Frequently asked questions and resources for your trip to Las Vegas.
No two trips are the same. And we’ve done it all, from slow-paced, leisurely photography tours at a single location to bouncing between multiple stops in a variety of habitats to see as many species as possible. Each guest or party will seek out different experiences based on their schedules, the birds they would like to look for, and the level of activity with which they’re comfortable. Of course, time of year dictates the presence or detectability of many species. Because most clients want an experience tailored to meet their specific needs and maximize their time, we welcome that you ask questions early and often when coordinating a trip with Bird Las Vegas. But in the meantime, here are some things to think about when preparing for your trip with Bird Las Vegas in the City of Sin.
Full or Half Day? What is best for you?
Many half day tours are spent within or close to the greater Las Vegas Metropolitan area, usually at no more than two locations. Areas such as the Spring Mountains or the town of Searchlight are not recommended, as these each require lengthy drives and less time looking for birds. With the exception of the winter months, we suggest that we meet before sunrise. A half day will likely include a search for western waterfowl, like Cinnamon Teal, and for the more common desert specialties, like Greater Roadrunner, Anna’s Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, Verdin and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. Birds like LeConte’s Thrasher, Cactus Wren, and Canyon Wren are not seen on most half day routes.
Full days typically include birding at at least three locations, including several different habitat types. Specifically, most full day tours include an afternoon visit to the Spring Mountains, which offer completely different habitat and a totally different suite of birds than are normally seen in the Las Vegas Valley. We have more flexibility to track down target birds, explore a wider variety of habitats, linger at hotspots, and take lots of photos.
Preparing for your trip: How to dress, pack, and what to expect
Prepare for possible extremes. The Mojave Desert is a beautiful but harsh environment that can catch even seasoned desert natives off guard, and the Las Vegas area can be surprisingly cold in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer. Environmental conditions can certainly be amplified for those that are visiting the area for the first time. Be sure to check weather reports prior to your visit and ask your guide about expected temperatures. It is recommended that you bring ample water for your tour, no matter what the time of year. Let your guide know ahead of time if you’ll need them to supply water for you. Other items recommended to combat extreme environmental conditions include sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses. Additionally, any trip to the Spring Mountains can involve birding at elevations up to 9,000 feet. At this elevation, even short hikes can have an effect on anyone not properly acclimated. Be sure to communicate with your guide if hiking at elevation is a concern.
Meals are not included with any tour. It’s best to have breakfast and coffee before meeting your guide in the morning. If you do need to stop for breakfast or lunch, please communicate this with your guide before the trip so that they can factor in the route and plan meals accordingly.
We’re usually done by lunch time for half days tours, but if you like your lunch at 10 am, consider bringing a packed lunch or snacks. Stopping for food, coffee, and of course water is always acknowledged, but we want to make sure we are maximizing your time spent with us. On full days you can pack your own lunch and snacks beforehand, and we prefer to have a picnic lunch at one of our birding stops. In Las Vegas, coffee shops, fast food, sandwich shops, and gas stations abound, but on full days, we often leave the city for a few hours. Therefore, be sure to let your guide know what your needs are, so that we don’t leave town without making sure you are fed, hydrated, and caffeinated!
A typical day will include anywhere from one to four different stops, depending on desired pace and available time. But remember, this is YOUR trip, so you dictate the speed. No matter where your trip takes you, there should be multiple opportunities for bathroom breaks. And this is the desert! So no need for bug spray or mosquito nets out here!
Most stops will require some amount of walking. However, established paths and trails mean relatively easy terrain and generally no more than a mile’s worth of hiking at each stop. We understand that each individual’s level of mobility can vary widely, and Bird Las Vegas is happy to tailor your trip to fit your desired level of physical activity. Just let your guide know if you want to get off the beaten path or would rather spend more time at a blind. We want to make you feel comfortable and never want to push you out of your comfort zone.
Spring: Roughly mid-March to late May – temperatures can vary widely but generally are rather comfortable during the day in the Las Vegas Valley. Generally we start the mornings in pants and a jacket, but as the day goes on, you may want to shed your layers and be in a t-shirt by mid-day.
The breeding birds will be singing, nest building, or feeding young. More secretive residential birds like LeConte’s Thrashers are easiest to see at this time. Northbound migrants are moving through, so stops at parks with water or deciduous trees often turn up Western Wood-Pewee and Empidonax flycatchers, vireos, warblers, such as Townsend’s and Black-throated Gray, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock’s Orioles.
Summer: June through late August – it’s warm in the Las Vegas Valley! It’s usually comfortable in the morning, but we like to head into the mountains as the day goes on to get into some cooler conditions and tree cover. You’ll likely want to dress lightly this time of year, but pack a long sleeve just in case we head into the cooler alpine air.
Desert birds are active in the morning and then again in the early evening. In the mountains, breeding takes place later in the year, so some of these birds are busy tending to nests and young still. The Spring Mountains northwest of Las Vegas can be exciting, especially if you are from the East! Along with the classic residential mountain west species, we will look for Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Steller’s Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Grace’s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Virginia’s Warbler, Gray Vireo, and Black-chinned Sparrow.
