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Birding in Southeast Arizona

Books on Birding

Birding events include Wings over Willcox (Willcox, January), Fiesta de las Aves (Bisbee and Sierra Vista, May) and Southwest Wings (Sierra Vista, August). Check the events pages for more information.

Birding on the San Pedro River, Hereford, AZ

January 12-16, 2011
Wings Over Willcox

Birding Sites by Area:

Benson | Bisbee | Douglas | Patagonia | Sierra Vista | Tombstone | Willcox

The Southeastern Arizona Birding Trail
The Southeastern Arizona Birding Trail is a highway route linking the best birding locations in southeastern Arizona. A trail map guides enthusiasts to prime birding sites and local birding resources. Beginning in Tucson, the trail loops south and east to the Mexico and New Mexico borders, highlighting such areas as the hummingbird areas around Sierra Vista, the sandhill crane roosting areas around Pearce and Willcox and many birding sites in the famed Chiricahua Mountains, which host many species of the Chihuahuan desert and the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico.
The trail map with approximately fifty prime birding sites marked is available. Many other improvements to the route are expected to follow, including highway signage, interpretive signs and site improvements such as boardwalks, observation platforms and blinds. For more information contact the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory, (520) 432-1388.

Birding Hotspots Alphabetical Listing

AEPCO Crane Viewing Station
The Apache Generating Station of the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative has created a wetland adjacent to the power plant, which is a prime viewing area for large migratory birds. Sandhill cranes begin arriving in October and stay until sometime in February. They roost in the wetlands area, then fly to the local farm fields where they feed. They return to the roosting sites around sunset. To visit the site, take exit 33l (Highway 191) off the interstate. Six and a half miles south a sign marks the entrance of the viewing area. Free

Bog Hole Wildlife Area (managed by Arizona Fish and Game)
Bog Hole Wildlife Area is a wetland and riparian habitat near the headwaters of the Santa Cruz River in the Meadow Valley Flat portion of the San Rafael Valley. The area provides excellent habitat for a variety of birds. Waterfowl such as canvasback and mallard visit the area. Nongame birds such as the Western screech-owl, red-tailed hawk, great blue heron, and magnificent hummingbird can also be found here. Special status species that may be seen here include Baird's sparrow, Mexican spotted owl, and Sprague's pipit. From Patagonia, head east on Forest Road 58. When you get to the junction with Forest Road 765, turn left. When the road forks, veer right (as if going to the Cott Tank drainage). Turn right on the two-track road that parallels the exclosure fence. Park at the wooden ladder marked with Bog Hole Wildlife Area signs.

Birding in Carr Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Hereford AZ

Birding in Carr Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, Hereford AZ

Carr Canyon (520) 378-0311
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District.
The road into Carr Canyon provides relatively easy access to the higher elevations of the Huachucas. This unpaved mountain road provides an opportunity to penetrate Arizona's high country without a long hike. Look for such high-altitude birds as red crossbill, yellow-eyed junco, olive warbler, and Steller's jay. Other birds to be seen include golden eagle, Strickland's woodpecker, warblers and, of course, hummingbirds. There are campsites at Reef Townsite and Ramsey Vista. From Sierra Vista take Fry Blvd. to Rt. 92, south 8 miles, then turn right on Carr Canyon Rd. Free

Cave Creek Canyon, Portal
(520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
From Portal the road into the Chiricahua Mountains winds along Cave Creek Canyon, where you may spot peregrine falcons. In the fall, this is a good place to see the Calliope hummingbird. It is also one of the few canyons in the U.S. where the elegant trogan nests. After the road passes the Southwestern Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History, a dirt road climbs to Pinery Canyon and Rustler Park campground. Red-faced warblers and Mexican chickadees are among the high-elevation species to be seen here. There are several camping areas in the National Forest as well as bed and breakfast accommodations nearby. Free

