Birding Site: Tacna

Most recent visit: April 2011
Latest web site update: 10 Sep 2007
Number of visits: 50+


  • Desert creosote & ironwood flats
  • Agricultural fields
  • Ponds & Rivers
  • Riparian
  • Marsh
  • Cottonwood & Willow Groves
Couch's Kingbird
Couch's Kingbird

General Description

This area has a combination of wetlands (Quigley Pond & the Gila River), agricultural fields with weedy edges, desert habitat, and residential areas. It is especially interesting to visit in the winter & early spring, when you can find Prairie Falcons, Ferruginous Hawks, Northern Harriers, LeConte's Thrashers, and a variety of sparrows (White-crowned, Vesper, Savannah, Brewer's, Sage, Lincoln's, Song, and Lark).  Last winter and again beginning in September 2007 a Couch's Kingbird has wintered northeast of Tacna. Migration brings passerines and shorebirds, including Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew.  Occasional Tundra Swans and White-fronted Geese use Quigley Pond and the managed wetlands.  Other waterfowl are easy to see before and after hunting season.  The Gila River is attractive all year round, and provides great habitat for White-faced Ibis, herons, egret, Cinnamon Teal, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Blue Grosbeak. And be sure to check through any little doves for Ruddy Ground-Doves, which winter in the area.

Target Birds

  • Snow & White-fronted Geese
  • Tundra Swan
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Zone-tailed Hawk
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Couch's Kingbird
  • Ruddy Ground-Dove
  • LeConte's Thrasher
  • Migrant Flycatchers
  • Western Warblers
  • Sage Sparrow

West Portion of Tacna Area


Full-sized Map

map of Tacna area

Click on thumbnail above for the full-sized Tacna-area map

All mileages given below start at the red star (the corner of Hwy 80 and Ave 40E).

Map Key

P = Parking Area
R = Rest Room

Brown lines are dirt/sandy roads

Blue lines are waterways

Click on thumbnail below for a larger
aerial view

Birding Locations


Quigley Pond
An oxbow of the Gila River, this large marshy lake is best viewed by driving north on Ave 40E for about 1.3 miles from old Hwy 80, and turning left onto a sandy road (before Ave 40E drops off the bluff into the Gila River Valley). Drive west about 1/2 mile on this sandy road, park, and walk to the edge of the bluff.  From here you may see raptors, waterfowl, cormorants, and swallows.  Depending on the time of year, grebes, moorhens, and rails call spontaneously, or respond to tapes.


AZ Game & Fish farm fields (Quigley Wildlife Management Area)
These fields can be viewed from the bluff overlooking Quigley Pond (with a scope) or by walking in from the north (up to the No-Trespassing sign).  In past winters Tundra Swans and Sandhill Cranes have made regular but brief visits; geese and waterfowl are more common.  Northern Harriers are joined by other raptors as they patrol the fields.  Two White-tailed Kites were here in the winter of 2005-2006, and a Zone-tailed Hawk was present during the summer of 2007. Shorebirds are regular when the fields have water, but hard to see from the bluff. A large stand of cottonwoods and willows is along the access road (just north of the farm fields).  Check this for abundant migrants in the late summer and early fall, and for rarities like Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Dec 05).


Cottonwood Grove & Gila River Crossing
This cottonwood and willow grove is on the south side of the access road from Ave 40E. The turnoff is about 2.5 miles north of old Hwy 80 and Ave 40E. During spring and fall migration this grove can be hopping with warblers, flycatchers, sparrows, and grosbeaks, especially in late summer when the sunflowers and other seed plants provide a bounty for the grosbeaks and finches. Winter may bring rarities, like Dusky-capped and Pacific-slope Flycatchers in the winter of 2005.
       Continue on this access road to the shallow waters of the Gila River (when it is flowing), which are visited by White-faced Ibis, egrets, herons, shorebirds, and waterfowl. A heron rookery is about .5 miles south of the "ford" on private property.  In migration, look for warblers, vireos, and flycatchers in the willows & cottonwoods.  Drive the Gila  levee to see more habitat and species. 


Agricultural Fields
For several winters a Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon have called this area home.  These fields are often planted with alfalfa, and have lots of weedy edges attractive to Vesper, White-crowned, Brewer's, and Savannah Sparrows.  Water Pipits and Western Meadowlarks are also common. The sagebrush on the east side of Ave 42E has Sage and Brewer's Sparrows.


Backwaters & Gila River Channel
Here you'll find several backwater ponds at the base of teh Gila Valley bluff (even when the Gila River isn't flowing). In addition to the open water and marshy areas, there are cottonwoods, mesquite, and lots of brush that provide very nice habitat. In 2006 a Palm Warbler showed up. Bell's Vireo has been seen and heard in spring and early summer. Look for all three teal and other waterfowl in season--and look for hunters, too.  


