Some spend a season here, such as the orange crowned warbler that feasts on Arizona insects from September til May before heading north for breeding season. The orange crowned warbler is found in classic warbler streamside retreats and also extends to habitats in chaparral, gardens and parks. This means suburbanites might see a warbler this time of year or hear one. Warbler songs tend more to trills and whistles than the harsher cries of many desert birds. Look for very small birds flitting busily along twigs and branches of trees.
Just one member of the warbler family is desert adapted. The heat loving Lucy’s warbler arrives from Mexico in early spring and haunts mesquite bosques and the riparian edges of desert zones. The Lucy’s is the smallest of all warblers and not as brightly colored as some. They are mostly grey and white although a rufous rump provides a reliable field marking. These desert warblers are cavity nesters, laying their eggs in holes in trees and cacti. The Lucy’s warbler preys on caterpillars and gives them a vigorous shake before gulping them down.
Streamside or riparian habitat favored by warblers makes up less than 2% of the total land area of the Southwest, where rivers such as the Colorado, San Pedro, Hassayampa and Verde offer crucial habitat for millions of migratory birds.