Fall: September through early November – September can be quite warm, but by October, we may be wearing long sleeves again, especially if we head up into the mountains.
All the residential birds have gone through the breeding motions and southbound migrants are moving through. Flycatchers, vireos, warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and sparrows are showing up at migrant traps. This is an excellent time of year to really inspect the migrant traps for unusual birds that may be well out of range; exciting, locally rare birds have been showing up in numbers over the last few years.
Winter: Mid-November to the first half of March – it can be cold here, even in the Las Vegas Valley! Temperatures during the day may be in the 40s or 50s, and in the mountains, we may run into snow. It’s not uncommon for early morning temperatures to be hovering around freezing.
Waterfowl are abundant anywhere that there is a permanent water source, and we typically get small numbers of Cackling and Ross’s Geese, along with Greater White-fronted and Snow. Although they aren’t singing or on territory yet, we still can track down the resident desert birds like Greater Roadrunner, Crissal Thrasher, Gambel’s Quail, Costa’s Hummingbird, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Verdin, and Abert’s Towhee.
- Cinnamon Teal – year-round
- Gambel’s Quail – year-round
- Chukar – year-round, though habitat restricted and may require effort
- Band-tailed Pigeon – year-round
- Inca Dove – year-round, though uncommon
- White-winged Dove – year-round, though uncommon, particularly in the winter
- Greater Roadrunner – year-round
- White-throated Swift – year-round, though uncommon in the winter
- Black-chinned Hummingbird – late March through mid-October
- Anna’s Hummingbird – year-round
- Costa’s Hummingbird – year-round
- Broad-tailed Hummingbird – April through September
- Burrowing Owl – year-round
- Williamson’s Sapsucker – year-round, but most abundant July through September
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker – year-round
- Gilded Flicker – year-round, though only seen on trips to the Searchlight area, south of LV
- Dusky Flycatcher – April through October
- Cordilleran Flycatcher – May through September
- Say’s Phoebe – year-round
- Black Phoebe – year-round
- Vermilion Flycatcher – typically year-round, though only small numbers overwinter
- Ash-throated Flycatcher – late March through mid-September
- Gray Vireo – April through August
- Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay – year-round
- Verdin – year-round
- Rock Wren – year-round
- Canyon Wren – year-round
- Bewick’s Wren – year-round
- Cactus Wren – year-round
- Black-tailed Gnatcatcher – year-round
- Curve-billed Thrasher – year-round, though only seen on trips to Searchlight, south of LV
- Bendire’s Thrasher – late March through June, and only seen on trips to Searchlight
- LeConte’s Thrasher – year-round, a highly sought after bird that is most easily seen in spring
- Crissal Thrasher – year-round
- Phainopepla – year-round
- Lesser Goldfinch – year-round
- Black-chinned Sparrow – late March through August
- Black-throated Sparrow – year-round, though easiest from March through October
- Bell’s Sparrow – year-round, though much easier during the early breeding season
- Sagebrush Sparrow – October through mid-March
- Abert’s Towhee – year-round
- Green-tailed Towhee – April through October
- Spotted Towhee – year-round
- Hooded Oriole – late March through September
- Bullock’s Oriole – April through September
- Scott’s Oriole – April through August
- Lucy’s Warbler – late March through September
- Virginia’s Warbler – mid-April through September
- Black-throated Gray Warbler – April through October
- Western Tanager – April through October
- Black-headed Grosbeak – mid-April through early October
- Lazuli Bunting – mid-April through early October
High Elevation Birding
A trip into the mountains is typically included during a full day trip, as certain species can only be found at elevations above 6,000 feet. At any time of year, we will be looking for Band-tailed Pigeon, Golden Eagle, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Steller’s Jay, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtit, Pygmy Nuthatch, Spotted Towhee, Western Bluebird, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill (sporadic), and Evening Grosbeak (sporadic). In winter Lewis’s Woodpecker and Townsend’s Solitaire may join the mix.
In the late spring and summer, we will be on the lookout for Black-chinned Sparrow, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Williamson’s Sapsucker (infrequent), Cordilleran and Dusky Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, Grace’s and Virginia’s Warblers, Western Tanager, and Green-tailed Towhees. Flammulated Owls and Western Screech-Owls also breed on the mountain in small numbers!
We love birding in the vicinity of the small town of Searchlight, NV. In the Joshua Tree deserts of far southern Nevada, there are several birds that reach the northern limit of their ranges, including Gilded Flicker, Bendire’s and Curve-billed Thrasher, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow. This is also an excellent area to catch up with Cactus Wren, Black-throated Sparrow, and Scott’s Oriole (breeding only). This area is visited for the unique Joshua Tree forests as much as it is for the birds. However, this area typically requires a 1.5 hr drive each way, so inquire with your guide to see if this option is a good fit for you.