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Specialty Birds in Southeast Arizona

Southeastern Arizona is very fortunate to be one of the few places in North America where four major life zones meet: the Rocky Mountains from the north, the Sierra Madre Mountains from the south, the Sonoran Desert from the southwest and the Chihuahuan Desert from the southeast. Because of this, SE Arizona has one of the greatest diversities of wildlife in North America.

If you’re planning an Arizona birding trip, the following information will help. To make your life easier, and to see more birds, consider hiring me as your expert SE Arizona birding guide.

Why is SE Arizona such a great place to go birding?
Here are more than 100 good reasons…

I’ve also created more in depth pages for 26 of the most sought-after specialties, listed below.

All photos taken in Arizona, copyright © Richard P. Fray


Black-bellied Whislting DuckBlack-bellied Whistling-Duck

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Oct, rare in winter.
Status in USA: Can only be found in Arizona and S Texas.
Habitat/location: Ponds, flooded fields and lakes, nesting in cottonwood trees along streams. Most regular at Rio Rico, but also found at Las Cienegas, Patagonia Lake, Peña Blanca Lake, Kino Springs and Amado Pond, as well as various lakes and ponds in Phoenix and occasionally in the Tucson area.


Montezuma QuailMontezuma Quail [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Also at a few sites in New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Very hard to detect on mid-elevation oak-strewn grassland slopes, particularly in the Pajarito Wilderness and Atascosa Highlands along Ruby Road, and in the Patagonia, Huachuca, Santa Rita and Chiricahua Mountains. Can by cyclical, with an unfortunate and dramatic decline in 2010, although a recovery was evident during 2013 and they were seen more frequently in 2014 and 15.


Gambel's QuailGambel’s Quail

Status in SE Arizona: Very common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Confined to a few states in the Southwest and West.
Habitat/location: Ubiquitous and often conspicuous resident of classic Sonoran desert habitat. Frequently seen in other desert, grassland, foothill, riparian and suburban settings, as well as feeder sites such as the Paton Center.


Scaled QuailScaled Quail

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Sometimes fairly easy to find but much more limited and habitat specific than Gambel’s, primarily in sparse desert, foothills and high desert grassland in the Sulphur Springs Valley, around Sonoita, the Huachuca foothills and other similar sites. Less common further west.


Least GrebeLeast Grebe

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor, sometimes a rare resident.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Found regularly in S Texas only.
Habitat/location: Ponds and lakes. When they arrive in Arizona they often stay for long periods. A pair that arrived at Pena Blanca Lake in July 2010 have created a small population and up to 23 birds were found there in late 2011, but this had dwindled to just a few by the end of 2012, mainly due to the unfortunate and deliberate introduction of non-native fish for sport by the Arizona Game & Fish Department (who should know better). A pair nested at California Gulch in 2014. As of 2015, there aren’t any Least Grebes at Peña Blanca Lake.


Neotropic CormorantNeotropic Cormorant

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident, increasing.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Can only be found in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
Habitat/location: Regular at some lakes and ponds including Patagonia Lake, and various lakes and ponds in Tucson and Phoenix. Breeds regularly in Phoenix. A pair nested at Silverbell Lake in Tucson in 2011.


Common Black HawkCommon Black Hawk [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce summer visitor.
Timing: Mar-Sep.
Status in USA: Most are in Arizona, a few in other states.
Habitat/location: Regular on migration along San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers, especially on mid-March mornings. Breeds in riparian habitat at select sites, mostly north of Tucson, such as Aravaipa Canyon. A few recent summer records may indicate a tiny local breeding population.


Harris's HawkHarris’s Hawk

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Arizona, Texas and small parts of New Mexico and California.
Habitat/location: Usually seen quite easily at Sweetwater Wetlands and other sites in and around Tucson. Scarcer in rural areas but groups persist at traditional sites.


Gray HawkGray Hawk

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Oct, rare in winter.
Status in USA: Arizona, S Texas and New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Still a noteworthy bird but a welcome recent increase in numbers mean that it’s now reasonably easily seen in summer along Sonoita Creek and the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers plus other suitable riparian habitats around and to the north of Tucson. They began nesting in mid elevation canyons such as Florida and Madera Canyons in 2012/13. A few winter records.


Zone-tailed HawkZone-tailed Hawk

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Sep, scarce in winter.
Status in USA: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Can be found from the foothills to high in the mountains, and sometimes in Tucson where one or two often spend the winter. Nests in large trees at sites such as Mt Lemmon, Peña Blanca Lake, California Gulch and the Sonoita Creek.


Short-tailed HawkShort-tailed Hawk [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce summer visitor, rare winter visitor.
Timing: Apr-Oct, very rare in winter.
Status in USA: Also in Florida.
Habitat/location: Reasonably recent arrival in Arizona and still very rare. Has been known to breed in small numbers high in the Chiricahua and possibly Santa Catalina and Huachuca Mountains. One wintered in suburban Tucson in 2010 and 2011.


