South-east Arizona: Custom trip July - August 2019

Published by Birding Ecotours (info AT

Participants: Jacob Roalef


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Yellow-eyed Junco
Yellow-eyed Junco
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Mississippi Kite
Mississippi Kite
Cassin’s Sparrows
Cassin’s Sparrows
White-nosed Coati
White-nosed Coati
Five-striped Sparrow
Five-striped Sparrow


Southeast Arizona is a land full of beauty with an incredible diversity of avian life, habitats, scenic views, and other wildlife. On this custom-made, 8-day tour we fully experienced this land’s diversity, ranging from the extreme heat of the desert and lowlands to the lush conifers on top of the canyons. The trip began and ended in Phoenix to include a few specialty birds, and from there we traveled through the canyons of southeast Arizona.

A total of 168 bird species were seen (plus eight species heard only). In addition 19 species of mammals where sighted as well as various other wildlife and insects. Full bird and mammal species list can be found at the end of this report. Highlights included Five-striped Sparrow, Rivoli’s Hummingbird, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Arizona Woodpecker, Montezuma Quail (heard), Lucifer Hummingbird, Zone-tailed Hawk, LeConte’s Thrasher, Bendire’s Thrasher, Blue-throated Mountaingem, Olive Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Red-faced Warbler, Common Black Hawk, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Whiskered Screech Owl, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Elegant Trogon (heard), as well as White-nosed Coati on the mammal front.

Detailed Report

Day 1, 25 July 2019. Phoenix Area

The tour began around noon when Kieran and Pattie were picked up from the Phoenix airport rental car center. From there we stopped for a quick bite to eat before continuing to Encanto Park, located in the heart of the big city. It didn’t take long before we heard and then saw a small flock of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, an established parrot species here and countable for ABA listing. We scanned the rest of the park quickly and were treated to mostly common city birds, but there was a nice Ring-necked Duck mixed in. We then continued west out of the hustle of the big city to check on a few areas with water. First was the Glendale Recharge Ponds, which hosted a few shorebirds including Baird’s Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. Pattie also excellently spotted an adult Bald Eagle flying by. Next was the Lower River Road Ponds, where we enjoyed great comparison looks of Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorants perched next to each other. Our final birding stop of the day was the famous Baseline Road thrasher spot. Unfortunately conditions were extremely hot, which made for tough birding, but we eventually got a flash of LeConte’s Thrasher, which we labeled as a BVD (Better View Desired). We continued searching with no avail but did enjoy a fly-over Lesser Nighthawk in the early evening. Then it was off to dinner and the accommodation in Chandler from here.

Day 2, 26 July 2019. Tucson and Mt. Lemmon

We started the day with some morning birding at Sweetwater Wetlands Park. This small park in Tucson was a pleasant area to hike around in the morning before it got too hot. We enjoyed views of a bright-red Vermilion Flycatcher as well as quite a few Abert’s Towhees hopping around. Things really started to heat up around mid-morning, so we headed up Mt. Lemmon for some altitude birding. We hiked around Rose Canyon Lake, where things were considerably cooler, but we were unlucky with our target bird (more to come later). We did, however, enjoy some point-blank looks at Yellow-eyed Junco. We did a little exploring around the campsites until we finally crossed paths with the mixed flock we were hoping for, which contained Grace’s Warbler, Pygmy Nuthatch, Plumbeous Vireo, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, and others. A Rufous Hummingbird was certainly interested in Pattie’s hat and almost flew right into the car for further investigation! We continued farther up the mountain for a lunch stop and picked up a few more species at feeders, such as Broad-tailed Hummingbird and Pine Siskin.

The afternoon was spent driving to Madera Canyon and our next accommodation stop, Santa Rita Lodge. We managed to arrive with just enough daylight to quickly head out to Box Canyon, where we finally scored Five-striped Sparrow, our top target species, and a nice Scott’s Oriole. A great finish to our second day!

Day 3, 27 July 2019. Birding various sites

We started the day with a relaxing morning by the Santa Rita Lodge feeders, where we enjoyed a few great species like Rivoli’s Hummingbird, Arizona Woodpecker, Hepatic Tanager, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and Bullock’s Oriole. The rare and elusive White-nosed Coati even made several visits, and with a little luck everyone could enjoy this inquisitive mammal! We then made our way to Florida and Box Canyon, where we were able to find the rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher, an adorable Lucifer Hummingbird nest with two babies, and a jaw-dropping Varied Bunting foraging low to the ground. We then continued south to the De Anza trail in Tubac, which unfortunately had recently experienced some path-altering weather events. There were still loads of new birds for the trip, though, like Tropical Kingbird, Inca Dove and Common Ground Dove, Rufous-winged Sparrow, and Phainopepla. Next up was the Patagonia Rest Stop, which treated us to a family of Thick-billed Kingbirds perched in the tree right over our car. To finish the day we decided to head to the Ash Canyon B&B, which had recently enjoyed hosting a rare hummingbird as well as an occasionally quail. Unfortunately, the hummer never made an appearance, but we did hear a few great birds in the distance like Montezuma Quail, Elegant Trogon, and Grey Hawk.

Day 4, 28 July 2019. Carr Canyon and San Pedro House

We started this morning very early, back at the Ash Canyon B&B for one last effort on the Plain-capped Starthroat rarity or a visual of Montezuma Quail. After a few hours waiting, however, enough was enough. We spent the better part of the day at Carr Canyon, one of the many spectacular canyons in the Huachuca Mountains. On the drive up we managed to score a quick look at Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, a recently split species. The Reef Townsite Campground was particularly slow that morning, but we showed great patience and resilience. Finally we were rewarded with views of Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Spotted Towhee, and Hutton’s Vireo. We did a bit of hiking to a nice overlook area, thanks to the tip of another birder, and were treated to spectacular, top-down views of a Zone-tailed Hawk! Then we continued our way to the top, but things were slow and quiet. All we managed were a few Painted Redstarts.

After lunch we finished the day at the San Pedro House hiking trails, a nice system of trails with a good variety of habitat and a gift shop. The weather was getting rough, but we scored some close views of Botteri’s Sparrow and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. There was also a Western Screech Owl that would occasionally poke its head out while roosting in a cavity in a giant cottonwood tree. After about two hours the weather had wiped us out, and we decided to call it a day. We enjoyed a nice dinner near our hotel in Sierra Vista.

Day 5, 29 July, 2019. Las Cienegas and Ramsey Canyon

The morning was spent in the expansive grassland habitat of Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Right away we were treated to close views of a singing Cassin’s Sparrow, and in the distance a Swainson’s Hawk was perched in a small tree. The immediate success upon entering this grassland had been a sign, and the hits at Las Cienegas just kept coming with Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Botteri’s Sparrow, over 20 more Cassin’s Sparrows, Cassin’s Kingbird, American Kestrel, and Lark Sparrow. A stop at the small cattle ponds netted us a few Lucy’s Warblers, Black Phoebe, and Brown-crested Flycatcher. Finally we made it to the colony of Black-tailed Prairie Dog, a species extirpated from the state and currently undergoing reintroduction programs. Joining these fun mammals was a whole family of Burrowing Owls.

The afternoon was spent at Ramsey Canyon, where we got onto a nice Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher in the parking lot. We then hiked about half a mile up when Kieran spotted the Whiskered Screech Owl about which a nice gentleman had tipped us off. Back at the bottom a lovely Violet-crowned Hummingbird was sitting on its nest near a feeder station. We decided to head back to the hotel to rest a little and get dinner before heading out for a little nighttime birding. After dinner we returned to Carr Canyon, and at the lower canyon picnic area we managed to hear Common Poorwill calling from the rocky, lowland scrub.

Day 6, 30 July 2019. Portal and the Chiricahua Mountains

We were up and out of the hotel early to begin our journey toward Portal and the majestic Chiricahua Mountains. We started by driving along Stateline Road, where we eventually caught up with Bendire’s Thrasher. We watched it fly from the left side of the car in Arizona across the street to the right side of the car and land in New Mexico. A double-state tick! Along the road we also encountered a few more nice species like Greater Roadrunner, Black-throated Sparrow, and Pyrrhuloxia. Next we visited a few feeder stations in the Portal area. These feeders were bustling with wildlife, including over 50 Gambel’s Quails, Canyon Towhee, Blue-throated Mountaingem, and Harris’s Antelope Squirrel, and we even heard Crissal Thrasher.

