Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
ome of the most fabled birding locations in the Old West region, including the old cowboy towns of Tombstone and Tucson, are found in southeast Arizona. Among the mountains of the Santa Ritas, Chiricahuas and Huachucas, such prime birding canyons have been discovered as Ramsey, Madera, Cave Creek and Guadalupe Canyons. In these borderlands, birders search for birds most often encountered south of our border with Mexico.
Hummingbirds are a prime example of the species that are attracted to this oasis from their normal range farther south in Mexico and Central America. Magnificent Hummingbirds, Blue-throated, Broad-billed, Berylline, Violetcrowned and White-eared Hummingbirds are all known as rare visitors to feeding stations and mountain flowers. Late summer is the best time for hummingbirding, when the Mexican species are joined by early migrating North American nesters, such as Broad-tailed, Rufous, Black-chinned and Anna's Hummingbirds.
Most birders begin their borderland tour at Tucson, where Gambel's Quail, Costa's Hummingbirds, Gilded Flickers, Gila Woodpeckers, Harris' Hawks and Phainopeplas are common in the adjacent Sonoran Desert. South of Continental, Madera Canyon is a favorite birding site for Yellow-eyed Juncos, Elf Owls, Flammulated Owls, Zone-tailed Hawks, Elegant Trogons, Painted Redstarts, Hepatic Tanagers, Strickland's Woodpeckers and other birds. Up to 14 species of hummingbirds can be seen at the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge in the heart of this top birding canyon. Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve near the town of Patagonia attracts birders to search for Gray Hawks, Vermilion Flycatchers, Lucy's Warblers, Bridled Titmice and Abert's Towhees. The San Pedro Riparian Area sometimes attracts Green Kingfishers, Tropical Kingbirds and Gray Hawks.
Close to the town of Sierra Vista, Ramsey Canyon yields sightings of such rarities as Red-faced Warblers, Virginia's Warblers and Botteri's Sparrows, along with good looks at rare Blue-throated, Magnificent and Broad-billed Hummingbirds among others at the feeders at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Near Portal, Cave Creek Canyon is a favorite hotspot where you can search for Elegant Trogons, Painted Redstarts, Hepatic Tanagers, Zone-tailed Hawks, Strickland's Woodpeckers, Flammulated Owls and Whiskered Screech Owls. At the very southeastern tip of Arizona, where the state's border meets Mexico and New Mexico, Guadalupe Canyon can offer such rare species as Varied Buntings, Crissal Thrashers, Thick-billed Kingbirds and Northern Beardless Tyrannulets.
Most of the species listed above are the real rarities that can be encountered at only a few other locations in the United States, however, there are many more interesting birds to see in this area of many habitats and fantastic landscapes. No wonder birders hold southeast Arizona in such high regard! For more information about these and other locales, contact: Tucson Audubon Society (520) 629-0510; Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon (520) 625-8746; Ramsey Canyon Preserve (520) 378-2785; Arizona Nature Conservancy (520) 622-3861; and Southwest Birding Festival (800) 288-3861.
View a Bird Checklist for this region:
Previous Section -- Cape May, New Jersey
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Upper Texas Coast