Crested CaracaraCrested Caracara

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce resident.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Also in Texas and Florida.
Habitat/location: Most easily seen on traditional wintering grounds northwest of Tucson, in the Santa Cruz Flats and around Red Rock. Very occasionally seen elsewhere, around Tumacacori and in the Sulphur Springs Valley. Nests on the Tohono O’odham reservation.


Northern JacanaNorthern Jacana

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Also recorded in Texas.
Habitat/location: Lakes, ponds and water treatment plants. Only recorded on a handful of occasions, but once they do arrive they are often very long staying. None since 2008.


Mountain PloverMountain Plover [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce winter visitor.
Timing: Nov-Mar.
Status in USA: Breeds in the Midwest, winters in Arizona, California and Texas. Near threatened, with a population of only 5,000-10,000 individuals.
Habitat/location: Winters in small flocks in the Santa Cruz Flats and Sulphur Springs Valley, preferring sod farms, short grass and crop fields. Tends to use traditional areas but they can sometimes be difficult to find.


White-winged DoveWhite-winged Dove

Status in SE Arizona: Very common summer visitor, uncommon but increasing in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Feb-Sep.
Status in USA: Increasingly seen in southern USA and expanding northwards.
Habitat/location: Can be found almost anywhere in summer when it is one of the commonest birds in the region. Winters at a few regular sites and increasingly found in winter in rural and riparian areas.


Inca DoveInca Dove

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Habitat/location: Increasingly difficult to find in suburban Tucson where it was previously quite common. Now more readily found in riparian and rural/agricultural habitats. Patagonia and Portal, are to reliable spots. Still common in Phoenix. Often associates with Ground-Doves.


Ruddy Ground-DoveRuddy Ground-Dove [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Oct-Apr.
Status in USA: Most records are from Arizona.
Habitat/location: No regular sites at present but sometimes small populations persist for a few years. Tends to occur in similar or more open habitats than Common Ground-Dove and frequently associating with them and Inca Doves.


Common Ground-DoveCommon Ground-Dove

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found in southern states.
Habitat/location: Unobtrusive resident of riparian habitat. Population tends to fluctuate. Regular sites include Pena Blanca Lake, Paton’s in Patagonia and elsewhere along the Sonoita Creek, San Pedro House and elsewhere along the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers.


Rosy-faced LovebirdRosy-faced Lovebird

Status in SE Arizona: A few records from Tucson and may be moving south, but the main US population is found in the suburbs of the Metro Phoenix area.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Formerly known as Peach-faced Lovebird, this species was recently admitted to the full ABA list on the basis of the southern Arizona population, which has been self sustaining for several decades. Escapees are occasionally recorded elsewhere in the US.
Habitat/location: In Arizona, suburban gardens and parks, usually near water.


Spotted OwlSpotted Owl

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round, easiest at known roosts in summer.
Status in USA: Found in Western states; “Mexican Spotted Owl” almost entirely in Arizona and New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Resident of mid to higher elevation forests. Most likely to be seen in summer at traditional known roost sites in Miller or Scheelite Canyon in the Huachucas, but also present in the Santa Rita, Santa Catalina, Chiricahua and Patagonia Mountains.


Elf OwlElf Owl

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Aug.
Status in USA: Found in restricted areas of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Lower to mid elevation woods or lush Sonoran desert. Best seen at known nesting sites such as Battiste’s B&B, Madera Canyon or other sites in the Santa Catalina, Atascosa, Chiricahua and Patagonia Mountains. Hard to find after June.


Whiskered Screech-OwlWhiskered Screech-Owl [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round, easiest in spring.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Mid to higher elevation oak and pine forest. One of the more vocal night birds in the Santa Catalina, Santa Rita, Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains. Hard to find outside the breeding season.


Northern Pygmy-OwlNorthern Pygmy-Owl

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found in various Western states. The “Mountain” subspecies/species is only found in the USA in Southeastern Arizona. See Subspecies below for more details.
Habitat/location: Always hard to find, primarily in higher elevation forests and mid-elevation canyons, but also sometimes in foothills.


Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Status in SE Arizona: Very scarce resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: The main US population is in S Texas. A few birds cling on at secret sites in S Arizona, far from Tucson and requiring at least one full day. The last pair left Tucson in the mid 2000s. The “Cactus” subspecies/species that is found in Southeastern Arizona is discussed under Subspecies below.
Habitat/location: Prime Sonoran desert, lush canyons and foothills in a few very specific locations in S Arizona. Declining.


Buff-collared NightjarBuff-collared Nightjar [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Very scarce summer visitor.
Timing: May-Aug.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Used to be regular at Oro Blanco Mine near California Gulch and other recent records from Madera Canyon, but none were seen or heard in Arizona in 2010 or 2011. Reports came from Ruby and Brown Canyon in 2012 and there were several around the Santa Rita foothills (Proctor Rd) in 2013, returning each summer since.


