Arizona 2024: Southeast Arizona Specialties and Nightbirds

April 27 – May 4, 2024

Tour Length: 8 days
Spaces available!

Arizona boasts the third-highest total of bird species by state in the United States, pretty impressive for being completely landlocked. In particular, the southeast corner holds the highest diversity due to the confluence of eastern and western species; and many southern species that just spill over the international border here. Southeast Arizona is a land of contrasts, where rugged, forested mountains form “sky islands” within the Sonoran Desert. Rivers, like the Santa Cruz and San Pedro, flow slowly across arid valleys, creating ribbons of greenery along their banks by supporting cottonwoods and willows. Middle elevations are covered by rich grasslands and juniper-oak woodland while the highest elevations harbor mixed coniferous forests. In between, one finds desert areas dominated by impressive saguaro cacti, dense mesquite thickets, man-made wetlands that are magnets for water birds, and ancient stands of sycamores along creeks and canyons. This variety of habitats packed into a relatively small area is home to the greatest diversity of breeding birds in the United States. Many species from further south reach their range limits in southeastern Arizona and occur nowhere else in the country. This tour will focus on these southeast Arizona specialties, southwest desert birds, and the spectacular variety of nocturnal birds that can be found here, including up to nine species of owls and four species of nightjars.

Tour Leaders

Stephan Lorenz
Claudia Cavazos

Focus

Birds, Photography, Southeastern Arizona scenery & culture

Price

Double Accommodation: $TBD/person
Single Supplement: + $550
Deposit: $500

Max Group Size

7 + 1 leader; 2 leaders if more, up to 12

Pace

Easy with a couple of moderate hikes on rocky trails

Future Departures

May 2024

Tour Descriptions

This tour starts and ends in Tucson, which lies at the heart of southeast Arizona’s birding paradise. Southeast Arizona harbors a high diversity of habitats that are packed into a relatively small corner of the state. Here mountain ranges, like the famous Chiricahuas and Huachucas, rise above the Sonoran Desert, earning them the appropriate name of “sky islands”. These mountains are islands indeed, supporting lush woodlands of sycamores and oaks in red-hued canyons, stately spruce and fir forest at the highest elevations, and productive grasslands at middle elevations. The views of the rhyolite tuff and the hoodoos formed by millions of years of erosion in the Chiricahua National Monument are unforgettable. To the east, the high desert offers drier habitats and a different set of birds.

Further west we will make stops in the Sonoita Creek area to bird in the lush riparian zone and also venture into the bird-rich canyons of the nearby Huachucas. A day will be spent traveling to the Atascosa and Pajarito mountains in search of the localized Five-striped Sparrow and other specialties. A half-day in the Santa Rita Mountain’s Madera Canyon will add diversity and photographic opportunities.

It is not surprising that these varied habitats support the largest diversity of breeding birds in the United States and many species typical of northern Mexico’s mountains barely cross the border here, many having extremely small ranges in the United States. Covering all the hotspots, we will have an excellent chance of seeing all the specialties of southeast Arizona. The species we seek include Zone-tailed and Gray Hawks, the elusive Montezuma Quail, ten or more hummingbird species are possible, Arizona Woodpecker, Thick-billed and Tropical Kingbirds, Sulphur-bellied, Dusky-capped, and Buff-breasted Flycatchers, Greater Pewee, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Mexican Chickadee, Bendireʼs and Crissal Thrashers, Olive and Red-faced Warblers, Painted Redstart, Abertʼs Towhee, Rufous-winged, Five-striped, and Botteriʼs Sparrows, Yellow-eyed Junco, and the beautiful Elegant Trogon.

Throughout the tour, we will make special efforts to seek the many species of nocturnal birds resident in southeast Arizona during this time of year and we should have excellent chances to catch up with Whiskered and Western Screech-Owls, the difficult Flammulated Owl, diurnal Northern Pygmy-Owl, the world’s smallest owl the Elf Owl, and the impressive Spotted Owl. While we may see some of these species during the day we will devote considerable effort to “owling” and may see other night birds, including Common Poorwill and the recently split Mexican Whip-poor-will. Outings at night could also produce interesting sightings of mammals.

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Locations

Gallery

More Details

Trip Highlights

Top Birds

Montezuma Quail; Elegant Trogon; Arizona Woodpecker; Gilded Flicker; Crissal & Bendire’s Thrashers; Dusky-capped&Buff-breasted Flycatchers; Thick-billed Kingbird; Olive Warbler; Red-faced Warblers; Painted Redstart; Five-striped Sparrow; Lucifer, White-eared, Rivoli’s, Broad-billed, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds; Blue-throated Mountain-gem; Buff-collared Nightjar; Northern Pygmy, Whiskered Screech, Flammulated, Elf & Spotted Owls and many Arizona and southwest desert specialties

Top Mammals

Collared Peccary; Black Bear; Ringtail; American Hog-nosed Skunk; Bobcat; Mountain Lion (very rare)

Habitats

desert flats, mesquite thickets, grassland, riparian forest, and mountain coniferous forests

Other Attractions

Along the way, we enjoy wonderful scenery, mountain views, wild west landscapes, and historical towns.

Planning for the Trip

Meeting Location

Tucson airport

Accommodations

2 to 3 star and comfortable

Included

7 nights lodging, all meals, transportation, entrance fees, guiding

Excluded

Alcohol, personal calls, laundry, and other personal expenses

Expected Climate

Temperatures will range from mild to hot, sometimes in the 90’s; it can be cool in the early mornings in the mountains and very warm in the desert lowlands

Suggested Clothing and Gear

Credit cards/cash; Binoculars; Scope and tripod (optional); Sunglasses and sunscreen; Water bottle; Small umbrella; Small day pack/fanny pack; Small flashlight; Mosquito/insect repellant (DEET 25% or greater); Itch relief cream; Lip screen/balm; Prescription drugs – carry in original packaging to avoid customs problems; OTC medicines (antibiotics, cold/sinus, cough drops, eye drops, analgesic (Motrin, aspirin), anti-diarrheal); Toiletries; Small alarm clock; Field guides; Hiking Boots/Shoes; Lightweight shoes/sneakers/sandals; Light-weight long pants; Light-weight long-sleeved shirts; Hat with brim/visor; Safari (e.g., Tilly) hat; Rain jacket/windbreaker; Fleece jacket; Shorts; T-shirts; PJs or shorts for lounging/sleeping