The Santa Cruz River flows through sections of Town, with a multi-use path that parallels the tree-lined river by Crossroads Park.
Other great natural sites in Marana include the El Rio Preserve on Coachline Road which provides a beautiful spot to view waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors.
The Tortolita Mountains are a small, rugged mountain range east of I-10, where iconic Sonoran Desert birds are plentiful.
The pastoral farm fields west of I-10 are a great place to view hawks and burrowing owls, as well as thousands of blackbirds in the fall.
Besides being beautiful flying songsters, birds provide a multitude of benefits.
How Birds Help Us
- The Exterminators: Birds help keep farmers in business – they provide natural pest control, without chemical side effects. When the Mormons settled Utah in the 19th century, their first two crop seasons were destroyed by western crickets. “Promising fields of wheat were cut down to the ground in a single day,” naturalist Edward Howe Forbush wrote in 1922; “The people were in despair. Then sea gulls came by the hundreds and thousands, and, before the grain could be entirely destroyed, they devoured the insects, so that the fields were freed from them. The settlers regarded this as a heaven-sent miracle” (Z:\Birds\What Do Birds Do for Us Audubon.htm). And we would be swatting a lot more mosquitos without the birds that feed on them!
- The Sanitizers: Birds like vultures, condors, hawks and owls are the clean-up crew – can you imagine what our roads would look like if scavenger birds weren’t around to clean up the roadkill?
- The Dispersers: Birds help spread plant seeds that regenerate and reseed areas. Cardinals and tanagers love to eat fruit, and coincidentally, spread fruit seeds.
- The Fertilizers: Hummingbirds and other birds also help fertilize flowers and cross-pollinate many plants.
I could go on and on about the benefits of birds – so what can we do for them?
How We Can Help Birds
Plant Natives – Native plants provide shelter, nest sites and food for birds. Birds and insects evolved with the plants in our area. Native plants also usually need less water, require less maintenance and are more adapted to our climate.
Prevent Window Collisions – Birds see the sky and trees reflected in windows. You can buy attractive decals or add blinds to make the windows visible to birds.
Keep Cats Indoors – There are at least 1.3 million cats in Arizona (American Bird Conservancy). A University of AZ study found that 5 suburban housecats killed 113 animals in just 12-15 weeks. Free-roaming cats are themselves in danger from disease, coyotes and other predators, parasites, cars, and poisons. It’s safer for your cat and for wildlife to keep them indoors or build a screened outdoor cat area for them.
Leave Baby Birds Alone – Young birds often leave the nest before they can fly well, and their parents will continue to care for them. If they are in a dangerous place like a sidewalk, you can try putting them under a shrub nearby while their parents are watching. If you’ve watched and they really are hurt or abandoned, call a wildlife rehab organization recommended by Arizona Game and Fish Department (520) 628-5376
Trim Trees in the Fall – after birds have finished nesting. Most birds are protected from harm under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Provide a water source and keep it clean – Desert dwelling birds need a clean water source.
Get Outdoors and Enjoy Nature! Find a local park or natural area and get to know it. Join a birding group if you want to learn more – Tucson Audubon Society has free field trips: http://www.tucsonaudubon.org/fieldtrips.html.
The following websites have additional information on how you can help birds at home: