Yuma Territorial Prison Park

Territorial Prison



The Yuma Territorial Prison opened for business in 1876.  It ceased being used as a prison in 1909 and is now an Arizona State Historical Park.  The lawn and gardens north of the prison entrance attract hummingbirds, Hooded Orioles, and Bronzed Cowbirds.  Of even more interest to birders, however, is the small park at the base of the bluff, just south and east of the prison itself.  Large eucalyptus, mulberry, and other trees attract migrants and permanent residents.  The creosote and cactus-studded bluff below the prison cemetery harbor wrens, Verdins, and gnatcatchers.  Moving east to the other side of the park and the canal is a large wetlands which, depending on the season, will have waterfowl, waders, shorebirds, and rails. A levee road borders both sides of the canal, and offers a great vantage point for birding.

As with most city parks, early morning is the best time to visit.

Anna's Hummingbird in Eucalyptus Tree


Site #1 on Yuma East Overview Map

Getting there from the intersection of I-8 and 16th Str (the streetlight in front of  McDonald's Restaurant) takes only a few minutes.

- From 16th Str, get on I-8 West (towards San Diego), go 1.3 miles and take Exit 1 (Giss Parkway)
- At the end of the exit ramp turn left on Giss Parkway and travel .2 miles
- Turn right onto entrance road for the Yuma Territorial Prison Historical State Park and go north .1 mile
- Proceed straight uphill to reach the parking lot for the prison itself or...

- Turn right onto one of several service roads to explore the levee canal or to reach the parking area below the prison.

- numbered spots correspond to the map on the right

1) Park & lawn - Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are joined by Northern Flickers every winter.  Bronzed Cowbirds are quite noticeable in the spring.  The big eucalyptus trees attract dozens of Western Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks in the spring, as well as hordes of Anna's Hummingbirds.  This is also a prime spot for western warblers.

2) Mesquite & palo verde trees - a trail winds through this area, which is fast being overgrown.  Look for Verdins, gnatcatchers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and kinglets.

3) Quail bush, salt cedar, and mesquite flats - This area has Crissal Thrasher, Blue Grosbeak, Swainson's & Hermit Thrushes in winter, and migrants.  Birding around the edges is usually more productive than trying to crash through the brush.

4) Territorial Prison yard - Hooded Orioles breed in the palm trees and the Bronzed Cowbirds often parade on the lawn.  

5) Lagoon & wetlands - White-faced Ibis have roosted by the hundreds here.  If the water is low, this can be a great spot for shorebirds.  Winter brings all types of waterfowl, including Hooded Merganser.  Rails that are found in the reeds include Sora and Clapper.  Black Phoebes are very common here and in winter are often joined by Vermilion Flycatcher.  Loggerhead Shrikes are often seen along the north end of the Levee Road.  

6) Railroad bridge and the Colorado River - Cliff Swallows breed under the bridge.  Osprey, terns & waders may be seen along the river.

(Click on the map for aerial photo)

Red numbers correspond to 
the birding suggestions on the left.  
Blue areas are water (canals, rivers, ponds, marshes, etc.)
Green dots are areas with trees.

unusual birds highlighted in dark red

Expected Migrants
(w = winters, too)

- Wilson's Warbler
- Yellow Warbler
- Yellow-rumped Warbler (w)
- Orange-crowned Warbler (w)
- Black-throated Gray Warbler
- Hermit Warbler
- Townsend's Warbler

- Western Kingbird (also breeds)
- Western Wood Pewee
- Western-type flycatchers
- Olive-sided Flycatcher
- Vermilion Flycatcher 

Other Passerines

- All the western swallows (especially over the marsh)
- Swainson's & Hermit Thrushes
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- Western Tanager (abundant in eucalyptus during spring migration)
- Lesser Goldfinch (in weeds along the levees)
- Bullock's Oriole (also breeds)
- Hooded Oriole (also breeds)
- White-crowned Sparrow 

Year-round Residents

-Pied-billed Grebe
-American Coot
-Virginia Rail
-Clapper Rail 
-Common Moorhen 
-Greater Roadrunner
-Turkey Vulture
-Red-tailed Hawk
-Loggerhead Shrike 
-Great-tailed Grackle
-Black Phoebe (very common)
-Crissal Thrasher
-Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
-Common Yellowthroat
- Bronzed Cowbird (probably breeds)
-Abert's Towhee
-Song Sparrow

(Web Pages)

These trip write-ups give you some idea of the birds that you can see at Fortuna Pond during the different seasons.

Feb 27, 2000
Mar 23, 2000
Apr 28, 2000
May 9, 2000
Nov 27, 2000
Sep 30, 2001
Oct 7, 2001


Cactus Wren at the Prison

Photos Henry D. Detwiler
Last Update: 8 Aug 2002