With 360 confirmed species of birds, Prescott is one of Arizona's leading birding destinations. Popular sighting locations include Lynx Lake, Goldwater Lake, Granite Basin Lake, Thumb Butte Picnic Area, Granite Creek Park, the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve (just south of Watson Lake), and the Watson-Willow Lake Ecosystem Important Bird Area (IBA).
In addition to Watson and Willow Lakes and their surrounding uplands, a two-mile stretch of Granite Creek immediately south of Watson Lake that encompasses the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, is part of the IBA.
Birding in Prescott - by Bonnie Pranter
Since 1974, over 360 species of birds have been confirmed in the Prescott area (Birds of Prescott, Arizona, Carl S. Tomoff, 5th edition, 2010). One reason for this diversity of birdlife is the varied vegetative communities present.
The local recreational areas of Lynx Lake, Goldwater Lake, Granite Basin Lake, Thumb Butte Picnic Area, White Spar Campground, and Lower Wolf Creek Campground are located within ponderosa pine forest with pinyon-juniper woodland, chaparral, and riparian (creekside) vegetation adjacent to or interspersed with the forest.
Resident forest birds common at these sites include Acorn Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Steller's Jay, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Western Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco, and Pine Siskin. In summer also find Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, House Wren, Grace's Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Western Tanager, and Chipping Sparrow. Winter residents include the Red-naped Sapsucker and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. At higher elevations such as near Hassayampa Lake, find also Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush, and, in summer, Red-faced Warbler.
Typically found year-round within the pinyon-juniper and chaparral vegetation are Western Scrub-Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Bewick's Wren, Spotted Towhee, and Canyon Towhee. Summer additions include Virginia's Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Phainopepla.
Streams wind their way through some of these locations with broad-leaved trees that, during the summer, host Black-chinned Hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird, Black Phoebe (year-round), Plumbeous Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Lucy's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Painted Redstart (forest), Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock's Oriole, and Lesser Goldfinch. Granite Creek Park (A.C. Williams Park) on 6th Street in town, Watson Woods Riparian Preserve just south of Watson Lake, and the Cottonwood Peninsula at the west end of Willow Lake also host such riparian species.
The Watson-Willow Lake Ecosystem Important Bird Area (IBA) has this designation in large part due to the great numbers and variety of waterfowl and other water birds that use the lakes as their winter home. (Along with both lakes and their surrounding uplands, a two-mile stretch of Granite Creek immediately south of Watson Lake that encompasses the Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, is part of the IBA.) A handful of Bald Eagles (also observable at Lynx and Goldwater Lakes) are active here in winter also. Great Blue Heron and Killdeer can be seen all year. In Watson Lake Park , among other songbirds, Rock Wren and Canyon Wren may be observed. Along Willow Lake Road American Kestrel and Western Meadowlark are present.
Numerous hawks feed in the grassland regions during the winter. Chino Valley is a good place to find Northern Harrier and Ferruginous Hawk, along with the resident Red-tailed Hawk. Horned Lark, Western Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike, and Say's Phoebe are common residents, and, in summer, Lark Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, and Western Kingbird nest. Sparrows seen in winter include Vesper, Savannah , Lincoln 's, and White-crowned, along with Mountain Bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird, and Brewer's Blackbird.
Group birding opportunities and other information may be found on the Prescott Audubon Society’s website.