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  • Photograph of Coppery-tailed (Elegant) Trogon

    A beautiful male Elegant or Coppery-tailed Trogon in Madera Canyon by Michael McKee.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in
  • SOUTHEAST ARIZONA

    Photograph of Painted Redstart

    A cracking Painted Redstart in Miller Canyon by Lars Petersson.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Southeast Arizona

    Birds

    Resident Specialities
    Montezuma Quail, Whiskered Screech-Owl, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Arizona and Gila Woodpeckers, Gilded Flicker, Bridled Titmouse, Mexican Chickadee, Painted Redstart, Olive Warbler (most likely in spring), Abert’s Towhee, Rufous-winged Sparrow and Yellow-eyed Junco.

    Also a chance of Eared Quetzal, Tufted Flycatcher, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Aztec Thrush, Slate-throated Redstart, Flame-coloured Tanager and Streak-backed Oriole.

    Summer Specialities
    Common Black-Hawk, Grey Hawk, Coppery-tailed (Elegant) Trogon (mainly summer), Greater Pewee, Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped and Sulphur-bellied (easiest during ‘second spring’) Flycatchers, Thick-billed Kingbird, Red-faced Warbler and Five-striped Sparrow.

    Also a chance of Buff-collared Nightjar, Berylline, Broad-billed (mainly summer) and White-eared Hummingbirds, and Plain-capped Starthroat (and fall).

    Possible Winter Specialities
    Ruddy Ground-Dove and Rufous-backed Robin.

    Resident Near-specialities (shared mostly with Texas and, in some cases, other southern states)
    Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Scaled Quail, Neotropic Cormorant, Harris’s Hawk, Spotted Owl (‘Mexican’ lucida), Mexican Jay, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Bendire’s and Crissal Thrashers, Phainopepla, Cassin’s Sparrow (easiest during ‘second spring’), Pyrrhuloxia and Bronzed Cowbird.

    Also a chance of Rufous-capped Warbler and an outside chance of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (endangered cactorum) and Green Kingfisher.

    Summer Near-specialities
    Zone-tailed Hawk, Elf Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will, Blue-throated (mainly summer), Lucifer and Magnificent (mainly summer) Hummingbirds, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (mainly summer), Tropical Kingbird, Grace’s Warbler, Botteri’s Sparrow (easiest during ‘second spring’) and Varied Bunting (easiest during ‘second spring’).

    Also a chance of Rose-throated Becard.

    Winter Near-specialities
    Mountain Plover. Also a chance of Lawrence’s Goldfinch.

    Others
    Gambel’s Quail, Black and Turkey Vultures, Ferruginous Hawk (winter), Prairie Falcon (especially winter), Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Killdeer, passage migrant shorebirds such as Long-billed Curlew, Least and Western Sandpipers, and Wilson’s Phalarope, Sandhill Crane (winter), Band-tailed Pigeon, Inca and White-winged Doves, Greater Roadrunner, Western Screech-Owl, Northern (Mountain) Pygmy-Owl, Burrowing and Flammulated (summer) Owls, Lesser Nighthawk (summer), Common Poorwill (summer), White-throated Swift, Anna’s, Black-chinned (summer), Broad-tailed (summer), Calliope (passage), Costa’s and Rufous (passage) Hummingbirds, Acorn and Lewis’s (winter irruptive) Woodpeckers, ‘Red-shafted’ Northern Flicker, Black and Say’s Phoebes, Ash-throated and Vermilion Flycatchers, Cassin’s (summer) and Western (summer) Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrike, Bell‘s (summer), Hutton’s and Plumbeous (mainly summer) Vireos, Steller’s Jay (macrolopha), Woodhouse’s (Western) Scrub-Jay, Chihuahuan Raven, Horned/Shore Lark, Violet-green Swallow (summer), Juniper Titmouse, Verdin, Bushtit, Pygmy, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper (Mexican subspecies albescens), Cactus, Canyon and Rock Wrens, Eastern (winter), Western and Mountain (winter irruptive) Bluebirds, Hermit Thrush , Crissal, Curve-billed, Le Conte’s and Sage (winter) Thrashers, Black-throated Grey (summer), Lucy’s (summer) and Virginia’s (summer) Warblers, Canyon and Green-tailed (winter) Towhees, Black-chinned, Black-throated, Brewer’s (winter), Grasshopper, Rufous-crowned and Song (saltonis) Sparrows, Lark Bunting (winter), Hepatic (mainly summer), Summer (summer) and Western (summer) Tanagers, Northern Cardinal (brighter red, longer-crested superbus), Black-headed (summer) and Blue (summer) Grosbeaks, ‘Lilian’s’ Eastern Meadowlark (lilianae, a potential future split), Yellow-headed Blackbird (winter), and Hooded (summer) and Scott’s (mainly summer) Orioles.

