When you think of Southeast Arizona Birding, and the unique birds that can be found there, it conjures thoughts of roadrunners, hummingbirds, trogons, and the many other desert residents. In the last few days, we have had a couple of avian visitors that are well outside the norm. We are right in the middle of the fall migration, so new and unusual species is not without some expectations. My first surprise came in the form of an eBired.org report of a Tropical Parula near the water tank in Florida Canyon, just to the north of Madera Canyon. Sunrise the next day found me at the trailhead, Armed with my camera, binoculars and a large jug of water. The bird was cooperative enough, giving me a couple of nice looks thru my binoculars, but every time I switched to the camera, it turned quite shy, and then did a disappearing act. With close to 30 avid birders all gathered around the one sycamore tree, I am pretty sure the bird was ready for some peace and quiet.

As I mentioned before, no real photos of the Tropical Parula were gotten by me, but at least you can see the gray head, wing bars, yellow breast and neck, along with the white vent area.


The Santa Cruz River flows right thru the middle of Tucson, and other than when we receive the heavy seasonal “Monsoon” rains, it is large, wide and completely dry. In the last few months, the City of Tucson has started using the treated gray water from the waste treatment plants, to provide some small amount of year round flow back to the river system. While this is pretty limited to the actual amount of area that sees water, it does provide some pools and small wet areas that are critical to many of our birds and animals that need it. It is at one of these pools that has been home to a Purple Gallinule for the last six or seven days! When I got the call about this bird, I took off like a shot, but unfortunately, was just too late in the day, it was quite dark and the bird went to roost in a willow tree. The very next morning, I was standing next to the riverbed before the sun had risen, in hopes of getting a glimpse of this great rarity for our area. The bird was gracious enough to not make me and the half dozen other early morning birders wait too long. It slowly walked out unto the small mud flat, with the regality of a bird that knows its own stature! This time, great photos were taken, high fives were exchanged, and another chapter in South East Arizona Birding is in the books!

Here is our Purple Gallinule!




As you can see, it even took a little time to preen and prep for the paparazzi!

Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.