Chiricahua National Monument (520) 824-3560
The Chiricahua National Monument, on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains, is famous for its strange formations of volcanic rock and rhyolite spires, but it also merits the attention of birders, who will enjoy the zone-tailed hawks which soar above the bizarre formations and the hepatic tanagers which flourish in the canyon bottoms. Some of the other birds seen include Scott's orioles, warblers and several varieties of hummingbirds. Birds of special interest that can be found in the Chiricahuas include: turkey vulture, white-throated swift, acorn woodpecker, ash-throated flycatcher, Cassin's kingbird, Mexican jay, red-faced warbler, black-headed grosbeak, spotted towhee and yellow-eyed junco. Seventeen miles of maintained trails feature picturesque views and all degrees of difficulty. There is a campground at the monument but the nearest supplies and services are in Willcox. 36 miles SE of Willcox $6/vehicle, $3 motorcycle/bicycle

Chiricahua Wilderness (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
South of the Chiricahua National Monument, the 87,700-acre Chiricahua Wilderness is a much less traveled destination than the nearby Monument. Here, too, the wide variations in elevation, moisture and slope produce corresponding variations in wildlife. Many of the birds to be seen here are more common in Mexico than in the United States. The terrain is often difficult and for safety visitors should remain on the developed trail system. Free

Cochise Stronghold (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
The lush green woodland within the natural granite fortress of Cochise Stronghold is home to Mexican jays, hummingbirds, prairie falcon, turkey vulture and golden eagle. Trails afford good viewing and photographing opportunities. There is a campground in the Stronghold. From Sunsites take Ironwood Rd west into the Canyon. Day use fee $3, Camping $10/night.

Coronado National Memorial (520) 366-5515
Birds often seen in the Memorial include acorn woodpecker, gray-breasted jay, Gambel's quail, Montezuma quail, painted redstart, white-winged dove, and many species of hummingbirds. Visitor center has books and maps for sale. Day use only, picnicking but no camping. However, many bed and breakfast accommodations are available in Hereford and in Sierra Vista.
20 miles south of Sierra Vista, 5 miles off Hwy 92. Free

Dos Cabezas Mountains Wilderness (520) 348-4400
Bureau of Land Management, Safford Field Office
The rugged slopes of the Dos Cabezas Mountains are home to white-tailed and mule deer and mountain lions. The peregrine falcon, a state and federally listed endangered species, migrates through this rugged area, which also is home to golden and bald eagles. Steep slopes and granite outcroppings offer climbing challenges as well as long-distance views of the Sulphur Springs and San Simon valleys. Access by dirt road from Bowie. BLM Safford Field Office. Free

Garden Canyon
Fort Huachuca Military Reservation

Note: Since Fort Huachuca is an active military installation, access may be limited when military actions are in progress. Two forms of picture identification are necessary to enter when a security alert is in force. Additionally you will need your auto registration and proof of insurance.

This scenic area within Fort Huachuca contains some of the most diverse plant and animal life in the Huachuca Mountains. Garden Canyon offers good opportunities to view Montezuma quail, elegant trogon, Mexican spotted owls and various warblers in addition to white-tailed and mule deer and javelina. Garden Canyon is also known as a wonderful spot for butterfly enthusiasts. Depending on the current level of international tensions, to enter the fort you may need to show your driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Free

Holy Trinity Monastery Bird Sanctuary
The beautiful garden of the Holy Trinity Monastery is an established bird sanctuary with shaded walks and placid ponds. Near St. David, south of Benson on Highway 80. Free

Huachuca Canyons (520) 378-0311
South of Sierra Vista on Highway 92 are the roads leading west into the legendary birding spots in the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains. Ramsey, Carr and Miller Canyons are favorite birding areas. Free

Miller Peak Wilderness Area (520) 378-0311
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
Miller Peak Wilderness is presently characterized by oak and grass vegetation and elevations vary from 5200 fl. to 9466 ft. at Miller Peak itself. This 20,190-acre wilderness area is home to a large number of species of reptiles and mammals as well as the birds, which include fourteen species of hummingbirds. Access is by foot or horseback only; machines are prohibited in wilderness areas. Check the fire danger signs before entering the area. Free

Muleshoe Cooperative Management Area (520) 586-7072
Seven perennial streams provide some of the best aquatic habitat in Arizona. Rrugged canyons and riparian areas attract many birds including zone-tail, black and Cooper's hawks, Gambel's quail and pygmy owls. Many species of mammals and reptiles are also to be found here, including javelina, coatimundi, and rock squirrel. 29 miles northwest of Willcox, take Airport Road out of Willcox for 15 miles, then turn right at the junction and go another 14 miles.