Mexican Whip-poor-will [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Only in Arizona and small parts of California, New Mexico and Texas. Recently split from Eastern Whip-poor-will.
Habitat/location: Relatively easy to hear at higher elevation forest in the Santa Catalina, Santa Rita, Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains, but not so easy to see.


Lesser NighthawkLesser Nighthawk

Status in SE Arizona: Common summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Oct.
Status in USA: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada.
Habitat/location: Easy to see around Tucson and other urban and rural areas at dawn and dusk.


Plain-capped StarthroatPlain-capped Starthroat [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Rare summer visitor.
Timing: May-Oct, mostly Jul-Aug.
Status in USA: Only recorded in the USA in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Very rare but usually one or two found annually at a feeding station or coming to flowers in lush lower to mid elevation canyons. They often require long vigils at feeders or flowers when they are around. An influx of records in 2013 and particularly 2014.


Lucifer HummingbirdLucifer Hummingbird [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Oct.
Status in USA: Very restricted sites in SE Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Regular at Ash Canyon B&B and one or two other sites in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains. Sometimes found at Madera Canyon and other feeding stations but generally rare away from Ash Canyon.


Violet-crowned HummingbirdViolet-crowned Hummingbird
[full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Apr-Sep, rare in winter.
Status in USA: SE Arizona and SW New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Regular at Paton’s in Patagonia, and one or two other sites along the Sonoita Creek and in Bisbee. Sometimes found at other feeding stations in the Huachuca or Santa Rita Mountains. One or two usually winter  in suburban Tucson and Patagonia.


Berylline HummingbirdBerylline Hummingbird [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Rare summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Oct, mostly May-Aug.
Status in USA: Only regularly recorded in USA in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Fairly recent breeding records from Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains and Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains, but not since 2010. There were a few records in 2013 and one for a few days in Ramsey Canyon in 2014. Extremely rare away from the Huachuca and Santa Rita Mountains.


Broad-billed HummingbirdBroad-billed Hummingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Common summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Mar-Sep, scarce but regular at certain sites in winter.
Status in USA: Only regularly recorded in USA in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Easy to see in summer at feeders and flowers, particularly further south in the region. Prefers riparian habitat, mid elevation wooded canyons, urban and suburban gardens, parks and adjacent habitats. A few winter in suburban Tucson, Patagonia Lake, and occasionally elsewhere.


White-eared HummingbirdWhite-eared Hummingbird [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce summer visitor.
Timing: Mar-Oct, mostly May-Aug.
Status in USA: Only regularly recorded in USA in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Recent breeding records from Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains and Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains. No regular sightings from any site from 2010 to 2013, when a few returned to Miller Canyon. One was regular at feeders in Madera Canyon in summer 2014, and back at Miller Canyon on occasion in 2015.


Blue-throated HummingbirdBlue-throated Hummingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly May-Oct.
Status in USA: Only regularly recorded in USA in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Recent decline, the only really regular site now being Portal in the Chiricahuas. They used to be more regular, and are still occasionally recorded at Ramsey, Miller, Huachuca and Ash Canyons in the Huachucas, Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas, and at feeders high on Mt Lemmon in the Santa Catlanias. A few spend the winter, especially at Portal. Cave Creek Ranch is an especially good place to see them, year round.


Magnificent HummingbirdMagnificent Hummingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Mar-Oct.
Status in USA: Only regularly recorded in USA in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Fairly easy to see at higher elevations, especially at feeding stations and higher elevation canyons in the Santa Catalina, Santa Rita, Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains. A few winter at places like Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas and Ash Canyon in the Huachucas.


Anna's HummingbirdAnna’s Hummingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Common ‘resident’.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Breeds along the West coast only, as far north as Washington state.
Habitat/location: Seen throughout the year in Tucson, where it is the commonest hummingbird. Distribution and seasonal movements are complex, but they can be found somewhere in the region at all times.


Costa's HummingbirdCosta’s Hummingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Arizona, Nevada and California.
Habitat/location: Reasonably common throughout the year in prime Sonoran desert and foothills such as NW Tucson and the Desert Museum. Many will move up-slope in summer and inhabit mid-elevation canyons. Occasionally visits feeding stations elsewhere, generally at low to mid elevations.


Eared Quetzal

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor.
Timing: Recorded in May, Jun, Aug, Oct, Nov and Dec.
Status in USA: Most US records are from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Averages a few records per decade and incredibly difficult to see, usually in remote locations in high elevation forests.


Elegant TrogonElegant Trogon [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor, rare but increasing in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Breeds in Arizona Sycamores and other trees with cavities along riparian corridors within mid to higher elevation oak and pine forests. Traditional sites include Madera Canyon, Huachuca Canyon and South Fork of Cave Creek in the Chiricahuas. Sometimes winters in the same areas or at lower elevations. One or two have returned to Patagonia Lake in winter for over a decade, and they are increasingly found at other sites outside the breeding season, although they remain very rare in winter.


