded species at the Sedona Wetlands Preserve is so comprehensive it could read as a ‘Who’s Who’ of American bird life! Don’t miss it as it is certainly one for serious birding, and a great opportunity to see some very rare birds.

Red Rock State Park

This massive and magnificent State Park is another that occupies a stretch of the glorious Oak Creek Canyon, with Red Rock stretching to a quite considerable 286 acres. A beautiful and quite spectacular place to go birdwatching, Red Rock is named after the wonderful rock outcrops that are prevalent through the Canyon, and they make a stunning backdrop for bird spotters and especially photographers.

Here you will see a great deal of variety in terms of bird species and other wildlife, as is the case throughout the rest of the Canyon, but with some very special visitors making Red Rock State Park a stopping point on their migration routes, and others choosing to nest here year-round. At last count, more than 170 species of bird had been spotted in the park, including eagles, falcons and as many as eight species of hawk, plus – during the summer months – the amazing sight of both Anna’s and Broad-tailed hummingbirds attending the special feeders that the team at the visitor centre put out for them.

Other rare species of hummingbird pass through on migration – the Rufous Hummingbird making the odd appearance – while wood duck and common merganser also nest here, and are of great interest to the many birdwatchers that take the time to settle down and enjoy a day’s spotting in one of the best locations in the region.

There are few places that offer a landscape as unique and majestic as Red Rocks State Park, and few where you stand the chance of seeing so many different birds and other often rare and preserved mammals, so certainly add this one to your list.

Verde River Greenway

The Verde River is the central point for many of the parks and reserves in the region, and the dedicated trails of the Verde River Greenway are a must for birdwatchers. Although not in Sedona it is nearby, and is included in many birdwatching guides to the area – with good reason! Check out the all-time bird list for those species that have been spotted on the trails and around the river, and you will find what is a truly comprehensive list of both common and rare species of American bird life.

Here you can see water birds such as the Canada Goose and other species of geese, Northern Pintail and Shoveler, Teals and various other species of sometimes rarely-seen ducks. Cranes, Rails and Plovers are present as various types, while the Greenway is also home to Kingfishers and a total of 9 different woodpeckers, some of which are on the rare lists.

Flycatchers, warblers, pigeons and doves plus Tanagers, Cardinals, Swallows and hummingbirds – you name it, you will see varieties while trekking on the Verde River Greenway. You can choose to take a map from the visitor centre or simply find a spot and settle down, or you can follow one of the guided trails that will take you to where the best birds can be seen, thanks to the knowledge of a local guide.

Whichever option you choose, there is no doubt the Verde River Greenway is an absolute must for birdwatcher heading to Arizona, so it simply cannot be missed.

Further Advice

Arizona is a fabulous state with amazing canyon landscapes and rock formations that often look as though they are not of this world. It’s also a place full of friendly towns, cities and locals, plus has plenty of great places to stay, to dine and to enjoy a relaxing break while taking in some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the USA.

If you are looking at a birdwatching holiday in 2020 there is plenty to recommend when it comes to Arizona, and more specifically in Sedona. This wonderfully diverse part of the USA is perfect for bird life – and for other wildlife – and the many different parks and reservations in the region, only a few of which we have space to mention here, should be added to every bird spotters list of places to go.

Plan your trip to take in the Verde River and the Old Creek Canyon and you are close to all of the best spots for birding, so why not start looking at your options now, and be sure to plan a birding holiday in Sedona that you will never forget.