Beyond Raptors: Other Birds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I may have given you the impression that the only birds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are raptors, like the barn owl and Harris’s hawks I saw in their daily Raptor Free-Flights. But visitors to the ASDM see plenty of other interesting birds, all native to some part of Arizona.

When I was there in February, I was greeted by a desert favorite of mine, the cactus wren. A little smaller than a robin, this feisty bird actually nests inside dead saguaro. I heard them calling throughout the day, and they hopped past me even in the parking lot. One came out in the open and sang his heart out for me.

Singing cactus wren, photo by Kit Dunsmore
Singing cactus wren, photo by Kit Dunsmore

When I saw a bird a top a saguaro skeleton, I half-expected it to be another wren. Instead, it was a the more common mockingbird.

Mockingbird, photo by Kit Dunsmore
Mockingbird, photo by Kit Dunsmore

The museum has two walk-in aviaries. One includes a mix of birds. I caught sight of quail, hummingbirds, pyrrhuloxia, and a beautiful black-bellied whistling duck.

Black-bellied whistling duck, photo by Kit Dunsmore
Black-bellied whistling duck, photo by Kit Dunsmore

The second aviary is smaller, and dedicated to hummingbirds alone. My photographs did not turn out well, but the most striking hummingbird we saw was Costa’s. Even in my fuzzy picture, you can see the brilliant purple neck frill this hummingbird sports.

A Costa's hummingbird, fuzzy photo by Kit Dunsmore
A Costa’s hummingbird, fuzzy photo by Kit Dunsmore
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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

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