Birdwatchers Flock to Lake Havasu City

In January 2012, news spread worldwide that a Nutting’s Flycatcher was spotted in the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Lake Havasu City, Arizona, attracting scores of birders.

A pristine stretch of the Bill Williams River within the National Wildlife Refuge. (Source: )

Though it may seem like one of the more unique vacation ideas, birding is big business for the Lake Havasu area, according to a news release.

“We host hundreds of birders here a week,” said Kathleen B., Blair, Ph.D., a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service ecologist.

Bill Williams River NWR birders receive cards that read, “Your business has been patronized by a birdwatcher” to leave at local businesses.

“By emphasizing that wildlife conservation is good for business, we hope more people will support it,” said Blair.

The desert marshland of the Bill Williams River NWR was recently designated by the National Audubon Society as a Globally Important Bird Area. It harbors species of global conservation concern, supports range- and biome-restricted species, and represents a bottleneck through which migratory birds pass seasonally.

“The refuge is a vital stopover for neotropical migrant birds using the Colorado River flyway. It provides a nesting habitat for endangered and threatened species, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Yuma Clapper Rail,” said Tice Supplee, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Arizona.

Key features which identify this bird as a Nutting's Flycatcher include the call, tail pattern, wing pattern, mouth lining and bill shape. (Source:

“By calling attention to the spread of invasive exotic species and excessive public recreation, we hope to preserve this Arizona gem.”

The Important Bird Areas program is a global effort to identify and conserve vital bird areas. Working with Audubon chapters, landowners, public agencies, community groups, and other non-profits, Audubon endeavors to activate a support network for Important Bird Areas.


Lake Havasu City

Lake Havasu City, home of the historic London Bridge, is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu on the Colorado River border of California and Arizona. The City was established in 1963 by Robert P. McCulloch, Sr., as a self-sufficient, planned community. Lake Havasu City is located off Arizona Highway 95 in Mohave County, an 18-mile drive north leads to Interstate 40, and a 65-mile drive south leads to Interstate 10.

Lake Havasu City is located on what is known as the “West Coast of Arizona,” three hours driving time west of Phoenix. The area attracts 750,000 visitors a year thanks to its calm waters, beautiful beaches, desert weather with more than 300 sunny days a year.

Phone: (928) 453-3444 or (800) 242-8278 (toll free)


Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

The rare riparian habitat of Bill Williams River NWR draws a variety of neotropical migratory birds—winging their way from Central and South America to their breeding grounds in the north.

About a dozen endangered Yuma clapper rails spend the summer months in the cattails of the marsh and may overwinter. More likely heard than seen, their dry kek-kek-kek echoes at dusk and dawn. Another endangered bird, the southwestern willow flycatcher, nests on the refuge in the willow trees lining the river.

Crisscrossing tracks in the sand chronicle the nighttime excursions of cottontails, javelina, and deer, as well as predatory coyotes, bobcats, and the less common cougars.

A marsh bird the size of a chicken, the Yuma clapper rail is gray-brown above and buffy-cinnamon below and has brownish-gray cheeks and flanks barred with black and white. Its somewhat orange bill is long and slightly down-curved.

Directions: From Lake Havasu City, drive south on Arizona Highway 95 approximately 23 miles. Watch for the signs. When you start to make the curve at the south end of Lake Havasu, between mileposts 160 and 161, look for a rock wall and enter at the gate. The entrance to the paddle craft launch ramp is to the right; public parking and fishing access are to the left. The Visitors Center is directly ahead.

Address: 60911 Highway 95, Parker, AZ 85344

Phone: (928) 667-4144


Worth Pondering…

The West is color. Its colors are animal rather than vegetable, the colors of earth and sunlight and ripeness.

—Jessamyn West

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