Green KingfisherGreen Kingfisher

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Resident in S Texas.
Habitat/location: Occurs rarely in SE Arizona at lakes, rivers and creeks. Declining. Semi-regular sites include Kingfisher Pond at San Pedro House, the Santa Cruz River, and Patagonia Lake, but it is now recorded only once or twice per year at best.


Acorn WoodpeckerAcorn Woodpecker

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: West Texas, New Mexico, California and Oregon.
Habitat/location: Vocal and easily seen throughout the region, at mid elevations and higher in oak and mixed woodland canyons, parks and backyards. Regularly visits feeding stations and never far away from a granary (dead tree or telephone pole).


Gila WoodpeckerGila Woodpecker

Status in SE Arizona: Very common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found across much of Arizona and small parts of California and New Mexico.
Habitat/location: An almost constant sight and especially sound in urban and suburban settings, Sonoran desert, and in most lowland and mid level habitats throughout much of SE Arizona. It does not get into oak woodland and higher habitats.


Arizona WoodpeckerArizona Woodpecker

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Fairly easy to find in wooded canyons at mid elevations. The best sites include Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas, canyons in the Atascosas, Chiricahuas and Huachucas and Mt Lemmon in the Santa Catalinas.


Gilded FlickerGilded Flicker

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found only in Arizona and a small portion of California.
Habitat/location: Primarily seen in Sonoran desert east and west of Tucson and around Green Valley, but also occurs rarely in some riparian areas. Can be difficult to see at times.


Rose-throated BecardRose-throated Becard

Status in SE Arizona: Very scarce summer visitor, rare in winter, declining.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Found in SE Arizona and occasionally S Texas.
Habitat/location: Riparian breeder, occurring May-Oct, preferring large Arizona Sycamores. Sadly not recorded at the one traditional breeding site at Patagonia Roadside Rest, or anywhere else in summer, since 2005. A few isolated winter record, but not for several years.


Northern Beardless-TyrannuletNorthern Beardless-Tyrannulet

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Occurs in dense scrub near water, particularly along the Sonoita Creek, San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers. Also found near lakes and ponds in Tucson, particularly Agua Caliente Park. Occasional winter records.


Greater PeweeGreater Pewee

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, most Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in Arizona.
Habitat/location: Fairly easy to locate in higher elevation forests, especially when singing its distinctive song. Sometimes found with mixed flocks in fall.


Buff-breasted FlycatcherBuff-breasted Flycatcher [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in Arizona.
Habitat/location: Scarce but sometimes fairly easy to locate in higher elevation forests. Usually nests colonially in very specific areas. Most reliably found at sites such as Sawmill, Huachuca and Carr Canyons in the Huachucas, Cave Creek in the Chiricahuas and Mt Lemmon in the Santa Catalinas. Recent increase.


Black PhoebeBlack Phoebe

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found mostly in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Habitat/location: Conspicuous and usually easy to find at ponds, lakes, streams and anywhere near water.


Vermilion FlycatcherVermilion Flycatcher

Status in SE Arizona: Common summer visitor, fairly common in winter.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Easily seen in a variety of open habitats. Often seen flycatching from low perches in trees, signposts, chain-link fences and other prominent perches.  In winter it is increasing and easily found in almost any Tucson park.


Dusky-capped FlycatcherDusky-capped Flycatcher

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Sep, very few winter records.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Fairly easy to find, especially by its distinctive call, in lush riparian habitat and mid to high elevation oak and mixed woodland habitats. Regular sites include Madera Canyon, Ramsey Canyon, Sycamore Canyon, California Gulch, the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers, and Sonoita Creek.


Brown-crested FlycatcherBrown-crested Flycatcher

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor.
Timing: May-Aug.
Status in USA: Found mostly in Arizona and S Texas.
Habitat/location: Vocal and quite easy to find, usually in large trees in riparian and suburban settings or in Sonoran desert with saguaro cacti. Parks in suburban Tucson, Madera Canyon and Sonoita Creek are regular sites.


Thick-billed KingbirdThick-billed Kingbird [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: May-Aug, a few to Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Only found at a handful of regular sites, never far from water, in riparian habitat. The best known site is Patagonia Roadside Rest but also found elsewhere along Sonoita Creek and at Arivaca Lake and Cienega.


Tropical KingbirdTropical Kingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor.
Timing: May-Aug.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Occurs in open, often agricultural habitat close to water and some large trees. Traditional sites include Rio Rico, Kino Springs, Arivaca Lake/Cienega and Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson.


Cassin's KingbirdCassin’s Kingbird

Status in SE Arizona: Common summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Mar-Oct.
Status in USA: Southwestern USA.
Habitat/location: Common in a variety of open habitats, including lower to mid elevation canyons, grassland, desert, riparian and agricultural habitats as well as suburban settings. Often found in the same area as other kingbirds where it’s broad range of habitats overlap with its more habitat-specific relatives. Increasingly, a few winter in suburban Tucson and riparian habitats.


