One of the top places to visit in the Tucson area is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. One of the first things you realize upon visiting is that this is not a museum in the way that you would expect because the overwhelming majority of the museum is outdoors. It is a zoo, art gallery, botanical garden, aquarium, and a natural history museum all in one.
Almost all of the things that you can see are outdoors including an impressive raptor program. Docents don’t just hold the birds by their feet while you watch, but rather the raptors are released to fly from tree to tree sometimes flapping their wings against your head as you watch these majestic animals. The distances that they fly are amazing including a pavilion hundreds of feet away from the watching visitors. Owls, ravens, and hawks are featured at each presentation which is given twice a day. This alone was worth the trip.
The original vision for the museum was for education and the large number of the museum’s docents are required to complete a 15 week training program. They are positioned though out the grounds in little trailside ramadas and exhibits.
Note also that the name is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum giving a unique tie-in to the state of Sonora in Mexico. The majority of the Sonoran Desert transverses these two states (one in the US and one in Mexico) and the museum has promoted this relationship.
The 97 acre grounds include a hummingbird aviary which is particularly fascinating. We have mentioned in a past blog post the large number of hummingbird species found in AZ. There are up to eight species found in this enclosure alone. As you can imagine they are almost impossible to photograph, but we all tried anyway.
One of the other animals that we were able to see was the Javelina. We have been hearing about this mammal since we have been in the desert region but had not seen one. We thought that we would see some at Bosque del Apache in NM but did not.
The museum recommends that you spend two hours here, but one can easily spend an entire day. Besides the things I have mentioned there are prairie dogs, mountain goats, a puma art exhibit, river otters, blue heron, stingrays, and many other things to see.
If you go, bring your desert gear: a hat, water bottle, and some sunscreen.