Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Gilbert Water Ranch

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Excellent location for seeing migrants, wintering birds, and resident desert birds; An excellent place to find rarities

Elevation: 1300'

Habitat:  Recharge basins surrounded by riparian habitats that correspond to different riparian zones throughout Arizona

Overall Birding Rating: 5 (Top 10 Maricopa County Hotspot)

Difficulty: 1 (Easy)

Birding Type: Easy Hiking

Facilities:  Parking, restrooms, picnic areas, children's playground

Fees/Ownership:  None/Town of Gilbert

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Gilbert /20 miles southeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  Parking area to the ranch is at the southeast corner of Greenfield and Guadalupe Roads

Overview:  The "Gilbert Water Ranch" or officially known as the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is overall the best birding location in Maricopa County.  Amazing rarities have made birding at this location famous, and any day here in spring and fall migrations and during the winter months will be productive.  Seven large recharge basins are located within the ranch and have water levels that constantly change, usually by the day.  Water levels in the ponds will effect what birds are more likely on the water.  Land wise, the trails and paths around the water ranch are made to represent different riparian habitats that are found throughout Arizona, from low to high elevations.  A complete hike through the ranch in an outing would come close to about four miles.  The ranch has good viewing blinds and lookouts for birders as well.  It is also a popular place for walkers, joggers, family outings, and scout troops.   

Gilbert Water Ranch can provide good birding at any time of the year with a good amount of species present at all times.  The summer months can offer good birding at times too.  Regular common year round as well as breeding birds (some only seasonal) at Gilbert Water Ranch include Canada Goose, Gambel's Quail, Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Snowy and Great Egrets, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, White-winged, Eurasian-collared, Mourning, and Inca Doves; Rosy-faced Lovebird, Black-chinned and Anna's Hummingbirds, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Black and Say's Phoebe's, Loggerhead Shrike, Cliff Swallow, Verdin, Northern Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Common Yellowthroat, Abert's Towhee, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Lesser Goldfinch and House Finch. 

Species that are seen mainly in migration or occasionally during the year include Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Western Grebe, Cattle Egret, White-faced Ibis, Osprey, Sora, Common Moorhen, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least, Western, and Stilt Sandpipers; Wilson's Phalarope, Ring-billed and California Gulls, Black Tern, Costa's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous Hummingbirds; Gilded Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow, Hammond's, Gray, Dusky, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers; Vermilion Flycatcher, Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Bell's, Cassin's, Plumbeous, and Warbling Vireos; Northern Rough-winged, Tree, Bank, and Barn Swallows; Bewick's and House Wrens, Nashville, Yellow, Lucy's, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, Hermit, MacGillivray's, and Wilson's Warblers; Yellow-breasted Chat, Chipping, Brewer's, Vesper, Lark, and Black-throated Sparrows; Western Tanager, Black-headed and Blue Grosbeaks, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Bullock's Oriole.  

Winter species (some seen as well during spring/fall migrations regularly in large numbers as well) include Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow and Ross's Geese, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teals, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Eared Grebe, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, Belted Kingfisher, Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker, Marsh Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, Western Meadowlarks, and at times American and Lawrence's Goldfinches. 

Some of the more uncommon to rare species that are annual in smaller numbers throughout Arizona or just simply out of habitat observed at Gilbert Water Ranch have included American Bittern, Common Ground-Dove (unusually on location), Olive-sided Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo (in winter), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Blue Grosbeak (in December once). 

Rare species seen at Gilbert Water Ranch (that are sketch and review species by the Arizona Bird Committee or very rare for Maricopa County) have included Baikal Teal (Arizona's first record), Wood Stork, Streak-backed Oriole, Little Blue Heron, Purple Gallinule, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Tennessee Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, and Dickcissel, and many others. 

Birding Tip: Gilbert Water Ranch is a large area with a lot of vegetation.  It is often a good idea to cover all the trails twice thoroughly, as birds can be missed just as easily as they are seen.  Come very early in warmer months.  Evenings can often be just as productive as mornings here.  Winter birding can be very good any time of the day.  A scope is necessary when viewing waterfowl or shorebirds.  Covering the ranch slowly patiently will result in more success. 

Directions: Gilbert Water Ranch is located in Gilbert at the southeast corner of Greenfield and Guadalupe Roads just to the east of the Gilbert Library.  If taking the US 60 Highway, take the Greenfield exit south for 1.56 miles and make a left (east) on Guadalupe Road, continuing on for 0.2 miles to reach the water ranch parking lot.


Gilbert Water Ranch Map

Gilbert Water Ranch eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from Gilbert Water Ranch:


Birdlife of Gilbert Water Ranch:

Rarities over the years!

Baikal Teal

Brown Thrasher

Wood Stork

Little Blue Heron

Purple Gallinule

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Tennessee Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler


Northern Parula


Back to Area 4-Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa

Birding in Maricopa County

An online guide to the birds and birding locations of Maricopa County


Birding in Gila County

An online guide to Gila County Birding


Birding in Arizona's White Mountains

An online guide to Birding in Arizona's White Mountains