By Emma Wolff

A renewed interest in bird watching has resurfaced this year thanks to COVID-19. The pandemic has inspired people across the state to uncover new hobbies, especially ones that are safe and offer the ability to social distance, like bird watching. In the last year birding has become increasingly popular not only for Arizona residents but for people all over the United States. According to The Washington Post, there are currently 47 million birders in the U.S. with the number growing steadily.

For much of the nation, winter is a time to stay indoors and watch the snow. Luckily, for Phoenicians, it is the perfect time to go outside in the 70-degree weather and search the sky for feathered friends.

According to Della Killeen, a City of Peoria park ranger, you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy bird watching.

“Birding engages so many senses,” she says. “Searching for birds with our eyes, listening for birds with our ears, being outdoors and smelling the rich organic, earthy smells. Watching birds as they cycle through their daily and seasonal tasks is calming and reassuring. It’s where we find resilience. It’s where we take comfort in the cycles of life.”

“We spend so much time in modern life in our prefrontal cortex, the thinking and planning parts of our brains, that we don’t spend very much time in our sensory brains,” Killeen adds. “We don’t spend a lot of time paying attention to what we’re smelling and what we’re hearing. So, when we’re able to do that, even on a subconscious level, it just makes us feel more relaxed and comfortable.”

There are many wonderful places to start a bird watching adventure in the Valley. Picking the destination has much to do with choosing the birds to observe. This season, the most common birds to see are riparian birds like warblers and egrets, desert birds like woodpeckers and sparrows and raptors such as hawks and falcons.
the best places to go birding in peoria and nearby

To go riparian birding, check out these locations:
Skunk Creek Trailhead
8212 W. Country Gables Drive

New River at Thunderbird
New River Trail and West Thunderbird Road

To search for desert birds and raptors, go to these locations:
East Wing Preserve
E. Wing Mountain Trail

Paloma Community Park
29799 N. Lake Pleasant Parkway

New River at Rio Vista
New River Trail and N. Rio Vista Boulevard

To go waterfowl birding, try these locations:
Rio Vista Community Pond
8866 W. Thunderbird Road

Pioneer Community Pond
8755 N. 83rd Avenue

You don’t need to be an expert to try birding for the first time. The sport of bird watching requires little equipment other than a good starter pair of binoculars, some patience, and a positive attitude. When shopping for binoculars look for an 8 x 40 or a 10 x 50 specification in terms of magnification and size.

If venturing out to bird watch seems daunting, try a virtual group first. Sonoran Audubon Society is hosting a virtual birding workshop on Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. To register, send your name and email address to Karen LaFrance at klaf40@gmail.com.

Stay up to date on the latest bird watching outings and information by checking the City of Peoria’s website at peoriaaz.gov or by visiting the Sonoran Audubon Society website at sonoranaudubon.org.