Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Warblers of Maricopa County


Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus

The Olive Warbler is it's own family, showing characterics different from the Wood Warblers in behavior, song, callnotes (a distinctive high phiieeew) and some visual traits.  This bird is similiar in respects to Wood Warblers visually, however.  Olive Warblers have limited range in the United States and are strictly found in Arizona and New Mexico.  This species strongly favors forests with prominent ponderosa pines, which often have oaks and Douglas firs in them.  In Maricopa County, Olive Warblers are fairly common in Transition Zones, usually from 6-7000' feet in elevation.  They can easily be found in the breeding season, with good numbers of them often staying in this appropriate habitat during the winter season (sometimes in high numbers).  The main area that supports Olive Warblers is the Highway 87 Area (Area 1).  Olive Warblers make their home here in the Mazatzal Mountain range, which is Maricopa County's best Transition Zone habitat.  Mount Ord is by far the best place to find them, where Slate Creek Divide and Four Peaks Wilderness are also good areas to look.  The best bet is Mount Ord, where there is more accessable habitat. 


Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata

The Orange-crowned Warbler migrates and winters in Maricopa County.  This rather dull-looking warbler can often be very abundant during migration, and usually very common in winter.  They are usually found in high numbers in any riparian area throughout the county during these time periods.  Orange-crowned Warblers are easily brought in to good views by pishing.  This bird is widespread throughout North America, but far more common in the West.  It breeds in a variety of habitats in it's range.


Lucy's Warbler Oreothlypis luciae

The Lucy's Warbler is the "warbler symbol" of the desert southwest.  This plain-colored bird is very common in Maricopa County and throughout parts of Arizona from March through September.  It highly prefers areas with a lot of mesquites, and nests in cavities.  Areas with favorable mesquites can be found in the middle of the dry desert or in riparian areas with mesquite bosques.  The song of the this warbler fills these habitats.  They are also very responsive to pishing, often coming into the sounds in small flocks.  Though the Lucy's Warbler can be found in numbers in most areas in the county throughout the year, they may be viewed best at the following:  Area 1-Highway 87 (try Mesquite Wash, Sunflower, Bushnell Tanks), all of Area 2-Lower Salt River Recreation Area, Area 10-Northwest Maricopa (try Morgan City Wash, Castle Hot Springs Road, U.S. 60 Roadstop, Hassayampa River Preserve), Area 11-Cave Creek (try Spur Cross Conservation Area, Rackensack Canyon, Lower Camp Creek, Seven Springs Recreation Area), and all of area 12-Lower Verde River. 


Nashville Warbler Oreothlypis ruficapilla

The Nashville Warbler is a migrant in Maricopa County during the spring and the fall.  It is rather uncommon and can be hard to find in spring, but during fall, numbers are very common and this bird is best observed from late August through September.  The best habitat to search in would be any riparian associated habitats in the county, even though they can be found in elevations as high as Transition Zones during migration.  Nashville Warblers are widespread in North America, with both eastern and western populations.


Virginia's Warbler Oreothlypis virginiae

The Virginia's Warbler is a breeder in Maricopa County in the higher Transition Zone elevations.  They are found in thickets and brushy areas that surround ponderosa pine and oak habitats.  Look in dense understory in forested habitats or on brushy slopes in midst of these forests.  The best area to see breeding Virginia's Warblers in Maricopa County is the Highway 87 Area (Area 1).  Mount Ord is probably the best place to look, with Slate Creek Divide and Four Peaks Wilderness also being key places.  At Mount Ord, Forest Road 1688 is often a great place to view Virginia's Warblers, as this two mile road passes through key habitat (See Mount Ord page).  Virginia's Warblers are also fairly common in spring and fall migrations in Maricopa County, especially in riparian areas.  This warbler's population is scattered throughout Arizona at higher elevations as well.  On a North American scale, the Virginia's Warbler is found strictly in the west.


MacGillivray's Warbler Geothlypis tolmiei

The MacGillivray's Warbler is a skulking bird, often elusive, giving brief looks.  It's harsh call note often gives away it's presence.  This bird is also responsive to pishing, often popping up briefly before moving on.  MacGillivray's Warblers are migrants in Maricopa County, common in both spring and fall migrations.  They are usually found in riparian areas, in dense vegetation.  Habitat varies though with this bird, as they are sometimes found in Transition Zones during migration.  They breed in higher elevations in western North America, usually in dense understory and riparian thickets.  Arizona is home to breeding MacGillivray's Warblers in the northeast part of the state.


Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas

Common Yellowthroats are found year round throughout Maricopa County in wet and marshy areas.  Look and listen for them in wetlands, especially with high reeds and surrounding tall grasses.  Numbers increase in migration.  This warbler of the marsh is shy and generally stays out of the open.  The Common Yellowthroat is very common and widespread throughout North America.


Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia

Starting in spring and continuing through summmer, the song of the bright Yellow Warbler can be heard in the county commonly in cottonwood and willow dominated riparian forests.  This warbler is widespread throughout North America, having a huge breeding range in a variety of habitats.  In Maricopa County, Yellow Warblers are easily found breeding in any riparian habitats dominated by willows and cottonwoods, especially cottonwoods.  This bird is abundant in the migration periods, especially fall migration.  Several individuals usually winter in the area. 


Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the most common and abundant warbler in North America.  Two distictive groups of Yellow-rumped Warbler, "Audubon's" and "Myrtle", have been thought of as two separate species, and features of the two are certainly suggestive of two species.  "Audubon's" is abundant in the county during migration and winter, and "Myrtle" is uncommon during migration and winter.  Yellow-rumped Warblers are everywhere in season and may be seen anywhere in the county during migration in winter, from low to high elevations in most habitats.  They don't breed in Maricopa County, but do in several areas throughout Arizona. 


Grace's Warbler Setophaga graciae

The Grace's Warbler is a pine/oak loving species of forests in the southwestern states in North America.  In Arizona, they are scattered throughout the state in pine forests above 6000'.  In Maricopa County, they are found breeding in the higher elevation pine forests in the Highway 87 Area (Area 1) in the Mazatzal Mountain range.  They are easily found at Mount Ord, Slate Creek Divide, and Four Peaks Wilderness in higher elevation forests.  Listen for them singing or calling, as they are often high up in the trees.  Pishing can often bring in the Grace's Warbler for closer views.  They are arrive for the breeding season starting near the beginning of April, and most birds are gone by fall. 


Black-throated Gray Warbler Setophaga nigrescens

In western forests in North America dominated by dry pine and oak forests, the Black-throated Gray Warbler makes it's home.  This warbler's range is scattered throughout Arizona in these forests, and the northeastern part of Maricopa County in the Highway 87 Area (Area 1) holds plenty of this habitat.  Black-throated Gray Warblers are easily found at Mount Ord in very high numbers in the breeding season.  They can also be found at Slate Creek Divide and the Four Peaks Wilderness Area.  In migration time frames, they can be abundant in higher elevations and common in lower elevations throughout the county.  In spring and fall migrations, any riparian habitat can turn up this warbler.  A few Black-throated Gray Warblers stay in the area through the winter in lower elevations.  


Townsend's Warbler Setophaga townsendi

The Townsend's Warbler is a breeding resident of evergreen forests in the northwestern United States.  It can be seen throughout Arizona and in Maricopa County during both migration periods.  This warbler is rather common in numbers during migration throughout the county.  Higher elevations seem to get more common numbers in Transition Zone forests (Area 1). 


Hermit Warbler Setophaga occidentalis

The Hermit Warbler is much less common than the Townsend's Warbler in Maricopa County in the spring and fall migration time frames.  This warbler is more uncommon, with smaller numbers passing through.  Just like the closely related Townsend's Warbler, the Hermit is more likely to be seen in higher numbers during the migrations in the higher forested Transition Zones in the county (Area 1).  They are often found in the lowlands, especially in riparian habitats.  One to two birds at the most are often seen on outings in the lowlands.  This warbler prefers forests in western North America along the Pacific Coast on it's breeding grounds.   


Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla

The active Wilson's Warbler is an abundant spring and fall migrant in Maricopa County and the rest of Arizona.  Some individuals spend the winter in the county in riparian areas.  Wilson's Warblers are found in multiple habitats and elevations in the county during migration, especially in riparian areas.  Numbers are often overwhelming.  This bird is very responsive to pishing, and can often be located by it's "diiiimp" callnote.  The Wilson's Warbler is widespread throughout North America, breeding in dense riparian thickets of higher elevations.


Painted Redstart Myioborus pictus

The Painted Redstart is an awesome sight in pine and oak forests in Maricopa County above 6000'.  This beautiful warbler reaches the United States in Arizona and New Mexico, and Maricopa County's Mazatzal Mountains are an excellent stretch of habitat for this species (Area 1).  Mount Ord is the best location to view this species with easier access to it's habitat, while Slate Creek Divide is good also.  Painted Redstarts can be found in these pine and oak woodlands in the county usually from late March to September, where they breed in this habitat on the forest floor.  This bird is quite the show off, constantly spreading it's tail and flicking it's wings.  Knowing it's song and call often helps locating it in the forest.  If the Redstart is immediately nearby, it is usually very cooperative for viewing.  The Painted Redstart is also regularly seen in both migrations in the lowlands in small numbers. 


Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens

The Yellow-breasted Chat is by far the largest of the Wood Warblers, and is also by far the strangest of them all.  This giant warbler acts more like a thrasher, and is very shy and retiring.  It has a variety of loud and distinctive songs and call notes, which sounds more like a mimic than a warbler.  It is widespread throughout North America in the Lower 48, present in the country from April through September.  In Maricopa County, this bird favors heavy riparian habitats dominated by cottonwoods and willows.  Places where they are found in high numbers include Mesquite Wash and Sunflower (Area 1), Morgan City Wash and Hassayampa River Preserve (Area 10), as well as the Box Bar and Needle Rock Recreation Sites (Area 12).  Look for the chat among dense foliage in trees and thickets.


Also keep an eye out for....

Arizona annually gets vagrant "eastern" warblers, with birds ranging from annual to extremely rare.  It's important to keep eyes peeled for these species during migrations and sometimes winter.  Some are very regular, such as as four of the five shown below and they can usually be found most years in the county or throughout the state. 


Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis

This odd warbler favors areas with slow moving water, where it walks along the edge of the water, constantly bobbing it's tail.  Creeks and small ponds bordered by thick riparian habitat are the best places to look for Northern Waterthrush.  The Northern Waterthrush is most likely to be seen on the ground, unless spooked were it often flies up to land onto a taller tree limb.  It's loud callnote is often the first clue to it's presence.  This bird breeds throughout the northern part of the United States, including the northern Lower 48 states, Canada, and Alaska.  It is a much more common migrant in the east, more scarce of a migrant in the west.  In Arizona, it is considered uncommon to rare, but an annual migrant.  Both spring (mid May) and fall migration (late August through September) are good times to look for this species.  In Maricopa County, one can't set out expecting to see a Northern Waterthrush, but good places to look with appropriate habitat include:  Mesquite Wash, Sunflower, and Bushnell Tanks (Area 1), Foxtail/Sheeps Crossing Stretch and other Salt River locations (Area 2), Morgan City Wash and Hassayampa River Preserve (Area 10), and Seven Springs Wash and Recreation Area (Area 11).  Also keep the much more rare and similiar Louisiana Waterthrush in mind, which more typically a winter visitor in Arizona.


Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia

The strange Black-and-white Warbler is a rare but annual migrant and winter visitor in Arizona.  They are most often found in riparian areas, and this bird behaves much more like a nuthatch than a warbler, creeping "nuthatch-like" up branches as it feeds.  In Maricopa County, keep this warbler in mind in any riparian areas.  The Black-and-white Warbler is widespread and very common throughout the east, but is a regular migrant throughout the west.


American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla

This beautiful warbler is mainly found in the eastern part of North America, although it's range goes through to the northwestern states/western Canada.  It has even breed an a rare occasion in northeast Arizona.  The American Redstart is quite the show off, constantly fanning it's tail and flicking it's wings.  It is an uncommon to rare migrant and winter visitor throughout Arizona.  In Maricopa County, keep this bird in mind especially in riparian areas, where it is most likely to show up. 


Northern Parula Setophaga americana

The beautiful Northern Parula is a very small warbler that inhabits the eastern part of the United States in a variety of forest types.  It's buzzy song can be heard up high in the trees, as this warbler often tends to forage near the tops of trees.  Like the other warblers mentioned above, the Parula is quite similar in migration and wintering routes.  It is a regular migrant and winter visitor in the western United States.  In Arizona, it is rare in numbers but annual.  In Maricopa County, keep the Northern Parula in mind in any riparian areas during spring and fall migrations, and often in winter. 


Red-faced Warbler Cardellina rubrifrons

The striking Red-faced Warbler is a sought after bird by many, and only reaches the United States in Arizona and New Mexico.  This warbler is mainly found in northwestern Mexico, but is scattered througout Arizona, making Arizona the best state in North America to view this species.  Red-faced Warblers favor cool forested areas, often favored by forested slopes and canyons that have a mix of conifers and oaks, usually above 6000 feet.  This species formerly bred in Maricopa County at Slate Creek Divide (Area 1), but after devastating fires in the area (Willow Fire, 2004), the species never returned as a breeder and hasn't been found breeding since that time period.  With this species being scattered throughout Arizona, it still migrates through Maricopa County and may be seen in the higher elevations in Area 1 during migration with some luck (Mount Ord, Slate Creek Divide, Four Peaks Wilderness).  Look in the earlier stages of both spring (late April) and fall (August through beginning of September) migrations for this bird in the higher elevations. 


Back to What Bird Are You After?  main page.


Birding in Maricopa County

An online guide to the birds and birding locations of Maricopa County


Birding in Greenlee County

An online guide to Greenlee County Birding


Birding in Arizona's White Mountains

An online guide to Birding in Arizona's White Mountains