Interactive Landscape

Look for the LCR MSCP Birds on the River!

Can you find all 12?
Hover over and CLICK each bird in its habitat to learn more about each bird! Hint: Three don’t have circles.

Habitat Key


Birds such as woodpeckers create and use cavities in saguaro cacti.

Mesquite Woodland

The mesquite woodlands between the upland and river offer nesting for birds.

Cottonwood-Willow Forest

Within the river corridor, lush cottonwoods and willows host many forest-loving birds.


Secretive marsh birds lurk within the cattails where they nest and forage.

The Bill Williams River

Welcome to the Lower Colorado River! Have fun exploring the ecosystems from the uplands to the marshes of this desert riparian landscape. Click on each bird to learn more about it.

The Bill Williams River
Vermilion Flycatcher Yellow-billed Cuckoo Sonoran Yellow Warbler Gila Woodpecker Arizona Bell's Vireo Summer Tanager Gilded Flicker California Black Rail Western Least Bittern Yuma Ridgway's Rail Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Elf Owl

Vermilion Flycatcher

The male will perform his aerial courtship display above his territory. He puffs his fiery plumage while singing mid air and then drops back down to his perch.
♫ Their Song :
I’ve always thought their call sounds like “up, up, up, and away” which the male will sing while doing his seductive display.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

The Yellow-Billed Cuckoo is a migratory bird that winters in Central and South America and migrates north to breed in North America. It is often referred to tis the "rain crow" because of its reputation to call before summer storms. The Western Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which breeds throughout the Southwest and along the Lower Colorado River is threatened due to habitat loss.

♫ Their Song :
The cuckoo has many a call, but this is the typical contact call. The females also solicit a COO-ing call often heard early in the morning.

Sonoran Yellow Warbler

The Sonoran Yellow Warblers spends its day flitting between the cottonwood and willow trees foraging and singing, These riparian obligate species rely on an intact riparian system to breed and their populations suffered after the flood regimes of the Lower Colorado River were altered. Their populations are currently rebounding.
♫ Their Song :
Their sugary sweet song sounds like "sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet!" and is usually heard from the forest canopy.

Gila Woodpecker

The Gila Woodpecker is a charismatic woodpecker found in the Southwest Mojave and Sonoran deserts along riparian corridors or the uplands adjacent. They most often drill cavities in the saguaro cactus where they nest, although sometimes they make their home in trees as well. Their cavities are used by secondary cavity nesters such as Ash-throated Flycatchers and Elf Owls in following years, thereby creating crucial nesting habitat for other desert birds.

♫ Their Song :
They sound a bit like maniacal clown when you hear their frantic sounding rising calls across the open desert. Their "churr" call here is a friendly little hello between a pair. 

Arizona Bell's Vireo

The Arizona Bell's Vireo is a subspecies of the Bell's Vireo found in the Southwest primarily in California and Arizona. They migrate from Central America and Mexico and nest in desert woodlands (i.e., mesquite) on riparian edges.

♫ Their Song :
Often heard and not seen from the thickets of desert scrub, the Bell's Vireo sounds like a rambling sailor exclaiming "You don't know where the heck I am!" at 10x speed. 

Summer Tanager

The only all-red bird of North America was once a common sight in cottonwood and willows trees along the Lower Colorado River. After a massive decline throughout the 1900s, they are rebounding slowly and their flash of ruby glimmers from the treetops again.
♫ Their Song :
Their song is a beautiful robin-like flute song of gorgeous notes. And their call is a sharp "Pritt-i-tuk."

Gilded Flicker

The Gilded Flicker is severely declining desert woodpecker along the Lower Colorado River. They excavate cavities in saguaros to rear their young.

♫ Their Song :
They have territorial drums and a "pee-er" call, but my favorite flicker call is the "wicka wicka." During this dance, two flickers (rivals or a pair) will face each other and swing their heads back and forth in a wild dance frenzy while calling "wicka wicka wicka!"

California Black Rail

The California Black Rail is a subspecies of the Black Rail found in southern and central California and in Arizona along the Lower Colorado River. One of the most difficult birds to actually see as they spend the majority of their life in dense marshland, rarely retreating. The Black Rail is in overall decline and on the Partners in Flight Red Watch List. 

♫ Their Song :
Heard from deep in marsh vegetation, this elusive bird sings a catchy "kikk-ee-kerr" or Great Basin Bird Observation field biologists heard "G-B-B-O."

Photo by JJ Harrison / CC BY

Western Least Bittern

The Western Least Bittern is a subspecies of the Least Bittern, a small, elusive marsh bird with a fondness for making its home in cattail marshes. Like other marsh birds, the Least Bittern is difficult to see and will freeze perfectly still to blend in with the reeds. Populations have been declining due to loss of wetlands.

♫ Their Song :
Like most marsh birds, you typically hear them, but don't see them. This coo-like song reminds me of a Santa Claus trying to chuckle softly.

Photo by Bobby Wilcox

Yuma Ridgway's Rail

The Yuma Ridway's Rail is a subspecies of the Federally Endangered Ridgway's Rail, with the Yuma subspecies found along the Lower Colorado River into Mexico. They have severely declined due to river alteration from management practices regulating flooding.

♫ Their Song :
This elusive rail (type of marsh bird) was once lumped into the same species as the Clapper Rail. Listen to the typical soliciting call notes of the male to see why.

Photo by Becky Matsubara / CC BY

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher is a subspecies of the Willow Flycatcher throughout the Southwest and along the Lower Colorado River. Due to loss of native riparian habitat and expansion of Brown-headed Cowbirds (which hijack their nests by laying their own eggs in the flycatchers nests), they have been listed as Federally Endangered since 1995. 

♫ Their Song :
Although it can be difficult to tell the different subspecies of Empidonax (flycatchers) apart, the Willow Flycatcher has a nasal-y "Breeeeet" and "Fitz-bew" call which helps confirm their identity.

Photo by Jarrod Swackhamer

Elf Owl

The Elf Owl is the smallest owl in the world and calls the Southwestern United States and much of Mexico home. Along the Lower Colorado River, Elf Owls nest in old woodpecker cavities in saguaro cacti and riparian woodland. They are listed as endangered in California. They rely on cavities previously created by woodpeckers, and therefore need older, more established riparian forests to breed.

♫ Their Song :
Their chattery "Bop bop bop bop bops!" can be heard echoing throughout the uplands and river edges. For the smallest raptor in the world, they are very loud and conspicuous.

Landscape sketch by Mel Preston

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