Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, on the west side of Tucson, is one of our very favorite places to go.  The grounds of the museum, located in saguaro country, give you a good feel for the beauty of the desert vegetation.  Much of the grounds appears to be in its natural state, looking much like the vegetation of the surrounding area, which is densely populated with saguaros, ocotillos, cholla cacti of several varieties, barrel cactus, prickly pears, creosote bush, and mesquite and palo verde trees.

This gorgeous, cresting saguaro is located on the grounds near the entrance to the museum.  There is so much to see here that it is impossible to do it all in one day.

Besides a wide variety of botanical exhibits, such as the butterfly garden and yucca garden, there is a hummingbird aviary where one can get very close to a variety of hummingbirds.

There is also an aviary with a wide and changing variety of other birds, such as pyrrhuloxias (looks like a dull cardinal, for those who are familiar with eastern birds), bobwhites, teals, quails, doves, etc.  The most fun birds we’ve seen was a pair of black-necked stilts, which came very close as we stood still watching them.

There are also zoo exhibits, which include several big cats, and bighorn sheep.  There are open-country (still fenced) exhibits for peccaries and coyotes, and of course a reptile and amphibian house.  Out in the open there are always cactus wrens, who are fun to watch.  Their name comes from the fact that they build their nests in cholla cacti.

Another aspect of the museum that is always fun is the opportunity to meet some of the creatures, such as birds or tarantulas up close.  The photo here is of an American Kestrel, the smallest of the raptors. Sometimes the docents are giving demonstrations of meteorites or saguaro cactus details.  For instance, did you know that when a woodpecker drills into a saguaro, the cactus forms a hard-shelled ‘boot’ inside, which preserves the created cavity for nesting not only by the woodpecker, but by other creatures as well, once the woodpecker abandons the nest.  They also have shows that teach you about animals.  We went to one about poisonous reptiles, where we were introduced to a gila monster and a black-tailed rattlesnake.  We have also seen a variety of lizards, like this western whiptail.

There is always something new to see or worth seeing again here at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  We have been here only in the summer when it tends to be very hot.  As long as you stay hydrated, and wear a hat and sunscreen, that doesn’t have to be a problem.  In addition, the museum closes at 2:30 PM, except on Saturdays.  

The last time we were there we discovered a replica of a limestone cave that is very well done.  Some of the passages are small, and one person who was feeling claustrophobic had to turn back, but for us it is a great experience.

We will continue to visit whenever we have the chance.  April and September are good times to visit, because that is when the saguaros are in bloom.  If you like nature, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must-see.  So are the rest of the photos in the album.


Original post September 29, 2010

© Susan L. Stone 2015