From here we began our journey up the mountain, where we enjoyed lunch at a campground with a few Yellow-eyed Juncos. After lunch we birded along the road between Onion Saddle and Barefoot junction, which is loaded with conifers. Right away a few Red Crossbills were getting a drink from a small puddle in the road. After a few hours of searching, we came across a few mixed flocks that were absolutely loaded with different species, including Hairy Woodpecker, Olive Warbler, Brown Creeper, Bridled Titmouse, Grace’s Warbler, Black-throated Grey Warbler, Painted Redstart, Pygmy Nuthatch, House Wren, and Bushtit. Our last stop of the day was the feeder station at the George Walker House in Paradise. Unfortunately our time here was cut short due to an incoming thunderstorm. We decided to head back down the canyon before any potential flooding occurred.

Day 7, 31 July 2019. Phoenix – Willcox and Mt. Lemmon

We spent the early hours of the morning at Lake Cochise just outside of Willcox. An oasis of water in an otherwise dry desert, this lake was teeming with waterbirds. Hundreds of shorebirds like American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and Wilson’s Phalarope were covering the water’s edge. Larger waders and ducks such as Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, and Cinnamon Teal were foraging in the slightly deeper sections, while Barn and Tree Swallows were zooming around catching insects. We continued on our journey back to Phoenix and made a quick stop in a small town called Saint David. A pair of Mississippi Kites were nesting in the neighborhood, and it didn’t take long before we were treated to great looks of this amazing raptor.

We decided to give Mt. Lemmon one more try, and this time it sure didn’t disappoint! Back at Rose Canyon Lake we waited for only about 15 minutes before a raptor started calling. The Common Black Hawk was soaring around and then perched up in a tree for us for over 10 minutes while we watched in the scope. A true highlight bird of the trip! We then continued up the mountain, where we encountered an amazing mixed flock with multiple Red-faced Warblers, Hermit Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, and Mountain Chickadee. We couldn’t help but celebrate a little during a late lunch before making the few hours’ drive back to Phoenix for the final night of the trip.

Day 8, 1 August, 2019. Thrasher and Departure

On the final morning of the trip we decided to head back to Baseline Road in hopes of better views of LeConte’s Thrasher. This morning proved to be much more active, and we quickly found LeConte’s Thrasher as well as multiple Bendire’s Thrashers, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and a pair of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. A great morning to finish a great tour! We then transferred to the airport and said our goodbyes and until next time.

Species Lists

Bird List - Following IOC (9.1)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.

The following notation after the common names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near-threatened.

Common Name/Scientific Name

Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl (Anatidae)

Canada Goose/Branta canadensis
Blue-winged Teal/Spatula discors
Cinnamon Teal/Spatula cyanoptera
Northern Shoveler/Spatula clypeata
Mallard/Anas platyrhynchos
Mexican Duck/Anas diazi
Ring-necked Duck/Aythya collaris

New World Quail (Odontophoridae)

Gambel's Quail/Callipepla gambelii
Montezuma Quail (H)/Cyrtonyx montezumae

Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies (Phasianidae)

Wild Turkey/Meleagris gallopavo

Pigeons and Doves (Columbidae)

Rock Pigeon/Columba livia
Eurasian Collared Dove/Streptopelia decaocto
Inca Dove/Columbina inca
Common Ground Dove/Columbina passerina
White-winged Dove/Zenaida asiatica
Mourning Dove/Zenaida macroura

Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Greater Roadrunner/Geococcyx californianus
Yellow-billed Cuckoo/Coccyzus americanus

Nightjars and Allies (Caprimulgidae)

Lesser Nighthawk/Chordeiles acutipennis
Common Poorwill (H)/Phalaenoptilus nuttallii

Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Rivoli's Hummingbird/Eugenes fulgens
Blue-throated Mountaingem/Lampornis clemenciae
Lucifer Hummingbird/Calothorax lucifer
Black-chinned Hummingbird/Archilochus alexandri
Anna's Hummingbird/Calypte anna
Costa's Hummingbird/Calypte costae
Broad-tailed Hummingbird/Selasphorus platycercus
Rufous Hummingbird - NT/Selasphorus rufus
Calliope Hummingbird/Selasphorus calliope
Broad-billed Hummingbird/Cynanthus latirostris
Violet-crowned Hummingbird/Amazilia violiceps

Rails, Gallinules, and Coots (Rallidae)

Common Gallinule/Gallinula galeata
American Coot/Fulica americana

Stilts and Avocets (Recurvirostridae)

Black-necked Stilt/Himantopus mexicanus
American Avocet/Recurvirostra americana

Plovers and Lapwings (Charadriidae)