    Also a chance of Crested Caracara, Golden Eagle and, in winter, Chestnut-collared and McCown’s Longspurs.

    Mammals
    Collared Peccary, Grey Fox, a wide variety of squirrels, Cliff Chipmunk, Antelope and Black-tailed Jackrabbits, Desert and Eastern Cottontails, Striped Skunk, and Mule and White-tailed Deer. Also a chance of Bobcat and White-nosed Coati.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake. Also an outside chance of Gila Monster.

    Photograph of Red-faced Warbler

    A lovely Red-faced Warbler in Miller Canyon by Lars Petersson.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Southeast Arizona

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Southeast Arizona

    January is arguably the best time for wintering raptors, Mountain Plovers, sparrows, longspurs and rarities. Rain is possible during the winter, snow if it gets cold enough. Breeding may be in full swing in the low deserts by March, owls are at their most vociferous in April and early May (although higher elevation nightbirds are at their most vocal in May). Most breeding specialities normally arrive by May when rising daytime temperatures curtail low elevation activity by about 10:00 a.m. so it is best to start a birding day low down then work up through a canyon to the conifers at the top of the ‘sky islands’. June is the hottest, driest month when it is normal for it to be 100°F by 10:00 a.m. and the latest breeders such as Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher arrive. By mid-July violent afternoon thunderstorms usually break out, heralding the ‘Second Spring’ when Botteri’s and Cassin’s Sparrows start singing and Calliope and Lucifer Hummingbirds are most likely. The ‘monsoon’ usually continues into August when bird diversity peaks especially the variety of hummingbirds. Local breeding neotropical migrant species are usually gone south by the end of September and winter visitors return in November.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Southeast Arizona

    Field Guide to the Birds of North America edited by J Dunn and J Alderfer. NGS, 2017 (Seventh Edition).

    Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

    The North American Bird Guide by D Sibley. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).

    The Sibley Guide to Birds of Western North America by D Sibley. Knopf, 2003.

    Sparrows of the United States and Canada; The Photographic Guide by D Beadle and James D Rising. Academic Press, 2002

    Mammals of North America by R W Kays and D E Wilson. PUP, 2009 (Second Edition).

    Mammals of North America by F A Reid. Peterson North American Field Guides, 2006 (Fourth Edition).

    Mammals of North America by K Kaufmann. Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

    Peterson Field Guide to Finding Mammals in North America by V Dinets. Houghton Mifflin, 2015.

    Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by J Brock and K Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

    The Great Southwest Nature Factbook by S J Twiet. Alaska Northwest books, 2002.


    Apps etc.


    National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America.

    The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America.

    Peterson Birds of North America.

    Audubon Birds - A Field Guide to North American Birds.

    iBird Ultimate Guide to Birds.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Southeast Arizona

    Many trip reports, some for Southeast Arizona, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Southeast Arizona. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Southeast Arizona' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Southeast Arizona

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Southeast Arizona

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Southeast Arizona

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Southeast Arizona include the following.