Wild Visitors

By Sarah Skebba | Trail Experiences Coordinator

When you come to the Phoenix Zoo, odds are you are going to see more animals than are on exhibit. Depending on the season, you may see a variety of snakes and lizards, small mammals and birds, and if you’re really lucky, a toad or two.

Summer is the season for native reptiles. Starting around March, snakes and lizards are coming out of brumation (reptile-hibernation) and are looking for a place to warm up and a nice meal. The trails of the Phoenix Zoo become riddled with Desert Spiny Lizards and Tiger Whiptails. Don’t let the Desert Spiny Lizard’s small size fool you. They are mighty, which you might learn if one challenges you to a push-up contest. Many lizards will do “push-ups” to let you know this is their territory and back off! You may also be lucky enough to see a black-and-white California Kingsnake or a bright pink Coachwhip. Remember, if you see a snake, give it some space and feel free to remind them how important they are to our ecosystem, everyone needs an ego-boost every now and again! Later in the summer, when the monsoons are raging, keep an ear out for toads who have finally emerged and are looking for some bugs and a loving partner.

Spring and fall are the times for migratory birds! We get to see some really amazing birds who stop by looking for a resting spot and a snack as they pass through on their migratory route. We have the pleasure of seeing many kinds of herons, including Great Blue Herons, Black Crowned Night Herons, and Green Herons. Don’t forget to look up every now and again, you may see a Black Vulture, Osprey, or Bald Eagle flying overhead.

Regardless of what time of year you come, you will likely see some wild critters who never leave thanks to the abundance of leftovers and a very kind landlord. Cottontail Rabbits, Gambles Quail, and Great and Snowy Egrets are some of our more permanent residents, along with many Coots and Gallinules. If you see a Coot around, be sure to check out their feet. You won’t be disappointed, I promise!

We are so lucky to be a safe and resourceful area for these animals, so remember to give them lots of space and let them find their own food when you see them at the Zoo!

We want them to remain as wild as possible, just in case they ever decide to move out one day.