Sulphur-bellied FlycatcherSulphur-bellied Flycatcher

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: May-Sep, mostly Jun-Aug.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Fairly easy to find in specific mid to higher elevation riparian habitats due to its distinctive call. Madera Canyon, Huachuca Canyon and Ramsey Canyon are traditional sites.


Gray VireoGray Vireo

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce summer visitor.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Restricted to scattered sites across the Southwest.
Habitat/location: The main sites are to the north of Tucson. Some years a pair can be found at Molino Basin in the Santa Catalina Mountains, but otherwise it is hard to find in specific sparse juniper habitat at mid elevations.


Yellow-green Vireo

Status in SE Arizona: Rare summer visitor.
Timing: Jun-Aug.
Status in USA: Recorded very rarely in most southern states.
Habitat/location: Seen less than annually in SE Arizona and often doesn’t hang around. Riparian habitat and lush canyons are preferred.


Hutton's VireoHutton’s Vireo

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Mar-Oct.
Status in USA: Pacific race on the west coast, Mexican race in SE Arizona and small parts of New Mexico and Texas only.
Habitat/location: Unobtrusive bird of oak woodland at mid to high elevations. Easiest to find in the breeding season or at the end of summer in mixed flocks.


Mexican JayMexican Jay

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Arizona and small parts of New Mexico and Texas only.
Habitat/location: Very common and easy to see in oak woodland. Noisy, raucous and prominent, arriving in flocks which can scare other birds away. Can always be found at feeding station sites such as Madera and Ash Canyons.


Chihuahuan RavenChihuahuan Raven

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Fairly easily seen in a variety of habitats but never easily identified. Generally confined to arid habitats in lower elevations and more likely to form winter flocks than Common Raven.


Bridled TitmouseBridled Titmouse

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found in Arizona and a small part of New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Usually easy to find in riparian habitat and oak woodland at mid to high elevations. Commonly seen at feeding stations in Madera and Ash Canyons as well as along Sonoita Creek, the Santa Cruz River and on Mt Lemmon.


Mexican ChickadeeMexican Chickadee [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Sometimes hard to locate at higher elevations in the Chiricahua Mountains only. Winters at slightly lower elevations in the Chiricahuas, joining roving titmouse flocks, making them even more difficult to locate.


VerdinVerdin

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Easily seen in many habitats. Common in Tucson and a classic bird of Sonoran desert, but also found in open habitats and riparian areas.


Sinaloa WrenSinaloa Wren [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Four records, all recent.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Just the four above records from Arizona.
Habitat/location: In Arizona, riparian habitat with dense cover. Can be very difficult to see. The first US record stayed in Patagonia for more than a year. Single birds have been present in Huachuca Canyon since September 2013, and Tubac since October 2013, both still present in 2015.


Cactus WrenCactus Wren

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Easily seen in desert and suburban habitats, but not present throughout the region. Common around Tucson and at Sonoran desert sites such as Saguaro National Park and around Rio Rico.


Black-tailed GnatcatcherBlack-tailed Gnatcatcher

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Common but often inconspicuous resident of desert and scrubby habitats in the lowlands and foothills.


Black-capped GnatcatcherBlack-capped Gnatcatcher [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Rare and irregular resident of lush foothill canyons such as Montosa, Florida and Madera Canyons in the Santa Ritas, California Gulch and Sycamore Canyon in the Atascosas, Rock Corral Canyon in the Tumacacori Mountains, and Patagonia Lake.


Aztec ThrushAztec Thrush

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor.
Timing: Most record Jul-Sep, has also occurred in Jan, May, Oct and Nov.
Status in USA: Almost all USA records are from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Less than annual, mostly in late summer. Almost all records are from fruiting trees in oak woodland at higher elevations. Often found in small groups but always rare and sometimes difficult to see.


Rufous-backed RobinRufous-backed Robin [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce visitor.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Oct-Mar.
Status in USA: Most USA records are from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Recorded in SE Arizona annually, with a notable increase in recent years, although still rare. Most are in winter, feeding on hackberries or ornamental fruits close to riparian or other lush habitats. Occasionally found in wooded areas in agricultural habitat.


Bendire's ThrasherBendire’s Thrasher

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in Arizona.
Habitat/location: Sometimes quite hard to find at specific sites in sparse desert scrub, agriculture and grassland. Most reliably found in the Sulphur Springs Valley and Santa Cruz Flats, as well as desert around Avra Valley.


Curve-billed ThrasherCurve-billed Thrasher

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Classic bird of SE Arizona. Easily seen in desert and suburban habitats. Common in Tucson and far showier and easy to see than other thrashers in the region.


Crissal ThrasherCrissal Thrasher

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Never common and often very difficult to detect in dense mesquite washes, manzanita scrub and lush canyons at almost any elevation. The key to habitat suitability is density of vegetation. Sites such as Montosa Canyon, Peck Canyon, the Santa Cruz river and Catalina State Park offer opportunities, particularly Dec-Mar when males are singing.


