Birding by Boat at Scorpion Bay

Bird watching is a popular pastime in Arizona, with many hobbyists using it to connect to nature and explore the outdoors. Interest in birds often begins while boating, as it’s an easy way to get close to different species of birds. Sometimes birds will allow a boat to approach much more closely than they would a person on foot.

The Scorpion Bay Marina has a variety of boat rentals for fishing, floating or kayaking around Lake Pleasant. Full-day and half-day boat rentals are available. Be sure to plan ahead and make a reservation for your birding adventure.

Once you’re out on the lake, you’re sure to notice a varied assortment of birds. We’ve seen larger birds such as great blue herons, turkey vultures, ospreys and egrets. The great blue herons often hang out on the edge of the water, searching for minnows and bigger fish to eat. You’ll hear a loud squall if you get too close to them. The vultures, ospreys and egrets are often busy swooping down into the lake for fish, delighted to find plenty of fish available.

A bit smaller are the Franklin’s gulls, avocets, cormorants, spotted sandpipers, belted kingfisher and rock wrens, all colorful and plentiful around the lake. Each has their own personalities and preferences.

Black-crowned night herons are fun to see, with what looks like a ponytail hanging down their back. Green herons are beautifully colored and often found among the reeds. Loons are a bit harder to view, as they dive down for long periods of time and it’s easy to lose track of them. You’ll often see black and white western grebes on Lake Pleasant as well.

Ducks and geese are abundant in the area, with ducklings in the spring. You’ll often notice several of them nosily flying in and landing with a splash.

American white pelicans have been seen lately wintering at the lake. The birds breed in Canada and the upper Midwest, and they typically winter near the Gulf of Mexico and coastal Southern California. However, more pelicans are wintering in Arizona because of the available lakes with an abundance of fish.

Lake Pleasant area has also been home to a few bald eagles throughout the years. Arizona Game and Fish Department asks people to respect the eagles and stay away from nests. Viewing the eagles online, however, is encouraged. AZGFD offers a fascinating live-streaming Bald Eagle Cam and advises viewers to stay tuned, as things are sometimes unpredictable and the line might be temporarily offline.

If you head to the north lake area to explore the coves, there’s often not as much traffic and it’s a bit quieter. Listen closely and you can often hear bird calls to help identify bird species. It often takes a bit of time and experience for birders to identify specific calls, but some birds have very recognizable calls. The cactus wren has a loud, familiar cry.

If you’re interested, there are apps available for your phone that will help you identify bird species, with highly developed sound identification engines. A good bird book such as the Audubon Society Field Guide is also an excellent way to get familiar with bird species.

Developing an interest in birds allows us to appreciate earth’s other inhabitants. Birdwatchers can help preserve and improve the planet for generations yet to come.

There are some good organizations that you can join if you decide you want to learn more about birding, such as The Audubon Society.


Scorpion Bay is Arizona’s premier floating playground, offering everything from daily pontoon and ski boat rentals to slips for harboring your yacht (or dinghy). Come for the fishing or come for the frolicking—either way, incredible mountain views, fantastic dining and world-class marina services await less than an hour out of Phoenix.