Boyce-Thompson Arboretum, “BTA” to state birders, showcases a collection of 3,200 plants from deserts around the world, including Sonoran Desert vegetation native to central Arizona. Combine this greenery with the riparian areas along Queen Creek, a small man-made lake, flowers in the Hummingbird-Butterfly Garden, and fruiting trees in the Herb Garden, and you have a wide diversity of habitats for birds.
Although the arboretum has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as the best migrant and vagrant trap in central Arizona, winter may well be the best time to visit: Seven species of wrens are possible (Winter Wren is the prize); large, mixed flocks of sparrows are guaranteed (can you find the White-throated and Fox Sparrows among all the White-crowneds?); and each winter brings invasions from somewhere – Arizona’s mountains (Clark’s Nutcracker), the Pacific Northwest (Varied Thrush), or the East (Northern Parula).
In the spring, hummingbirds are everywhere, including Broad-billed, a recent addition, and for the past year BTA has hosted a spectacular, second-ever record Broad-billed x Violet-crowned hybrid. — Jim Burns
Exotic drylands and native Sonoran Desert gardens, mesquite bosques, intermittent creek, man-made lake.
Two miles of trails, mostly flat, paved or graveled, and wheelchair-accessible. Mountainside trail and one area of main trail are steep, narrow, and not suitable for wheelchairs.
More than 250 species. Residents: Cooper’s Hawk, Gambel’s Quail, Gilded Flicker, Black Phoebe, Canyon Wren, Curved-billed Thrasher, Verdin, and Northern Cardinal. Western warblers in spring and fall migration, plus a few eastern surprises. Spring breeders: Anna’s and Costa’s Hummingbirds. Summer: Bell’s Vireo, Black-throated Sparrow, Hooded Oriole, and Summer Tanager. Winter: Williamson’s Sapsucker, Steller’s Jay, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Rufous-backed Robin, Black-chinned, Fox, and White-throated Sparrows, and Lawrence’s Goldfinch.
When to go
Winter for comparing sparrow species and searching for rarities and vagrants. Spring and fall for transient flycatchers and warblers. Summer for breeding birds.
Visitor center with restrooms and gift shop, interpretive center, two greenhouses. Regularly scheduled bird walks throughout the year.
State park. Open 8-5 September through April, 6-3 May through August. Adults $7.50, children 5-12 $3, under 5 free.
Temps range from near freezing in winter to near 100 in summer, so be prepared. Spotting scopes not necessary.