Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge

Post by Henry

We recently visited the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge

Actually, we've been here twice in the last couple of weeks.  It's about an 85 mile drive from where we are staying in southwest Arizona, just east of the Colorado River.

We'd heard Cibola NWR was a big wintering spot for birds, and we haven't seen hundreds of birds in one locale since last winter in Florida.

We stopped at the Visitor Center to sign in, get the Blue Goose Passport stamped, and ask about what kind of birds we might see at the refuge.

Cibola NWR Visitor Center 

We were directed to the Goose Loop Road for the best viewing.

Goose Loop Road

The first thing you encounter on the auto tour is a lake just absolutely 'alive' with ducks and geese.

Lake on Goose Loop Road

We sat in our vehicle for quite a long time, observing wave after wave of Canada Geese flying in and landing on the lake, and listening to a symphony of quacking, squawking, and honking.

Canada Geese
Coming in for a Landing

Canada Geese Galore!

We've seen thousands of Canada Geese before, but seeing them out in the wild is a lot more thrilling than seeing them in parking lots and walking trails in Georgia and Alabama.  There were not only Canada Geese - there were hundreds of Snow Geese.

Snow Goose

Snow Geese
Coming in for a Landing

These we have also seen before, but not in such abundance.  Amongst the thousands of birds, Loretta spotted a few Greater White-Fronted Geese on the far shore of the lake.

Greater White-Fronted Goose
(with Orange Legs)

This was a new one for us and when Loretta reported it to the Visitor Center, she was the first to add it to their list of  Recent Sightings.

Along with the Geese, there were a pretty good assortment of ducks on the lake as well.  Pintail Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, American Wigeons, and of course, Coots. (Coots are EVERYWHERE!)


Northern Shoveler (male)

Further up the auto tour was a short nature trail that leads you to a bird blind overlooking another part of the lake for a more up close view of the goose and duck 'party'.

Bird Blind Ahead

Along the auto tour route - in various spots - were artificial underground dwellings to lure in Burrowing Owls and encourage nesting.  We were lucky enough to spot several of these cute, squatty, big-eyed critters.

Burrowing Owl

We spotted a few raptors, too.  We saw a few Northern Harriers swooping over the fields looking for lunch.  American Kestrals are fun to watch (and hard to photograph) as they hover, hummingbird-like, over the field before diving down to catch prey.  Some raptors are pretty hard for us to identify, but we're pretty sure we saw a Sharp-Shinned Hawk sitting on top of a pole, staring intently at the ground for a meal.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Sandhill Cranes were standing and feeding in several of the large fields.  We never tire of listening to and observing them.

Sandhill Cranes
Yellow Headed Blackbirds
Red Winged Blackbirds

One field was apparently a favorite for Roadrunners as we saw more of them there than anywhere else before.

Roadrunner in Field


Toward the end of the auto tour route, we were able to park and observe a couple of coyotes.  Both were under some trees, picking something off the ground, and eating it.  We could not tell what they were chomping on, but they seemed to be enjoying it.

Coyote Having a Meal

Cibola NWR offers more than the auto tour, but both times we were there, that's where we spent the majority of our day.  That probably means we will need to go back again, hopefully before the birds take to the air for spring migration back to the north.

American Kestrel


  1. What a fabulous array of birds! We've never been to Cibola, but will add it to our ever-expanding list. Love your photos, especially the Burrowing Owl. I've never seen one in the wild!

    1. Laurel, we really enjoyed Cibola NWR. We also saw a Verdin and an Abert's Towhee, but no decent pictures. We saw the Burrowing Owl in Colorado in the wild - truly wild! Do we have the hawk identified correctly?