Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Birding and the 'Love' Connection

An 'almost' perfectly timed event took place in February for birders in the greater Phoenix area, including all the suburbs.  The date was off by one week.  Valentine's Day was on Saturday February 14th, and one week later on February 21st, AZFO held a Rosy-faced 'Love'bird Census.  This bird is well established in and around Phoenix and its many suburbs and is recognized and is a countable bird by ABA standards in Arizona for this reason.  These birds were first noted in the wild in the late 1980's in the Mesa/Apache Junction area and since then have made themselves at home in this vast suburban area.  The object for the count is to get an update on the status and distribution of them since they were thoroughly studied and documented which led to the acceptance by ABA as a countable species. 
I volunteered to try and take part in this count and offered to cover the same area that I covered in the January Waterbird Count.  And yes, I found lovebirds.  They are not that easy to count as many are constantly on the move and one has to drive slowly through many residential neighborhoods with the windows down listing for their screech like calls.  They are very loud and distinct and easy to recognize.  I also studied eBird reports for this species for my area and found that many reports came from the Mesa 'Electric Park' vicinity.  This is long narrow strip of land (about 25 yards wide and 2 miles long) and directly under some huge power lines, that has been set aside for the residents.  With that in mind, I found a place to park then set out on foot to start walking this area.  Most of the time I heard them long before I saw them and most of the time they made my life easy for counting as they were perching on power lines.  When they are in trees with green leaves, they can be a bit more difficult to count.  Here are a few of my photos of this 'lovely' small species of parrot that is native to Africa, but has found a home in Arizona.
 This one is just starting to molt into adult plumage, notice red spots on head.
 Juvenile, notice the brown on the beak.

This entire Electric Park is actually quite a cool place to view many of the desert birds.  The birds are used to people and with its narrow design, they can escape but not necessarily go very far.  Here are photos of some of the other birds that I was able to photograph.
 Anna's Hummingbird Male
 Anna's Hummingbird male
 Cactus Wren
 Curve-billed Thrasher (Western)
Eurasian Collared-Dove
 Gambel's Quail
 Gambel's Quail
 Gilded Flicker
 Inca Dove
Inca Dove
Kind of saving the most unusual bird for last.  Once again, it belongs to the parrot family and it is a most likely escapee from someone's home, a Budgerigar, or 'Budgie' for short. Most often seen in pet stores identified as a 'parakeet' which is really a very broad name as there are many wild and very different parakeets in the wild throughout the world.  It is not unusual for some of these birds to escape and maybe some are even turned loose by owners.  Probably a bit of both contributed to the Rosy-faced Lovebird story back in the 80's.  Not sure why these have not faired as well in the wild, but it might have to do with being easier for birds of prey to single out the most unusual marked or colored birds, hence they are a target.  I did have a Peregrine Falcon in this location, so they are probably kept in check and not being able to multiply as easily and the competition for food and nesting sites are also quite high.
A very productive day, as I was able to turn in a final count of 68 lovebirds and I am sure there were probably many more as I could not physically drive up and down every street.  But I think they are here to stay and counting lovebirds a week after the 'love' holiday was a lovely way to spend a day!


  1. Good count, Gordon. Glad you went and helped out. Enjoyed reading about it, too.

  2. Fascinating study Gordon and great that you could help out. Lovely photos too. Do the Lovebirds make it down to the city of Maricopa or are they pretty well restricted to the Phoenix metro area?

    Looking forward to meeting you and birding with you next month!

    1. Hi Josh,
      The Lovebirds are pretty much restricted to Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs, but have been reported in the Awatukee and Sun Lakes area which are probably about 10 miles form Maricopa. Even checked eBird and no reports from Maricopa, YET! Who knows, maybe someday they might get there.

      Looking forward to your visit as well and if this is a bird you would like to see, we might be able to fit it in, although I do know what your number 1 target is and that is our main focus for you. Everything else will be icing on the cake. And Tommy is really good at spotting birds! Thanks for the comments.

    2. Maybe I'll find the first one! I'm not too worried about finding Lovebirds this trip. Number 1 is a tie between Painted Redstart and Elegant Trogon. You are right--everything else will be icing on the redstart/trogon cake.

      I'm looking forward to being the benefactor of Tommy's (and your) eyes and ears!