Le Conte's ThrasherLe Conte’s Thrasher

Status in SE Arizona: Very scarce resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in California and Southwestern Arizona.
Habitat/location: Difficult to see in very specific, very sparse mesquite and saltbush desert habitat. No longer found in SE Arizona, but formerly a resident of the Avra Valley west of Tucson. Now the best known site is ‘The Thrasher Spot’ near Buckeye, to the west of Phoenix. Much easier to locate (though still difficult) in Dec-Mar when males are active.


PhainopeplaPhainopepla

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly in California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Easily seen in Sonoran desert, grassland and foothill habitats. Closely tied to and most common in mesquites with plenty of mistletoe, where it usually perches prominently.


Olive WarblerOlive Warbler [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Mar-Oct.
Status in USA: Found in Arizona and a small part of New Mexico only.
Habitat/location: Mid to higher elevation oak and pine forests. Never common and often difficult to find. Winters at mid elevation in canyons, often associated with titmouse or kinglet flocks. Madera Canyon, Mt Lemmon and the Dragoon Mountains are all worth checking.


Tropical Parula

Status in SE Arizona: Rare summer visitor.
Timing: All records in Jun and Jul.
Status in USA: Resident in S Texas, most other records from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Very rare, less than annual, usually at higher elevations.


Lucy's WarblerLucy’s Warbler

Status in SE Arizona: Common summer visitor.
Timing: Mar-Sep.
Status in USA: Mostly in Arizona and small parts of other states.
Habitat/location: Common and easily found in Sonoran desert, mesquite scrub and riparian habitats. Fairly unobtrusive and can easily be overlooked.


Grace's WarblerGrace’s Warbler

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Sep, a few to Nov.
Status in USA: Mostly in Arizona and New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Found in higher elevation pine forests but never common. The best places to try are Mt Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains and high in the Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains.


Painted RedstartPainted Redstart

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Mar-Oct.
Status in USA: Found in SE Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas.
Habitat/location: Fairly common and easily found in oak woodland at mid to high elevations. Conspicuous and vocal. A few spend the winter at slightly lower elevations, often close to water, at sites such as Madera Canyon.


Red-faced WarblerRed-faced Warbler

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: Found in Arizona and New Mexico only.
Habitat/location: Relatively easy to locate at higher elevations in pine forest, usually close to water. Often feeds at lower levels in willows. Mt Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains and Carr Canyon in the Huachucas give the best opportunities.


Rufous-capped WarblerRufous-capped Warbler [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Very scarce resident.
Timing: Can occur year round.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Sometimes absent from SE Arizona but often a very scarce resident of specific foothill canyons with water. Recent sites have included Florida Canyon, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Sycamore Canyon, Hunter Canyon and French Joe Canyon.


Flame-colored TanagerFlame-colored Tanager [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Rare summer visitor.
Timing: Apr-Aug.
Status in USA: Most US records are from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: A male returned every year to Madera Canyon from 2002 to 2010, but not since. One or two pairs were found in the Huachuca Mountains in 2015. Otherwise less than annual in mid to higher elevation canyons such as Ramsey Canyon. Beware the possibility of hybrids.


Hepatic TanagerHepatic Tanager

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor, scarce in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Apr-Oct.
Status in USA: Mostly Arizona and New Mexico.
Habitat/location: Found in oak and pine forests at mid to higher elevations, but sometimes lower. A few winter each year at lower elevations at sites such as Madera Canyon.


PyrrhuloxiaPyrrhuloxia

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Quite easily seen in Sonoran desert, mesquite desert scrub and open habitats such as agriculture and scrubby grassland. Sometimes found alongside Northern Cardinal but usually a more rural bird.


Yellow Grosbeak

Status in SE Arizona: Rare summer visitor.
Timing: May-Aug, with most records in June.
Status in USA: Most US records are from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Around 20 records in total, but they usually don’t hang around for more than a few minutes making this a very hard bird to see, even when one is found.


Varied BuntingVaried Bunting

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor.
Timing: May-Sep.
Status in USA: SE Arizona plus small parts of New Mexico and West Texas.
Habitat/location: Quite easy to see in the right habitat, which tends to be dense mesquite washes and lush canyons in the foothills. Try Montosa, Madera and Florida Canyons in the Santa Ritas, California Gulch and around Rio Rico and Patagonia. Can be difficult to find until early June when they become more conspicuous.


Canyon TowheeCanyon Towhee

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Found in a variety of habitats in lower and mid elevations, including Sonoran desert, desert scrub, grassland and rocky foothill slopes.


Abert's TowheeAbert’s Towhee

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly southern Arizona only.
Habitat/location: Fairly shy but common and usually easily seen near water throughout the region. Most of the world’s population is in southern Arizona, so even though it can be quite common here, it’s a very special bird locally.


Rufous-crowned SparrowRufous-crowned Sparrow

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Scattered across Southwest.
Habitat/location: Fairly easy to see in quite specific mesquite desert and foothill habitats. Lush canyons with rocky slopes are good, such as Montosa Canyon, California Gulch and Florida Wash.


