Southwest Birders is a partnership of birdwatchers who love the sport and would like to introduce you to the joys of birding in the Imperial and Lower Colorado River Valleys, Orange County, Southern Arizona, and coastal Southern California.  We know the area well and want to assist you in finding any birds that reside here.  We'll be happy to e-mail you information about rare and common birds, or accompany you on tours of the area.  Write or call us if we can help in any way!

Birding Guide - Henry Detwiler

I started birding in grade school one snowy day when my parents bought a birdseed bell for our back yard in Carbondale, Illinois. Beautiful cardinals, chickadees, and titmice soon arrived to feast on the new-found bounty, so we bought a Peterson's field guide to ID them.  I was hooked.  That spring I ventured out on my bicycle in the surrounding farmland and woods to discover wonderful feathered creatures like the Eastern Meadowlark, the Field Sparrow, and the striking Scarlet Tanager.  My first overnight field trip was a few years later when I rode along with some college students to the plains of central Illinois to camp out in a barn.  We arose at 4:00 a.m. the next morning and entered our blinds.  As dawn broke, Greater Prairie Chickens emerged from the fields and started booming and dancing for us.

The Air Force took me to Oklahoma, where I got my first real taste of the West, and was treated to spectacular birds like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Golden Eagle.  A couple of years in the San Francisco area allowed me to experience the towering redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.  Rarities were a way of life, and on one day I chased and located a Brambling and a White-tailed Wagtail in the same afternoon. In 1990 I moved to Yuma, half-way between San Diego, CA, and Phoenix, AZ. My stomping grounds now include two of the hottest birding locales in the U.S., the Salton Sea and Southeastern Arizona.

Over the years I have served as President of the Southern Illinois Audubon Society, member of the Arizona Rare Bird Committee, written bird-finding articles for "Winging It" and "Birder's World", participated in the AZ Breeding Bird Survey, assisted with 30 years' worth of spring and Christmas bird counts, given presentations on birds & birding to Audubon and Elderhostel groups, and led bird tours for the Salton Sea Birding Festival and local clubs.  I've had the good fortune to watch birds in almost every state and twenty-one countries.  What a great hobby!

  • Behaviors & Field Marks
    • Distribution: Nests in Yuma, but ranges far and wide throughout the year
    • Migratory Patterns: Permanent resident, but every May can be found visiting parents (and birds) in Illinois
    • Size: length 67", wingspan one to two arms' lengths, hat size 7¼"
    • Calls:  "Pish, pish"  "hoo, hoo, hoo"  "Here birdie, birdie"
    • Song:  A singularly unmelodic jumble of notes usually heard around Christmas time
    • Habits:  Often observed chasing small birds, but does not appear to eat them

Phone me at 928-247-3098 (cell) or send e-mail to


Birding Guide - Bob Miller

I was born and raised in the Imperial Valley, where the sun spends the winter, and I still hang my many different hats here. I am a deputy with the Imperial County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse and a past Caller for a ladies equestrian drill team called The Galloping Gossips. The Gossips were formed in 1956 in Brawley. They square dance on horseback, performing all over the Southwest and have ridden in the New Years Day Tournament of Roses Parade 13 times..  They are currently innactive.

I grew up exploring the local deserts, lakes, mountains, and fields. I knew the animals, plants, bugs, and thought I had a pretty good handle on the birds, till a good friend gave me a birding field guide. WOW! Suddenly there weren't just a few kinds of sparrows, there were dozens, and those dozens had dozens of sub-species. I was hooked.

Not knowing a single other person who was a birdwatcher, or even knowing there were RBA’s, the ABA, or an Audubon Society, I spent years birding on my own. I nearly wore my "Golden" field guide out. Soon I was running around with an entire library in the back seat of my pickup. Then the Salton Sea International Bird Festival came along, and I discovered lots of other people were into this birdwatching thing. WOW again!

I was a professional truck driver for 22 years. A near fatal accident in January ‘98 left me unable to continue trucking and was a real attitude adjuster for me. We’ve all heard that the road to true happiness is finding what you love to do and doing that for a living, so I’ve been birding non-stop ever since. Well, sort of non-stop! Working with computers is fun too and my dad was a carpenter so I learned quite a bit about construction as well.  Learned AutoCAD and graphics animation through Imperial Valley Regional Occupation Program which is exciting stuff to me. Hired on as an architectural draftsman with a local Architect, Sanders Inc, and have now worked on modernizing or new construction at just about every school in Imperial Valley and a few brand new ones as well! Did love truckin, no doubt, but am happier in the wild beside the road than looking out the window at that wild!  Have been involved with the Salton Sea International Bird Festival gathering guides and speakers and leading field trips ever since. Lead many field trips for numerous Audubon groups and the San Diego Natural History Museum. Have been involved with many bird counts and several bird banding projects. Have been walking about 250 miles a year through the Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area of the Imperial Sand Dunes for an ongoing point count bird survey that I do every December and April.  

I can’t take you to the jungles of South America, but I sure can show you around my own backyard, the Southwestern desert, and introduce you to the wildlife I love and share it with. 

