Birding Site: Yuma Main Drain

Most recent visit: 14 May 2011
Latest web site update: 22 May 2011
Number of visits: 50+


  • Drainage Ditch
  • Agricultural
  • Farms & Residential
  • Marsh
Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

General Description

The Yuma Main Drain is part of the irrigation system in Yuma County. It takes irrigation run-off and funnels it south towards Mexico. Bird life here is sometimes a factor of water levels in the drain--when it's high expect Cinnamon Teal & wintering waterfow, when it's low expect more waders and shorebirds. It hosted a Tri-colored Heron the summer of 2004 and aThick-billed Kingbird from 2002-2011. This area is also good for Eurasian Collared-Doves, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, all the Yuma-area waders, sparrows, and shorebirds. In the early fall expect the cattails to die off, as they are spayed with herbicide to facilitate the water movement.

Target Birds

  • Common & Hooded Mergansers
  • All three teal
  • Least Bittern
  • Assorted waders, including rarities
  • Wilson's Snipe
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Thick-billed Kingbird
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird

Birding Map

Yuma Main Drain

Map Key

Brown lines are dirt/sandy roads

Blue lines are water

Green dots are trees

Numbers refer to the sites listed below

Click on thumbnail below for a full-sized location map

Aerial overview

Birding Locations


A couple of large cottonwoods plays host to a small rookery of Great, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets, and Great-blue Herons. There may also be nesting Black-crowned Night Herons hidden in the thick foliage; they certainly frequent the Main Drain. The cattails in the Main Drain below the cottonwoods are a good place for Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Common Yellowthroats, and Marsh Wrens. 


This area along the drain has hosted a Thick-billed Kingbird from 2002-2011. It usually shows up late in the fall and leaves by the end of March. The kingbird moves around quite a bit, but is pretty reliable just before sunset.
        Walk to the south side of Cty 11th Str and face south. To your right you'll see two large cottonwoods on the other side of a small lateral (canal). We think the kingbird roosts in there for the night. To the left of the cottonwoods, a telephone or electric wire crosses the lateral. The kingbird often flycatches from this wire. In front of the stucco-finished house to your left, look in the pecan tree. Sometimes the bird flycatches from there. But please DO NOT walk in their yard or property. As you look south, the kingbird may be on the very large cottonwood across the Yuma Main Drain. 


This area along the drain often has exposed mud flats which are attractive to both waders and shorebirds. Black-necked Stilts breed, and in the spring, fall, and winter they are joined by Greater Yellowlegs, Least & Western Sandpipers, Wilson's Snipe, and occasionally Solitary Sandpipers. This spot was where Jeff Coker found a Tricolored Heron in 2005 and I had a Roseate Spoonbill in July 2007. When the water is higher, this is a good spot for Common & Hooded Mergansers, and all varieties of teal.  
      In the surrounding fields, look for White-tailed Kite and sparrows, especially if you can find some hay or fallows fields. Some of the varieties to look for are Savannah, Lark, and Vesper.


Many areas along the Main Drain have thick growths of cattails that support a nice variety of birds in the summer and early fall. Look for Least Bitterns, Common Moorhens, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. In fall and winter, if the cattails haven't been eradicated (to improve flow), you'll find Soras and wintering sparrows in them.  


The deeper water in the drain south of County 10th Street attracts more ducks, and you may find Redheads, wigeon, and Gadwalls mixed in with the more common Cinnamon Teal. There are also many waders here; the Tricolored Heron visited this section of the drain in 2005.  On the west side of the drain a marshy area often holds enough water for waders and waterfowl.


On the south side of the drain are some nice stands of Athel Tamarisks that host doves and grosbeaks. The north side of the drain has mixed farming and a date grove; look for Vermilion Flycatcher and Say's Phoebe here. The Tricolored Heron also hung out in the water here.

Driving Directions

Getting to the Thick-billed Kingbird site from the intersection of I-8 and 4th Ave takes 10-20 minutes, depending on traffic :

  • drive south on 4th Ave for approximately 2.3 miles to 16th Street
  • turn right (west) on 16th Street
  • drive west on 16th Street for 1.5 miles to Ave B
  • turn left (south) on Ave B
  • drive south on Ave B for 2 miles to 32nd Street
  • turn right (west) on 32nd Street
  • drive west on 32nd Street for approximately 3.4 miles until you reach a 45-degree bend in the road (32nd Str becomes County 11th Str after you pass Ave D.)
  • at this bend in the road (#1 on map below), park on the side of the street

  • Access the Yuma Main Drain by driving to the intersection of County 11th Str and Somerton Ave, turning south, crossing the Drain, and parking on the dirt road on the south side of the Drain.

Site Notes

  • Ownership: Private Farm Fields & Residences and Yuma County Water Users Assoication levee roads
  • Vehicle Access : - Levee roads are marked "No Trespassing" by the YCWUA. Use your own judgment; fishermen and farmers regularly use them. But make sure you have high clearance or 4x4 if the road is dry and powdery, especially towards the end of a dry summer.
  • Fees: None
  • Restrooms: Yuma and Somerton
  • Food: Same as above
  • Gas: Same as above
  • Camping: Assorted RV Parks in Yuma

Site Bird List


Cinnamon Teal
Green-winged Teal
Pied-billed Grebe (b)
Cinnamon Teal (b)
Great Blue, Green, Black-crowned & Night Herons (b)
Great, Cattle, & Snowy Egrets (b)
White-faced Ibis
Greater Yellowlegs (w)
Long-billed Dowitcher (w)
Black-necked Stilt (b)
Wilson's Snipe (w)
Least Sandpiper (w)
Turkey Vulture
American Kestrel (b)
Peregrine Falcon 
Gambel's Quail (b)
Burrowing Owl (b)
Eurasian Collared-Dove (b)
Common Ground-Dove (b)
White-winged Dove (b)
Mourning Dove (b)
Greater Roadrunner (b)
Anna's Hummingbird (b)
Belted Kingfisher (w)
Gila Woodpecker (b)
Northern Flicker (w)
Black Phoebe (b)
Say's Phoebe (w)
Thick-billed Kingbird (w)
Loggerhead Shrike
Rough-winged Swallow (b)
Verdin (b)
Northern Mockingbird (b)
Eurasian Starling (b) 
Common Yellowthroat (b)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (w)
Great-tailed Grackle (b)
White-crowned Sparrow (w)
Red-winged Blackbird (b)
Yellow-headed Blackbird (w)
Lincoln's Sparrow (w)
Song Sparrow (b)
Lark Sparrow  (w)
House Sparrow (b)


Blue-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser (w)
Common Merganser (w)
Western Sandpiper (w)
Least Bittern
White-tailed Kite
Prairie Falcon (w)






(w) indicates wintering bird
(b) indicates breeding bird


Tricolored Heron
Roseate Spoonbill

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