Botteri's SparrowBotteri’s Sparrow

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly May-Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona and S Texas.
Habitat/location: Very habitat specific, being found in desert grassland with scattered mesquites. Easy to find when males sing during the monsoon (July-August). Grasslands around the Huachuca Mountains, Las Cienegas, Patagonia Lake and Madera Canyon are classic sites. Winter records are increasing , suggesting it may be a resident species that is hard to find in winter.


Rufous-winged SparrowRufous-winged Sparrow

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Unobtrusive when not singing, but quite common and usually easy to find in desert and other open habitats with mesquites. This bird has a small world range with much of the population in southern Arizona, so it’s a particularly important species locally.


Five-striped SparrowFive-striped Sparrow [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly May-Sep.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Only reliably seen in summer at California Gulch and possibly a few other less accessible sites nearby. In the summer 2011-13, a couple of pairs inhabited Montosa Canyon, but were often hard to find. A handful of winter records in the usual remote locations, but becoming more regular. It may be a full-time resident in SE Arizona, but very hard to detect in winter.


Black-chinned SparrowBlack-chinned Sparrow

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Scattered distribution across the Southwest.
Habitat/location: Uncommon and unobtrusive bird of specifically brushy mid elevation slopes. Sites include Florida and Montosa Canyons in the Santa Ritas, Sabino Canyon in the Santa Catalinas and the Dragoon Mountains. Moves up-slope in summer and becomes more difficult to detect.


Baird's SparrowBaird’s Sparrow [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Scarce winter visitor.
Timing: Sep-Apr.
Status in USA: Breeds in Montana and the Dakotas, winters in SE Arizona and W Texas only.
Habitat/location: Difficult to see in pure grassland habitat. Almost all records come from the San Rafael Valley. Best seen perching on roadside fences just after dawn.


Yellow-eyed JuncoYellow-eyed Junco

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Found exclusively in SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: Easily seen in higher elevation pine forests, many retreating to mid elevations in winter. Mt Lemmon offers by far the easiest chance year round, and some come down to feeders in Madera Canyon in winter.


Bronzed CowbirdBronzed Cowbird

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Mar-Aug.
Status in USA: Mostly Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Habitat/location: Fairly uncommon in chiefly agricultural, riparian and grassland habitats, usually near water. Can be seen in summer at Rio Rico, around Patagonia and other sites. Occasional in winter, often in Tucson or agricultural settings.


Streak-backed OrioleStreak-backed Oriole [full page]

Status in SE Arizona: Rare visitor.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly summer.
Status in USA: Most US records from SE Arizona.
Habitat/location: A very rare visitor and occasional breeder which is usually seen in SE Arizona less than annually. Some are long-staying or returning individuals.


Hooded OrioleHooded Oriole

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor.
Timing: Mar-Oct, rare in winter.
Status in USA: Mostly California, Arizona and Texas.
Habitat/location: Found in a variety habitats at lower to mid elevations, including canyons, riparian, mesquite, desert scrub and suburban settings, especially around palm trees where they often nest. Regularly found at feeder sites, preferring grape jelly, suet, oranges, and nectar from hummingbird or specific oriole feeders.


Scott's OrioleScott’s Oriole

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer visitor, rare in winter.
Timing: Can occur year round, mostly Apr-Oct.
Status in USA: Across the Southwest.
Habitat/location: Found in juniper, oak and pine-oak woodland and lush foothill canyon slopes. Regular sites include the Dragoon Mountains, Madera and Ash Canyons and Molino Basin. Rare but fairly regularly recorded in winter from lower elevations.


Lawrence's GoldfinchLawrence’s Goldfinch

Status in SE Arizona: Irruptive fall, winter and spring visitor, sometimes fairly common, often scarce.
Timing: Oct-Apr.
Status in USA: Mostly California and Arizona.
Habitat/location: Found along streams in riparian habitat and especially weedy edges of ponds and lakes. Irruptive and irregular in appearance, some winters there will be just a few records or semi-regular sites, while other years they arrive in large numbers, forming flocks sometimes reaching a few hundred birds.


 

SUBSPECIES

And as if you need more reasons to come birding in SE Arizona, here are a few to save for a rainy day. The following subspecies have either been split previously or could potentially be granted full species status in the future.


'Mexican' Mallard“Mexican” Mallard
(Anas platyrhynchos diazi)

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Arizona, Texas & New Mexico. Currently a subspecies of Mallard but formerly considered a separate species, Mexican Duck. DNA evidence suggest it is more closely related to Mottled Duck and American Black Duck than Mallard.
Habitat/location: Ponds, streams and lakes in SE Arizona. Found at sites along the Sonoita Creek and Santa Cruz and San Pedro Rivers. Sometimes found at ponds and lakes in Tucson but more often prefers a ‘wild’ environment of small lakes, ponds and streams. Intergrades with Mallard make identification difficult.