Parker Canyon Lake (520) 378-0311
Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
Parker Canyon Lake attracts ducks and other waterfowl as well as ospreys and bald eagles. Great blue heron, gray hawk and Montezuma quail may also be seen at this aquatic habitat. Spring warblers and hummingbirds can be seen in season. There is a campground and a maintained hiking trail which circles the lake. Free

Patagonia Lake State Park (520) 287-6965
Patagonia, AZ (northeast of Nogales)
Patagonia Lake State Park offers many aquatic recreational opportunities in addition to being a good place to find water birds. The 265-acre man-made lake attracts canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, black vulture, great blue heron, and various hummingbirds. White tail deer are often seen in the hills. The park is crowded in the summer but very appealing in the cooler months. (The most crowded times are between Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekends and holidays.) Camping spaces are available right beside the lake to get a good view of the water birds as soon as you wake up. There is a $7 fee for day use (vehicle +1-4 adults) and a fee for camping which depends on the amenities you choose--in the $12-$25 range.Tents are permitted and some campsites have full hook-ups for RVs. Day use hours are 8 am to 10 pm; access to the park is closed from 10 pm to 4 am. During peak visitor months (summer) park closures may occur. To get there: take Highway 82 from Mustang Corners (junction of Hwy 90 and Hwy 82) southwest through Sonoita and Patagonia. About 7 miles past Patagonia you'll see the road to the lake. Elevation: 3750'

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (520) 394-2400
Owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy
Sonoita Creek flows through the valley between the Patagonia and Santa Rita mountains south of the towns of Sonoita and Patagonia. There are several cleared hiking trails. Some are relatively short loops near the visitor center and the longer Platts Upland trail is 3.2 miles. The preserve is open Wednesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Hours are: April-September 6:30 am-4 pm; October-March 7:30 am-4 pm. Charge is $5 per person and no pets are allowed beyond the parking lot.

If you are familiar with the Ramsey Creek Preserve (below), you may find PSCP somewhat disappointing for the $5 price tag. The visitor center is just a bathroom and an office and the trails are similar to what you can see for free at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. If you're camping at Patagonia Lake it would make a handy little side trip.

Ramsey Canyon Preserve (520) 378-4952
Owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy
On the eastern flank of the Huachuca Mountains, this canyon is renowned for its numerous hummingbirds. Beginning in March and running through to October, guided nature walks are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 am. Preserve opens to the public at 8 am. Call ahead to confirm walk dates: (520) 378-4952.

The preserve is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week from February through October. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday through Monday from November - January (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). The preserve is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days.

Fees are $5.00 per adult, $3.00 for Nature Conservancy members and Cochise County residents. Children under 16 years of age are free. The first Saturday of each month is free at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Annual passes, and passes that allow entry into both Ramsey Canyon Preserve and Patagonia/Sonoita Creek Preserve are also available.

For information call (520) 378-4952
To reach Ramsey Canyon Preserve go 6 miles south of Sierra Vista on Hwy 92 to Ramsey Canyon Road, then turn left. Parking is limited. A bookstore, open 9-4, sells books, tee shirts and gifts.

