Want to find a place with high diversity of both wetland and upland birds along with a stunning view of the San Francisco Peaks? Located 10 minutes south of Flagstaff, Kachina Wetlands is an excellent place to go birding any time of the year. Many locals consider it a favorite, and it is a “global hotspot” in the international database, eBIRD (http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L264663 ).
The 70-acre area is owned and managed by Kachina Village Improvement District (KVID) for the evaporation of treated wastewater from Kachina Village, a community of approximately 3,000. Thinking toward the future, KVID constructed 8 evaporation ponds in 1988, but only two of them have water on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the ponds have attracted numerous species, and over 200 species of birds have been recorded since 2004. Of those, 65 are wetland-associated species that would not be present without the ponds.
In the mid-1990’s, Dr. William S. Gaud of Northern Arizona University (NAU) spearheaded a major project to vegetate the ponds with wetland species, with grants from Ducks Unlimited and the Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund. The lush wetland vegetation surrounding the ponds are the fruits of his labor and that of a small army of university students who seeded the area with native grasses and transplanted thousands of stalks of bulrush, spike rush, and cattails from nearby Marshall Lake. They also established onto the pond islands a variety of plants donated by the State Lands Department: golden currant, honeysuckle, coyote willow, and narrowleaf cottonwood.
While the primary purpose of the Kachina Wetlands will always be for evaporation of treated wastewater, KVID allows compatible uses such as bird watching and personal exercise. In addition, KVID is working with several local organizations to replace invasive weeds with native vegetation, a goal that will take many years but that will gradually transform Kachina Wetlands into a showpiece of native plant diversity consisting of permanent wetlands and highly diverse uplands of native shrubs and grasses.
From Walmart at 2750 S. Woodlands Village, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, go south on I-17 for 6.5 miles and take Exit 333, Kachina Blvd. Go right 50 feet and immediately turn right onto Tovar Trail. Drive north 1.4 miles, then turn right into an unsurfaced, informal parking area next to a large green water tank. The entrance is a few steps to the north of the parking area.
At the present time there are no facilities at Kachina Wetlands. The heart of the property can be accessed by walking a 0.8-mile dirt road loop that is closed to vehicles except for KVID employees and their contractors (click for printable map). From the upper end of the loop, you can walk a 0.4-mile loop around the most northerly pond, Pond 1. Although these roads are not ADA compliant, the two main loops are comprised of well-packed dirt and might be doable by a sturdy wheelchair.
Northern Arizona Audubon Society has created a printable checklist based on up-to-date records from eBird. Consider adding to our knowledge of Kachina Wetlands birds by entering your observations in eBird at the end of your birding outing.
With the exception of deep winter when the ponds are frozen for a few weeks, Kachina Wetlands is a great place to bird any day of the year. Numerous wetland species can be found year-round, including Canada Goose, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Sora, and Virginia Rail. Some of the common breeders amongst the cattails and bulrushes include Yellow-headed Blackbird, Red-winged Blackbird, and Common Yellowthroat. Frequent raptors include Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and Osprey.
Great Blue Herons are nearly always seen at the wetlands, and Black-crowned Night Herons are becoming more prevalent. Shorebirds are infrequent, but some of the species that use the wetlands include Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Wilson’s Snipe.
In addition to the wetland species, Kachina Wetlands provides habitat for many species associated with northern Arizona grasslands and ponderosa pine, including woodpeckers, swallows, corvids, flycatchers, sparrows, and others.
Come and take a five minute tour of the Wetlands with us.