If sightings meant anything at all, the mourning dove would be the Arizona state bird, not the cactus wren. For the previous eight years in the last 14 of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), the mourning dove has finished No. 1 on the state’s sightings list.
It is again on top this year as results of last weekend’s count are being tallied. Observers have until March 5 to submit their lists from viewing sessions of February 17-20.
The cactus wren, which became the state bird in 1931, has never been close to No. 1. In fact it has not finished among the top 25 species since 2005. It ranks 35th so far this year.
Beside the mourning dove, the house finch, house sparrow and Gambel’s quail are perennial top 5 contenders in Arizona.
This year two relative newcomers are reaching for the top rung. The northern shoveler is No. 3 and the American coot is 4. More than one half of the shovelers reported were seen in the Prescott area, and more than a quarter of the coots were found in Scottsdale.
On the overall list, the mourning dove is the second most seen bird behind the Northern cardinal. The cardinal has been on top of the sightings list since 2005.
Arizona is No. 4 in reporting the most species, trailing California, Texas and Florida. And Tucson ranks 9th among localities in that same category.
All of which does little to explain how the cactus wren was accorded such lofty status in Arizona. My bet is the wren hired a bigtime lobbyist to grease the skids at the Legislature.