Southern Arizona Bird-Watching

Southern Arizona is one of the best areas for bird-watching in the United States; nearly 500 species have been spotted here. To the east, birders flock to the Patagonia–Sonoita Creek and Ramsey Canyon preserves, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, the ponds and dry lakebeds south of Willcox, and the Portal–Cave Creek area in the Chiricahua Mountains near the New Mexico border. To the west, the Buenos Aires and Imperial national wildlife refuges are among the many places famed for their abundance of avian visitors. All in all, more than a quarter of the birds found in North America nest in the rich habitats provided by the secluded canyons and diverse microclimates of southern Arizona’s "Sky Islands." Some of the most coveted avian species spotted in this birder’s paradise include painted redstarts, elegant trogons, violet-crowned hummingbirds, northern goshawk, and sulphur-bellied flycatchers.

Ramsey Canyon, near Sierra Vista, holds the birding claim to fame as the "Hummingbird Capital of the United States." The proliferation of the colorful, winged wonders (14 species in all) is the focus of the Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival, held in August. Get up close and personal with these tiny birds at feeder stations in Miller’s Canyon or by participating in guided walks and activities during Fiesta de las Aves in early May. For more information on birding sites and educational programs in the area, contact the Southeastern Arizona Birding Observatory (520/432–1388www.sabo.org), or pick up an Arizona birding trail guide for $3 at the Tucson Audubon Nature Shop (300 E. University Blvd., #120, Tucson 520/629–0510www.tucsonaudubon.org) or at the visitor center in Bisbee.

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