Rustler Park (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
Rustler Park Campground, reached from either side of the Chiricahua range by a steep, winding, unpaved mountain road, is in a large meadow surrounded by pines at an elevation of 8,500 ft. A trailhead provides access to Chiricahua Wilderness. Look for hairy woodpecker, pygmy nuthatch and Mexican chickadees among other high elevation species. Free

Rucker Canyon (520) 364-3468
Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District
Rucker Canyon on the southeast end of the Chiricahua Mountain range offers camping and picnicking for birders as well as beautiful scenery. There is trail access into the Chiricahua Wilderness. Free

San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge
The San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, along with the neighboring Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge, protects scarce aquatic and riparian habitats. The San Bernardino Refuge stretches across the bottom of a wide valley and includes a portion of the headwaters of the Yaqui River, which drains western Chihuahua and eastern Sonora, Mexico. This wetlands habitat has fostered a wide diversity of mammal and avian species as well as rare Arizona native fish. Artesian wells and seeps create small areas of riparian forest, marshland, scrub and aquatic habitat. Over 270 species of birds can be seen at San Bernardino NWR, including great blue heron, green-backed heron, Virginia rail, ringneck duck, Mexican duck, sandhill crane, magnificent hummingbird, Costa's hummingbird, yellow warbler, blue grosbeak, phainopeplas, white-crowned sparrows, and Gila woodpeckers. Raptors include gray hawk, zone-tailed hawk, golden eagle, Swainson's hawk, kestrel, sharp-shinned hawk, and peregrine falcon. From Douglas, take 15th Street east. It becomes Geronimo Trail. Continue east on this road approximately 17 miles.

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
(520) 458-3559
Bureau of Land Management
The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, forty miles of riparian vegetation, supports an abundance of plants and animals. It is one of the premier birding areas in the nation. The SPRNCA runs along the San Pedro River, from the Mexican border to Benson and has 10 access points. A network of trails covering almost the whole length of the Conservation Area is a magnet for bird lovers. This riparian area is home to over 100 species and is on the migratory path of many more. In all over four hundred species have been sighted. Raptors include gray hawk, Swainson's hawk, Mississippi kite, and crested caracara. Upland and songbirds include the ground dove, scaled quail, northern cardinal and summer tanager.
There are parking areas along the San Pedro River at Fairbank (Hwy 82), Charleston Road, Hereford Road, and Palominas (Hwy 92). Find visitor information at San Pedro House Books and Gifts along Hwy 90 , 8 miles east of Sierra Vista, open daily 9:30 - 4:30. Call the Sierra Vista Convention and Visitors Bureau for a free birder's guide. (800) 288-3861 or (520) 458-6940 Free

Sierra Vista Wastewater Wetlands
The Wastewater Treatment ponds about 3 miles east of Sierra Vista on Highway 90 provide aquatic vegetation which attracts waterfowl, rails, shorebirds, songbirds and raptors. Flocks of yellow-headed blackbirds roost among the cattails from fall through spring and many varieties of ducks are to be seen from the specially-constructed viewing platforms. Free

Sulphur Springs Valley
This valley stretches between the Willcox Playa and the Mexican border between Bisbee and Douglas. A drive through this valley, either on the main highway (191) or on the back roads of the ghost town areas, will afford many sightings ranging from sandhill cranes (in fall and winter) to hawks, eagles and the always-lively roadrunner. Free

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area
Managed by the Dept. of Game and Fish, this area of the Sulphur Springs Valley attracts sandhill cranes in vast numbers between October and February. On the southern end of the Sulphur Springs Valley, near McNeal, the cranes can be seen in the Whitewater Draw area.They roost in the wetlands at night and feed in the shorn fields nearby during the morning. Take Highway 191 to Davis Road, then Davis Road to Coffman Road (milepost 21). The access to the viewing area is at Coffman Road near Bagby Road. Free

Willcox Area
Two areas near Willcox are especially popular with birders--the Willcox Playa (dry lake bed) and Cochise Lakes. The "lakes" are sewage ponds on the edge of Willcox, which afford habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. They are on Twin Lakes Golf Course. The Willcox Playa is a natural alkali bed formed when an ancient lake became dry due to climatic changes. Today it is a favored winter roosting habitat for sandhill cranes, which generally can be seen from mid-October to mid-February. The cranes can also be spotted during the day feeding in the farm fields along Highway 191 and the Kansas Settlement Road. Free