Common Verde Valley Birds and Wildlife
Javelina inhabit nearly the entire length of the Verde River, and this park is no exception. There's plenty of natural cover and food items for the local squadrons (what a group of javelina are called!) to feel safe and comfortable at Rockin’ River, which gives our visitors a much better chance of observing relaxed animals in their natural setting. Learn more about javelina with this in-depth resource, then take a trip to Rockin’ River to see if you can find them amid the mesquite bosque or within the cottonwood understory near the river.
This is a great place for the patient, quiet (and lucky) wildlife lover to see river otters enjoying life in the Verde River. Arizona’s native otters were extirpated from the Verde River system by settlers in the late 1800’s, however, a similar otter strain from Louisiana was re-introduced into the Verde River Valley in the early 1980s. Usually, you have to be pretty lucky to find these sleek aquatic predators but they can be found by looking for their tracks and drag marks near the river’s edge, and then waiting there for an otter to show up again. Choose an area with a wide view of the river and if you have binoculars, bring them to scan the surface for otters in the distance.
Deer (Coues whitetail and mule deer)
Visitors to Rockin’ River Ranch could encounter either of Arizona’s two deer species during their visit. Coues whitetail deer, and mule deer both frequent the property to take advantage of great bedding cover in the large mesquite bosque and in the tree-lined areas along the Verde River. While hiking, look ahead a little further than you normally would to catch movement or to see deer before they see you. If you notice an area of the park with an exceptional amount of deer signs (tracks and scat) watch that area from a distance during the hours around sunrise or sunset. Most of the park’s deer are creatures of habit and will return often to areas that give them the resources they need.
Great Blue Heron
This park is fortunate to have been chosen as a springtime rookery by the local heron population. Each spring, up to 10 great blue herons can be seen using “the Wedding Tree” near the lodge to raise their chicks while preparing them for life along the Verde. Their antics are fun to watch and it’s an impressive sight to see so many large birds high in a cottonwood tree! When they’re not in the tree they can be seen wading in or perched near the Verde looking for their next fish meal. Although fish comprise a large portion of the heron’s diet, they will eat small mammals and insects to supplement upon necessity.
The willow and cottonwood-lined riparian zone encompassing the river areas of the park are perfect breeding habitat for summer tanagers. The males of this species sport a vibrant red color while they’re in the area during spring and summer months and the females have dull yellow to olive green plumage to help them blend in with the tangled branches of the riparian area as they brood and raise chicks. These active birds can be seen hunting down small insects or eating a variety of desert fruits like prickly pear berries.
Regardless of your age or familiarity with the outdoors you’ve likely had experiences with various types of waterfowl. This section of the Verde is a major migration path for ducks, geese, and other waterfowl as they seek warmer temps further south or decide to ride out the winter in the Camp Verde area. The huge variety of ducks that use the areas around Rockin’ River will astound the most seasoned birders. Flocks of mallards, teal, Northern Shovelers, and the ornately colored wood duck, to name a popular few, can be seen here with regularity. Pull up a spot by the Verde with a cup of coffee and a pair of binoculars, and sit back and enjoy the show!