Arizona Field Ornithologist


The Dateland Shrimp Ponds
Henry Detwiler

Note: The ponds are currently inactive as of 2017. We will update this article when we have more information.

In the summer of 2003 Willie and I were exploring one of  Patton's old training camps in the nearby desert.  Looking south, I saw what looked like water.  Hoping it wasn't a mirage, we headed in that direction and found a mecca for birds and dragonflies. So far we've recorded over 120 birds there!

Beginning in late spring (in 2005 it was May), Tark Rush fills up and stocks these ten large, multi-acre ponds with shrimp fry.  As the shrimp mature all manner of birds (see lists below) descend upon the ponds to feast, until Tark harvests the shrimp in October and the ponds dry out.  (In 2004 there were still a few puddles with ducks & shorebirds on Nov 5th.)  Winter is slow at the dried-out ponds, with Horned Larks and the occasional Savannah Sparrow.

Use care when driving around the ponds; the dikes are narrow and powdery dirt, and parts may be eroded.  If you see the feeding hopper, give it a wide berth, and please don't block any of the dike roads.  You can always park south of the drainage canal, or along Ave 64E, and walk in.  If you are planning a visit, you might wish to call Tark as a courtesy to find out the status of visiting these private ponds: 928-246-1877

If you come in mid to late summer, keep in mind that you're in the heart of the desert, where afternoon temps often exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fortunately, water, food, and gas are available at Dateland, immediately south of the I-8 exit.  And in the date palm grove immediately south of Dateland, you may find a Barn Owl and an assortment of flycatchers, warblers, and sparrows at the appropriate times of year.  


Western and Baird's Sandpipers

Great Egret eating a shrimp

Click on any of the thumbnail
 pictures to see full-sized photos. 


Site #16 on Yuma Area Overview Map

- From I-8, exit north on Ave 64E (Exit #67)
- Drive north approximately 5.7 miles, over the Gila River Bridge (the river is usually dry as a bone, but 2005 saw it flowing), until you see a low berm on your left (west side of the road)
- Park and walk up onto the dike--you're there! 
- The ten ponds extend a mile out to the west.
- On the south side of Exit 67 is a gas station and the Dateland Store, home to date & cactus shakes, burgers, souvenirs, and rest rooms.

(Click on map for aerial photo)

Black-necked Stilts 
(adults above & baby below)
A most numerous shorebird!


During the late spring and summer, migrants are drawn to this oasis in the desert (and not just waders & shorebirds).  A sampling of the unusual birds that have appeared over the past few years include:


- Reddish Egret
- Common Tern
- Least Tern
- Sabine's Gull (up to 4 at once in late summer 2004)
- Sanderling
- Ruff
- Red Phalarope
- Short-billed Dowitcher
- Semipalmated Sandpiper
- Purple Martin
- Grasshopper Sparrow

Regularly occurring migrants include:


- 4 species of grebes
- White-fronted Goose
- Bonaparte's, California, Herring, & Ring-billed Gulls
- Black, Forster's, & Caspian Terns
- just about every shorebird known to Arizona
- Peregrine Falcon
- 5 species of swallows

Many of the permanent residents in the area come to the ponds to drink & eat--some of these are:


- Greater Roadrunner
- Gambel's Quail
- White-winged Dove
- Verdin
- Loggerhead Shrike
- Abert's Towhee
- Horned Lark

Reddish Egret

Black-crowned Night Heron

Semipalmated Plover

Sabine's Gull

This is a record of species that have been seen at the ponds since the summer of 2003.  If you've spotted additional birds, send me an e-mail with a sighting date, and I'll add it to the list.
Here are links to three additional web pages with shrimp pond photos.


Yuma_Dateland July2004


Looking for the Ruff
24 Sep 2004




The Ruff in flight
24 Sep 2004




American Avocets wheeling

Short-billed Dowitcher

Species Species
Pied-billed Grebe Franklin's Gull
Eared Grebe Bonaparte's Gull
American White Pelican Ring-billed Gull
Brown Pelican California Gull
Double-crested Cormorant Herring Gull
Great Blue Heron Sabine's Gull
Great Egret Caspian Tern
Snowy Egret Common Tern
Reddish Egret Forster's Tern
Cattle Egret Least Tern
Black-crowned Night Heron Black Tern
White-faced Ibis Rock Pigeon
Greater White-fronted Goose White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
American Wigeon
Lesser Nighthawk
Vaux's Swift
Blue-winged Teal
Black Phoebe
Cinnamon Teal
Say's Phoebe
Northern Shoveler
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Northern Pintail
Western Kingbird
Green-winged Teal
Loggerhead Shrike
Warbling Vireo
Ring-necked Duck
Common Raven
Common Merganser
Horned Lark
Ruddy Duck
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Harrier
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cooper's Hawk
Bank Swallow
Red-tailed Hawk
Cliff Swallow
American Kestrel
Barn Swallow
Peregrine Falcon
Gambel's Quail
Rock Wren
American Coot
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Black-bellied Plover
Mountain Bluebird
Snowy Plover
Northern Mockingbird
Semipalmated Plover
Curve-billed Thrasher
American Pipit
Black-necked Stilt
Macgillivray's Warbler
American Avocet
Orange-crowned Warbler
Greater Yellowlegs
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Lesser Yellowlegs
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Spotted Sandpiper
Western Tanager
Long-billed Curlew
Green-tailed Towhee
Marbled Godwit
Abert's Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Grasshopper Sparrow
Western Sandpiper
Song Sparrow
Least Sandpiper
White-crowned Sparrow
Baird's Sandpiper
Dark-eyed Junco
Pectoral Sandpiper
Blue Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Short-billed Dowitcher
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Long-billed Dowitcher
Brewer's Blackbird
Wilson's Snipe
Great-tailed Grackle
Wilson's Phalarope
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-necked Phalarope
Bullock's Oriole
Red Phalarope
House Finch
Turkey Vulture
Lawrence's Goldfinch


Updated Friday, March 07, 2008