'Gould's' Wild Turkey“Gould’s” Wild Turkey
(Meleagris gallopavo mexicana)

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Threatened. Gould’s Turkey is found in southeast Arizona and parts of New Mexico only.
Habitat/location: Higher elevation forests, sometimes lower in riparian habitat. Can at times be easy to see in Madera Canyon, Ramsey Canyon, Cave Creek and other mountain sites, especially around feeding stations. Gould’s Turkey was hunted to extinction in Arizona in the 1930s, and the current population is the result of a reintroduction program. Recent sightings from lower elevation sites such as the San Pedro River and Sonoita Creek could be part of a natural range expansion from northern Mexico.


'Mountain' Northern Pygmy-Owl“Mountain” Northern Pygmy-Owl
(Glaucidium gnoma gnoma)

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Sky Islands of SE Arizona only. Some authorities split Mountain and Northern Pygmy-Owls with Mountain being the nominate Glaucidium gnoma and Northern G. c. californicum.
Habitat/location: Oak-juniper and pine-oak woodland at mid to high elevations. Generally occurs lower than Northern Pygmy-Owl. Status in southeast Arizona unclear, but Mountain is the more dominate form in the region.


“Cactus” Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
(Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum)

Status in SE Arizona: Rare resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Endangered. Southern central Arizona only.
Habitat/location: A handful of pairs survive in distant, well guarded locations, generally not for public viewing. The endangered cactorum subspecies previously occurred in Tucson but was driven out due to habitat loss/over-development.


'Desert' Purple Martin“Desert” Purple Martin
(Progne subis hesperia)

Status in SE Arizona: Fairly common summer resident.
Timing: May-Sep.
Status in USA: Southeast Arizona only.
Habitat/location: In Arizona, restricted to lowland desert with saguaro cacti, mostly in Pima County (Tucson). Differs from nominate subspecies in breeding habits, not forming dense colonies, shunning man-made boxes and nesting in cavities in saguaros. They also have different migration patterns, arriving a full month after nominate race birds arrive in northeastern USA, a thousand miles further north.


'Mexican' Cliff Swallow“Mexican” Cliff Swallow
(Petrochelidon pyrrhonota swainsoni)

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer resident.
Timing: Apr-Sep.
Status in USA: SE Arizona only. A few records from S Texas.
Habitat/location: Mexican Cliff Swallows are only found at colonies in Santa Cruz County and along the Upper San Pedro River and in Sierra Vista, and is a rarity anywhere else. The Mexican swainsoni subspecies arrives in SE Arizona in late April, weeks later than the much more common tachina subspecies.


'Brown-throated' House Wren“Brown-throated” House Wren
(Troglodytes aedon brunneicollis)

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon summer resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Brown-throated Wren occurs in Southeast Arizona only. Considered a separate species by some authorities.
Habitat/location: Both the Northern and Brown-throated subspecies of House Wren are present in SE Arizona and their status is unclear due to the difficulty in identifying each subspecies. Brown-throated is rarer and tends to be reported from higher elevation sites in the various Sky Islands of SE Arizona.


'Azure' Eastern Bluebird“Azure” Eastern Bluebird
(Sialia sialis fulva)

Status in SE Arizona: Uncommon resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: The Mexican subspecies fulva is found in the US only in Southeast Arizona.
Habitat/location: Oak and pine-oak woodland at mid elevations, sometimes in riparian areas near oaks. The most reliable sites are along Ruby Road in the Atascosa Mountains, in the Patagonia Mountains and the foothills and mid-elevation canyons of the Huachucas.


'Palmer's' Curve-billed Thrasher“Palmer’s” Curve-billed Thrasher
(Toxostoma curvirostre palmeri)

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Confined to Arizona.
Habitat/location: Desert, desert scrub, urban and suburban settings.


'Plateau' Curve-billed Thrasher“Plateau” Curve-billed Thrasher
(Toxostoma curvirostre oberholseri)

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Extreme SE Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and parts of surrounding states.
Habitat/location: Desert, desert scrub, urban and suburban settings.


'Western' Northern Cardinal“Western” Northern Cardinal
(Cardinalis cardinalis superbus)

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: The Western subspecies superbus is found in the US in Central and Southern Arizona and SW New Mexico.
Habitat/location: A variety of lowland habitats, from riparian and mesquite bosques, urban and suburban areas, and lower canyons. Generally absent from higher elevations and pure desert situations.


'Lilian's' Eastern Meadowlark“Lilian’s” Eastern Meadowlark
(Sturnella magna lilianae)

Status in SE Arizona: Common resident.
Timing: Year round.
Status in USA: Mostly SE Arizona but some in New Mexico and W Texas. Some authorities have split this distinctive subspecies.
Habitat/location: Lilian’s Meadowlark is resident in pure grassland, mesquite grassland and some agricultural areas generally to the south and east of Tucson, with dispersal into additional rural, agricultural and grassy habitats in winter.


All photos taken in Arizona, copyright © Richard P. Fray

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