Eucalyptus Neighborhood
This community of four homes played host to Arizona's first Couch's Kingbird, found by Paul Lehman in January 2007. As of September 2007, it was back for another season! The middle home on the north side of the road has been good for Ruddy Ground-Dove during the winter time, along with the Common Ground-Dove, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Zone-tailed Hawks have roosted in the large Eucalyptus trees in the recent past; more common are Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks. Vermilion Flycatchers are always a treat to see here. 


Saltbrush Flats - Desert
During February & March this can be a relatively easy place to see singing LeConte's Thrashers.  From Hwy 80, turn left (n.) onto Ave 45E.  Go about 1/4 mile past the farm complex and turn right on an inconspicuous dirt/gravel road.  This road had large saltbrush flats that were good for the thrashers up until 2005, when it was burned.  Until they grow back, you'll need to drive to the end of this road and bird the desert to the east, where the thrashers perch in the mesquites to sing.  This is private land, but barren, and as of 2001, we've been given verbal permission to look around. 

Driving Directions

Getting here from the intersection of  1st Street and 4th Ave in Yuma takes about 45 minutes:

  • Drive north on 4th Ave .2 miles and get onto I-8 eastbound.
  • Drive east 40 miles on I-8 to the Tacna exit (Ave 40E).
  • Drive north on Ave 40E about .25 miles to old Hwy 80 (just north of the rail road tracks). The Chevron Gas station is at this intersection.
  • Turn right to access the agricultural fields, the Couch's Kingbird, and the thrasher site.  Continue north to access Quigley Pond and the Gila River.
  • To reach the Couch's Kingbird community from Ave 40E and Hwy 80:
     - drive east 2 miles on Hwy 80
     - turn north on Ave 42E and drive .5 miles
     - turn east on Co. 8th Str and drive 1 mile
     - turn north on Ave 43E and drive .4 miles
     - turn west into neighborhood on dirt/gravel road (only 4 homes & large euc. trees on identify the neighborhood)

Site Notes

  • Ownership: Arizona State Game & Fish, USBR, and Private Lands
  • Vehicle Access: a car is fine for most of the roads, some levee and farm roads might require pickups or 4x4
  • Fees: None
  • Restrooms: Chevron Station at corner of old Hwy 80 and Ave 40E
  • Food: Basque Etchea in Tacna, or Chevron
  • Gas: Chevron Station at corner of old Hwy 80 and Ave 40E

Site Bird List


Northern Harrier (w)
Merlin (uncommon w)
Cooper's & Sharp-shinned Hawks(w)

Migrant Warblers
Black-throated Gray
Yellow-rumped (w)
Orange-crowned (w)
Common Yellowthroat (b,w)

Western Kingbird (b)
Ash-throated Flycatcher (b,w)
Western Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher

Lazuli Bunting
Blue Grosbeak (b)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (w) 
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (b,w) 
Lesser Goldfinch (w)
Crissal Thrasher
Bullock's Oriole
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Sage Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow

Year-round residents:
Pied-billed Grebe
Common Moorhen 
American Coot
Virginia Rail & Sora
herons & egrets
Turkey Vulture
Owls: Western-Screech, Barn, & Great-Horned
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Greater Roadrunner
Gambel's Quail
Ladder-backed & Gila Woodpeckers
Loggerhead Shrike
Say's and Black Phoebes
Vermilion Flycatcher
Song Sparrow


White-tailed Kite
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Dusky Flycatcher
LeConte's Thrasher

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl


Tundra Swan
Sandhill Crane
Zone-tailed Hawk
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Couch's Kingbird (wintered in 2006 & 2007)
Palm Warbler
Clay-colored Sparrow
Lawrence's Goldfinch


Trip Reports/Links

  • 15 Jan 2000 - short afternoon visit
  • 21 Dec 2000 - day trip - American Bittern photographed
  • 26 Nov 2000 - Quigley Pond, Ag fields, & Baker Tanks
  • 24 Feb 2001 - trip with Paul Sherrell to search for LeConte's & Bendire's Thrashers--success!
  • 4 Apr 2001 - Yuma Birding Festival to Quigley Pond and Baker Tanks 
  • 3 Feb 2002 - morning trip with Aaron & Sharon to look at the LeConte's Thrasher--it perched and sang several times.
  • 10 Nov 2002 - quick trip out to the LeConte's Thrasher site with Anne & Stuart--not the best time of year, but heard and saw one anyway!
  • 21 Aug 2004 - looking for a reported Roseate Spoonbill, which we didn't find--instead we saw literally hundreds of birds of all kinds of species in the Quigley Pond Game Management Area.  Vermilion & Willow Flycatchers, Blue & Black-headed Grosbeak, finches, sparrows, and warblers galore.
  • 25 Dec 2005 - 3 Tundra Swans with assorted waterfowl in northern Quigley WMA farm field, 2 White-tailed Kites, and a Dusky-capped Flycatcher in the cottonwood grove north of the farm fields
  • Jan 2007 - Paul Lehman finds a Couch's Kingbird northeast of Tacna, our Audubon trip the following Saturday spots it and many other fine birds, including White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Cranes at Quigley


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