Killdeer/Charadrius vociferus

Sandpipers and Allies (Scolopacidae)

Baird's Sandpiper/Calidris bairdii
Least Sandpiper/Calidris minutilla
Western Sandpiper/Calidris mauri
Long-billed Dowitcher/Limnodromus scolopaceus
Wilson's Phalarope/Phalaropus tricolor
Spotted Sandpiper/Actitis macularius
Greater Yellowlegs/Tringa melanoleuca

Cormorants and Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)

Neotropic Cormorant/Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Double-crested Cormorant/Phalacrocorax auritus

Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns (Ardeidae)

Great Blue Heron/Ardea herodias
Snowy Egret/Egretta thula
Green Heron/Butorides virescens

Ibises and Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)

White-faced Ibis/Plegadis chihi

New World Vultures (Cathartidae)

Black Vulture/Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture/Cathartes aura

Hawks, Eagles, and Kites (Accipitridae)

Golden Eagle/Aquila chrysaetos
Mississippi Kite/Ictinia mississippiensis
Northern Harrier/Circus hudsonius
Cooper's Hawk/Accipiter cooperii
Bald Eagle/Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Common Black Hawk/Buteogallus anthracinus
Grey Hawk (H)/Buteo plagiatus
Swainson's Hawk/Buteo swainsoni
Zone-tailed Hawk/Buteo albonotatus
Red-tailed Hawk/Buteo jamaicensis

Owls (Strigidae)

Whiskered Screech Owl/Megascops trichopsis
Western Screech Owl/Megascops kennicottii
Burrowing Owl/Athene cunicularia

Trogons (Trogonidae)

Elegant Trogon (H)/Trogon elegans

Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Acorn Woodpecker/Melanerpes formicivorus
Gila Woodpecker/Melanerpes uropygialis
Ladder-backed Woodpecker/Dryobates scalaris
Hairy Woodpecker/Dryobates villosus
Arizona Woodpecker/Dryobates arizonae
Northern Flicker/Colaptes auratus
Gilded Flicker (H)/Colaptes chrysoides

Falcons and Caracaras (Falconidae)

American Kestrel/Falco sparverius

Old World Parrots (Psittaculidae)

Rosy-faced Lovebird/Agapornis roseicollis

Tyrant Flycatchers (Tyrannidae)

Greater Pewee/Contopus pertinax
Western Wood Pewee/Contopus sordidulus
Cordilleran Flycatcher/Empidonax occidentalis
Buff-breasted Flycatcher/Empidonax fulvifrons
Black Phoebe/Sayornis nigricans
Say's Phoebe/Sayornis saya
Vermilion Flycatcher/Pyrocephalus rubinus
Dusky-capped Flycatcher/Myiarchus tuberculifer
Ash-throated Flycatcher/Myiarchus cinerascens
Brown-crested Flycatcher/Myiarchus tyrannulus
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher/Myiodynastes luteiventris
Tropical Kingbird/Tyrannus melancholicus
Cassin's Kingbird/Tyrannus vociferans
Thick-billed Kingbird/Tyrannus crassirostris
Western Kingbird/Tyrannus verticalis

Shrikes (Laniidae)

Loggerhead Shrike - NT/Lanius ludovicianus

Vireos (Vireonidae)

Bell's Vireo (H)/Vireo bellii
Hutton's Vireo/Vireo huttoni
Plumbeous Vireo/Vireo plumbeus
Warbling Vireo/Vireo gilvus

Crows, Jays, and Magpies (Corvidae)

Steller's Jay/Cyanocitta stelleri
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay/Aphelocoma woodhouseii
Mexican Jay/Aphelocoma wollweberi
Chihuahuan Raven/Corvus cryptoleucus
Common Raven/Corvus corax

Larks (Alaudidae)

Horned Lark/Eremophila alpestris

Swallows (Hirundinidae)

Tree Swallow/Tachycineta bicolor
Violet-green Swallow/Tachycineta thalassina
Barn Swallow/Hirundo rustica

Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice (Paridae)

Mountain Chickadee/Poecile gambeli
Bridled Titmouse/Baeolophus wollweberi
Juniper Titmouse/Baeolophus ridgwayi

Penduline-Tits (Remizidae)

Verdin/Auriparus flaviceps

Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalidae)

