Gambel’s Quail

You’ve got Mail… a Male Gambel’s Quail

The Feather Files
Name: Gambel’s Quail
Species: Callipepla gambelii
Native to and Migration: Nonmigratory; lives in the hot deserts of the Southwest—the Sonoran, Mohave, and Chihuahuan—below about 5,500 feet elevation.
Date Seen: March 2015, April 2019
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Notes:  These birds walk or run along the ground in groups called coveys of a dozen or more birds. They scratch for food under shrubs and cacti and eat grasses and cactus fruits. Their flight is explosive, powerful, and short.

When you have Gambel’s Quail in your yard, which is pretty much most of the time, it is like watching clowns. They are just very funny birds that perch in the oddest places. They prefer walking and running to flying. Their little legs move incredibly fast when they are startled .

Broad-winged Hawk





The Feather Files
Name: Broad-winged Hawk
Species:  Buteo platypterus
Native to and Migration: The Broad-winged hawk breeds throughout much of Canada and the Central and Eastern part of the United States. In the fall, hundreds of thousands of them migrate in large flocks to Mexico and Central America.
Date Seen: May 2014
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Snowy Egret


Sun Lakes Arizona

The Feather Files
Name: Snowy Egret
Species: Egretta thula
Native to and Migration: Breeding populations in the interior of North America and along the north Atlantic coast migrate. Many western birds winter in Mexico, while many eastern birds migrate to the Gulf Coast or fly across the ocean to the Caribbean islands and South America.
Date Seen: January 2017, April 2016
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Sun Lakes Arizona
Notes: Medium-sized herons with long, thin legs and long, slender, bills. All white with a black bill, black legs, and yellow feet.

Great Blue Heron

Sun Lakes Arizona
Take off
Sun Lakes Arizona
Landing gear down!

Sun Lakes Arizona

Tonto Arizona
An immature bird
Greater Vancouver British Columbia
A skilled fisherman

Sun Lakes Arizona

Up on the roof top
Shaggy breeding feathers

The Feather Files
Name: Great Blue Heron
Species: Ardea herodias
Native to and Migration: Partial – birds leave the northern edge of their breeding range to fly as far south as the Caribbean. Birds in the Pacific Northwest and south Florida are present year-round.
Date Seen: April 2019; February 2019; August 2014
Location: Sun Lakes, Chandler, Arizona, USA; Tonto Golf Course, Arizona, USA; Vancouver British Columbia, Canada

Many thanks to our friends at Sun Lakes Arizona for a great week-end of laughing, bird watching, car shopping, apricot tree netting and interesting food experiences!


American White Pelican

Bear River Utah
American White Pelican breeding adult

Bear River Utah

The Feather Files
Name: American White Pelican
Alias: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Native to and Migration: Northern breeding populations (Alberta and Saskatchewan) migrate to southern California, the Gulf States, Mexico, and Central America. Populations breeding in Texas and Mexico are resident.
Date Seen: May 2018
Location: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah
Notes: Snowy white with black flight feathers visible only when the wings are spread. A small patch of ornamental feathers on the chest can become yellow in spring. The bill and legs are yellow-orange. A yellow plate forms on the upper bill of breeding adults.

These birds feed from the water’s surface, dipping their beaks into the water to catch fish and other aquatic organisms. They often upend, like a very large dabbling duck. They do not plunge-dive the way Brown Pelicans do.

Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird
Male Red-winged Blackbird

The Feather Files
Name: Red-winged Blackbird
Species: Agelaius phoeniceus
Native to and Migration: Red-winged Blackbirds that breed through most of Canada spend the winter in the southern United States. The birds that breed in the United States and Mexico don’t migrate at all.
Date Seen: May 2018, February 2019
Location: Utah and Arizona

Notes: These birds spend the breeding season in wet places like fresh or saltwater marshes. Male Red-winged Blackbirds will sit on a high perch over their territories, which they defend vigorously. Females slink through reeds and grasses collecting food or nest material. This explains why I didn’t recognize the female until I saw a flock of them feeding beside a lake during non-breeding season.

Great-tailed Grackle

Female Great-tailed Grackle
Male Great-tailed Grackle

The Feather Files
Name Great-tailed Grackle
Species: Quiscalus mexicanus
Native to and Migration: Primarily resident throughout a North American range which includes the south-western United States and Mexico.
Date Seen: January 2013; February 2016; February 2019
Location: Fountain Hills Area, Arizona

Notes: Grackles thrive in human-altered landscapes. They are loud, social birds with a varied diet that includes both plant and animal material.
They are annoying at outdoor restaurants…

Hairy Woodpecker

Blairmore Alberta

Blairmore Alberta

Calgary Alberta

The Feather Files
Name: Hairy Woodpecker
Species: Dryobates villosus
Native to and Migration: Hairy Woodpeckers are mostly year round residents throughout their range from Alaska to Mexico. Birds in higher elevations might move to a lower elevation for the winter.
Date Seen: October 2014; September 2016
Location: Blairmore Alberta, Airdrie Alberta

Notes: Hairy Woodpeckers chisel away at tree trunks to get at insects and to create a cavity for a nest. It is estimated that the breeding population is about 9 million birds with 44% living in the U.S., 52% in Canada, and 4% in Mexico.

Turkey Vulture

San Jose del Cabo Mexico

These Turkey Vultures were perched on a palm tree overlooking the business district in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. We were on a roof top patio, having dinner. We watched the vultures. The vultures watched us.

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

These Turkey Vultures were perched on cactus near a restaurant near San Jose del Cabo. We had lunch and watched the vultures. The vultures watched us.

ArizonaThree Turkey Vultures often flew over our community north of Fountain Hills Arizona. Sometimes they would swoop down and fly over our golf cart as we drove down the street. Other times they would circle overhead when I was out walking.

The Feather Files
Name: Turkey Vulture
Species: Cathartes aura
Native to and Migration: Turkey Vultures in the southern United States are year-round residents. Birds in the northeast migrate short distances south. Western birds migrate through Central America and in some cases as far as Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Date Seen: Mexico, January 3, 2019; Arizona April 24, 2018
Location: San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico; North of Fountain Hills, Arizona

Anna’s Hummingbird


Anna’s Hummingbird on a Pepper Tree branch.


A Hummingbird tongue: “…the tongue works as an elastic micropump. “Fluid at the tip is driven into the tongue’s grooves by forces resulting from re-expansion of a collapsed section” of the tongue closer to the mouth.” Live Science Hummingbird Tongue


Anna’s Hummingbird during a rain storm – sitting on an Agave spine.


The Feather Files
Name: Anna’s Hummingbird
Species: Calypte anna
Native to and Migration: These hummingbirds live exclusively in the Western United States, North Western Mexico and coastal South Western Canada. They either don’t migrate or else migrate a very short distance to better feeding grounds.
Date Seen: February 20, 2019
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona

Notes: These hummingbirds were feeding on the nectar of the red flowers of the Valentine bush (Eremophila Maculata Valentine or Emu Bush). When not feeding or diving, they would sit on the branches of our Pepper Tree or an Agave.