Birdwatchers gather at Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area after rare bird sighting

Contributed Photo: A rare male Blue-Black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina) has been spotted in the Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area. 

Contributed Article

PIMA – Birdwatchers and enthusiasts from near and far are flocking to the Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area, just a short walk from the entrance sign, to catch a glimpse of a rare male Blue-Black Grassquit (Volatinia jacarina). This extraordinary sighting has generated excitement as it marks the first recorded instance of this species within the United States, according to the American Birding Association.

The Blue-Black Grassquit, a small Neotropical bird in the Tanager family, Thraupidae, is captivating bird enthusiasts with its striking blue-black plumage. Typically found breeding in southern Mexico through Central America and South America, extending as far as northern Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, this remarkable visitor has attracted attention from as far as Tucson, with several cars and trucks observed at the wildlife area Monday morning.

The significance of this sighting cannot be understated, as birding enthusiasts anticipate an influx of visitors from other states eager to witness this historic event. Experts predict that this remarkable sighting will put Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area on the map.

“Right now, we have a  male Blue-Black Grassquit at Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area, just a short walk from the entrance sign. There were at least a dozen cars/trucks there this morning, most from Tucson, and I would not doubt it if we start seeing people from other states. This is the first American Birding Association record for that species in the United States, so it’s a really big deal,” said Diane Drobka, local bird enthusiast, photographer, and hiker. 

To ensure the safety and well-being of visitors during this exciting event, the Graham County Chamber of Commerce advises the following heat safety measures and precautions in extreme heat:

Heat safety measures

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight and heat.

Apply sunscreen with a high SPF to protect against harmful UV rays.

Take frequent breaks in shaded areas to rest and cool down.

Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day.

Use hats, umbrellas, or other protective gear to shield yourself from direct sunlight.

Check weather forecasts and plan activities accordingly to avoid peak heat hours.

Keep a close eye on children, elderly individuals, and pets to ensure their well-being.

What to do in extreme heat

Seek air-conditioned spaces, such as public buildings or shopping centers, if available.

If air conditioning is not available, create a cool environment indoors using fans, open windows, and curtains or blinds to block direct sunlight.

Never leave children, elderly individuals, or pets unattended in parked vehicles.

Stay informed about heat advisories and warnings issued by local authorities.

If you or someone else experiences symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke (e.g., dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, confusion, fainting), seek medical attention immediately.

Birdwatchers and nature lovers are urged to visit Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area at their earliest convenience to catch a glimpse of the male Blue-Black Grassquit. This extraordinary event highlights the biodiversity and natural wonders that can be found within the Gila Valley.