  • Behaviors & Field Marks
    • Distribution: Indigenous to the Desert Southwest.
    • Migratory pattern: Takes flight in late evening and flies at freeway speeds to Southeast Arizona or coastal California at every possible chance. Usually brought on by extreme summer temperatures or the monsoon season. 
    • Size: Height- 76", Weight--average for this height (well, maybe a little over in the flanks) Extremely long-legged land bird.
    • Description: Large beak noticeably broken to the right side, very large western moustache with matching clothing and well-worn hat. Eyes, blue and in bifocal denial. Hearing, not what it used to be. Like most desert dwelling species has an extreme fondness for rain and water. 
    • Calls: Upon starting out on field trips is heard to call "Jingle them spurs an’ jerk them cinches folks, we’ve a bird to be seen!!" Also can be heard calling square dance at rodeos and equestrian events.
    • Song: Can’t, but does anyway.
    • Habits: Of course.

Phone me at 760-455-1413 or send e-mail to

Birding Guide - Bruce A. Aird

I am a 40-something laboratory biochemist by trade, working as a Senior Scientist for a specialty pharmaceutical company in Irvine, CA. I've been birding since 1981, but I've been a nature lover and conservationist all my life. I've visited all the lower 48 states (have lived in 5 of them) and all but 4 of the Canadian provinces, and have made a few forays into Mexico for birds as well. I more or less came of age as a birder when I lived and birded in Texas for 4 years, where I got involved with avian censusing, working with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and several private ecological contractors to count Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers in the Hill Country. I have been doing 2-3 CBC's per year since 1987, and have collected over 5 years of neotropical migrant survey data at a site in Orange County, as part of National Audubon’s Partners-in-Flight program. I believe a bad day of birding beats a good day of doing pretty much anything else.

I've lived and birded in Orange County since mid-1994, and am active with the Sea & Sage Audubon chapter. I have run their Birdathon funding event, which has placed as high as 2nd in the nation out of more than 200 participating Audubon chapters. I've been a field trip leader in some capacity since 1989, and I've been a guide at every Salton Sea International Bird Festival thus far. I also lead 2-3 trips per year for Sea & Sage Audubon and the CA Nature Conservancy. I've given a number of nature slide/lecture talks, some consisting entirely of my own photos (which tend to be longer on enthusiasm than skill).

  • Behaviors & Field Marks:

    • Distribution: Resident legal alien in Lake Forest, CA, given to extended forays to local hot spots

    • Reproductive Status: Monogamous (for about 18 years); both genders assist in raising young (big job!)

    • Average Brood: Typically two highly precocial young (though these data are based on a limited sampling)

    • Physical Attributes: A medium-sized species (~69") usually observed in highly worn plumage that suggests inept preening, beak large, eyes blue, feet booted, cap wide-brimmed, stained with age, often erected in wind

    • Calls: Highly variable from excited yelps (good bird!) to unprintable (good bird just missed!)

    • Song: Ceased to be heard in the field when it was discovered to actually lower the chance of breeding success

    • Habits: Used to be vices; periods of peak activity: crepuscular; lives to bird

Phone me at (949) 788-5344 during the day or send e-mail to


Birding Guide - Vic Leipzig
I became hooked on birding in 1976 when I was a graduate student. A mute swan swooped off the Connecticut River and flew straight at me, swooshing mere feet over my head. I ducked and shouted "What the hell was that?" I've been asking myself that about birds ever since.

Birding grew from a pastime to a passion, and I am now a professional birder. I have an undergraduate degree in political science from Stanford University and a doctorate in biology from Wesleyan University. I teach biology at several southern California colleges, including a popular "birding for seniors" class that is offered by Saddleback and Irvine Valley Colleges.

Although most of my time is spent teaching and birding, I found time to serve on the Planning Commission in Huntington Beach, CA for 6 years, the City Council for 4 years, and was Mayor in 1995. I'm active in many conservation organizations and wetlands restoration groups and have served on the board of directors of Sea and Sage Audubon, the Amigos de Bolsa Chica, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, and the Huntington Wetlands Conservancy, among others. I am dedicated to saving and restoring California's coastal wetlands.

I have a weekly newspaper column devoted to environmental issues, and have published birding and wetlands conservation articles in WildBird and other magazines. I've led field trips for Audubon, Sierra Club and other conservation groups, the Salton Sea International Birding Festival, and many international visitors. I'd love to show you some of my favorite local birding hot spots.

  • Behaviors & Field Marks:

    • Distribution:  Wide distribution, frequent migrations, resident of Huntington Beach, CA; seen widely throughout coastal, mountain, and desert regions of Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernadino, and Imperial Counties

    • Reproductive Status:  Mated for life to Louann Murray, PhD, a writer, photographer, and birder; courts throughout the year; two offspring, both fledged

    • Physical Description:  A lean, lanky species with thin legs, long wings, and sparse feathering. Buff rump is rarely seen

    • Calls:  Yes, accepts calls as long as they aren't collect 

    • Song:  A quiet species, sings only when bathing

    • Habits:  Loves to lecture other members of the species; no bad habits except for compulsive birding

Phone me at (714) 848-5394 or send e-mail to


Last update: 19 Aug 2007