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Hotspots Near You

53. Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, Superior, Arizona

The best migrant trap in central Arizona attracts hummingbirds, wrens, warblers, Summer Tanager, Lawrence’s Goldfinch, and other birds.

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

Jim Burns also wrote about the Salome Highway Thrasher Site in Maricopa County, Arizona, Hotspot Near You No. 7, Gilbert Water Ranch, Gilbert, Arizona, No. 43, Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area, Show Low, Arizona, No. 143, Canoe Creek Road, Osceola County, Florida, No. 150, Francis Beidler Forest, Harleyville, South Carolina, No. 158, and Mount Ord, Sunflower, Arizona, No. 184.


53. Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, Superior, Arizona


Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park is a “living classroom” set in the high desert about an hour east of Phoenix. It is located at milepost 223 on Hwy. 60 at the base of majestic Picketpost Mountain, just west of the town of Superior.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
33°16’47.52″N 111°9’33.33″W


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.

For more info

Boyce-Thompson Arboretum State Park, (520) 689-2723
Maricopa Audubon Society
Desert Rivers Audubon Society

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