Southeast Arizona is one of the premier birding hotspots in the United States, and a true wonderland for any naturalist. The extreme southern latitude of the region and its diverse ecosystems give us the opportunity on this tour to see birds and wildlife more typical of Mexico… species you’ll find nowhere else in the US!
The small, isolated mountain ranges of Southeast Arizona—known as ‘Sky Islands’—are home to animals and plants from both the Rocky Mountains to the north and the Sierra Madre to the south. Surrounding these mountains are two incredible arid ecosystems: The Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert.
Special birds we’ll be seeking on this tour include Elegant Trogon, Magnificent Hummingbird, Greater Roadrunner, Mexican Jay, Gila and Arizona Woodpeckers, Montezuma Quail, Harris’s Hawk, Red-faced Warbler, and Northern Jacana. And it’s possible to see more than a dozen hummingbird species here! Non-avian creatures we’ll be on the lookout for include the White-nosed Coatimundi, Gila Monster, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, and pig-like Javelina.
The tour begins with an exploration of the Tucson area, including Saguaro National Park. Then we’ll head south to Sierra Vista and the Huachuca Mountains, where we’ll really dive into what southeast Arizona birding is known for. We’ll spend time in both wild places and at bird feeding stations in the Huachucas. We’ll also search for riparian birds along the San Pedro River.
Next, we head to the Chiricahua Mountains to continue exploring quintessential southeast Arizona. In the forested canyons here, we’ll search for trogons, warblers, flycatchers, woodpeckers, and much more. We may have the opportunity to do some owling at night along the creeks. Heading further into the mountains, we’ll seek numerous high-altitude birds in this ‘Sky Island,’ such as Yellow-eyed Junco, Mexican Chickadee, and Red Crossbill.
There’s something magical about Southeast Arizona… This meeting place of the mountains and deserts has endless natural wonders for us to explore. We hope you join us!
Welcome to Southeast Arizona! The tour begins with our arrival at Tucson International Airport. We’ll drive a short distance north to our lodging on the east side of town, within easy striking distance of Saguaro National Park.
Today we get an early start with a short drive to Saguaro National Park. After exploring the park, we’ll visit the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, a world-renowned natural history museum and botanical garden.
Today is going to be a big bird-nature day. We’ll start early with another adventure in Saguaro NP to Rincon Creek, the only perennial creek within this popular park. From here, we’ll continue south to Madera Canyon, rated the third best birding destination in the United States. Making our way to Sierra Vista in the afternoon, we position ourselves for further adventure in Southeast Arizona.
Today will be all about the beauty and natural history of the Huachuca Mountains. These Mountains support an incredible number of populations of avian "species of conservation concern," some of which are found only in these "Sky Island" mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona. We’ll spend time in three canyons today: Brown, Ramsey and Ash. Ash Canyon bird Sanctuary is part of The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory. The busy feeding station at the Sanctuary has attracted 15 species of hummingbirds, including Lucifer, Broad-billed, and Rivoli’s Hummingbirds as well as Bridled Titmouse, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scott’s Oriole, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Arizona Woodpecker, and occasionally Montezuma Quail.
This morning we explore the San Pedro river at multiple locations. Designated a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, this 56,000-acre preserve along the upper San Pedro River is home to over 100 species of breeding birds and provides invaluable habitat for over 250 species of migrant and wintering birds. After we get our fill along the river and near-by trails, we’ll continue east towards Cave Creek, stopping at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area along the way.
The largest of the “Sky Island” ranges in the region, the Chiricahua Mountains are home to animals and plants found nowhere else in the U.S. The town of Portal is the gateway to world-famous Cave Creek Canyon. We’ll spend two full 2 days (plus a morning!) seeking the specialty birds of the region. Exact destinations will be somewhat dependent upon recent sightings. However, areas we will likely visit include Cave Creek, Willow Tank, Rustler’s Park, and the Southwest Research station.
We’ll check out and spend the morning in the area birding a few more hotspots. After engaging a final time with the Chiricahuas, we will slowly make our way back to Tucson, stopping along the way for birding and leg stretching.
Today, after breakfast, we say our goodbyes and part company. Until next time!
COST of MAIN TRIP: $3,645*
SINGLE SUPP.: $1,200
START DATE: May 8, 2024
DURATION: 9 days
GROUP SIZE: Up to 14
TRIP FOCUS: Birds and Wildlife
* Tour fee may change slightly as some trip details are still being finalized.
We'll update with the final info soon.
David Jaffe has been guiding and teaching since 1991. His childhood interest in nature eventually led him to Evergreen State College, WA where he earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Geology. Later, he earned a M.S. in Applied Ecology from the University of Vermont.
David has led backcountry trips in Denali National Park, learned from students in Kentucky, and gained great insights while hitchhiking home from work in Yosemite National Park. He has experience as a naturalist in many of the lower 48 states and Baja California. David worked as a divemaster in Australia, Costa Rica, and India. He assisted with the establishment of a marine protected area off the coast of Madagascar and researched birds in Canada and South America. His understanding, love and enthusiasm about the natural world continues to grow.
Steve Backus is an avid birder and naturalist with a background in the maritime industry hailing from North Carolina. An infinitely curious person by nature, he is drawn to explore the life around him and the environments they occupy. As a mariner, waterbirds are of particular interest to Steve and his time as a ship’s naturalist, a captain of wildlife cruises, a point counter at migration hot-spots, and many other employments and community science efforts has deepened his appreciation of birds.
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