Bushtit/Psaltriparus minimus

Nuthatches (Sittidae)

White-breasted Nuthatch/Sitta carolinensis
Pygmy Nuthatch/Sitta pygmaea

Treecreepers (Certhiidae)

Brown Creeper/Certhia americana

Wrens (Troglodytidae)

Canyon Wren (H)/Catherpes mexicanus
House Wren/Troglodytes aedon
Bewick's Wren/Thryomanes bewickii
Cactus Wren/Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

Gnatcatchers (Polioptilidae)

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher/Polioptila caerulea
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher/Polioptila melanura
Black-capped Gnatcatcher /Polioptila nigriceps

Thrushes and Allies (Turdidae)

Western Bluebird/Sialia mexicana
Hermit Thrush/Catharus guttatus
American Robin/Turdus migratorius

Mockingbirds and Thrashers (Mimidae)

Curve-billed Thrasher/Toxostoma curvirostre
Bendire's Thrasher - VU/Toxostoma bendirei
LeConte's Thrasher/Toxostoma lecontei
Crissal Thrasher (H)/Toxostoma crissale
Northern Mockingbird/Mimus polyglottos

Starlings (Sturnidae)

European Starling/Sturnus vulgaris

Silky-flycatchers (Ptiliogonatidae)

Phainopepla/Phainopepla nitens

Olive Warbler (Peucedramidae)

Olive Warbler/Peucedramus taeniatus

Finches, Euphonias, and Allies (Fringillidae)

House Finch/Haemorhous mexicanus
Red Crossbill/Loxia curvirostra
Pine Siskin/Spinus pinus
Lesser Goldfinch/Spinus psaltria

New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Rufous-winged Sparrow/Peucaea carpalis
Botteri's Sparrow/Peucaea botterii
Cassin's Sparrow/Peucaea cassinii
Grasshopper Sparrow/Ammodramus savannarum
Chipping Sparrow/Spizella passerina
Black-throated Sparrow/Amphispiza bilineata
Five-striped Sparrow/Amphispiza quinquestriata
Lark Sparrow/Chondestes grammacus
Lark Bunting/Calamospiza melanocorys
Yellow-eyed Junco/Junco phaeonotus
Song Sparrow/Melospiza melodia
Canyon Towhee/Melozone fusca
Abert's Towhee/Melozone aberti
Rufous-crowned Sparrow/Aimophila ruficeps
Spotted Towhee/Pipilo maculatus

Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteriidae)

Yellow-breasted Chat/Icteria virens

Troupials and Allies (Icteridae)

Eastern Meadowlark - NT/Sturnella magna
Hooded Oriole/Icterus cucullatus
Bullock's Oriole/Icterus bullockii
Scott's Oriole/Icterus parisorum
Red-winged Blackbird/Agelaius phoeniceus
Bronzed Cowbird/Molothrus aeneus
Brown-headed Cowbird/Molothrus ater
Great-tailed Grackle/Quiscalus mexicanus

New World Warblers (Parulidae)

Lucy's Warbler/Oreothlypis luciae
Virginia's Warbler/Oreothlypis virginiae
Common Yellowthroat/Geothlypis trichas
Yellow Warbler/Setophaga petechia
Grace's Warbler/Setophaga graciae
Black-throated Grey Warbler/Setophaga nigrescens
Townsend's Warbler/Setophaga townsendi
Hermit Warbler/Setophaga occidentalis
Red-faced Warbler/Cardellina rubrifrons
Painted Redstart/Myioborus pictus

Cardinals and Allies (Cardinalidae)

Hepatic Tanager/Piranga flava
Summer Tanager/Piranga rubra
Western Tanager/Piranga ludoviciana
Northern Cardinal/Cardinalis cardinalis
Pyrrhuloxia/Cardinalis sinuatus
Black-headed Grosbeak/Pheucticus melanocephalus
Blue Grosbeak/Passerina caerulea
Varied Bunting/Passerina versicolor

Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

House Sparrow/Passer domesticus

Mammal List

Common Name/Scientific Name

Squirrels and Allies (Sciuridae)

Harris's Antelope Squirrel/Ammospermophilus harrisii
Black-tailed Prairie Dog/Cynomys ludovicianus
Rock Squirrel/Otospermophilus variegatus
Arizona Gray Squirrel/Sciurus arizonensis
Round-tailed Ground Squirrel/Xerospermophilus tereticaudus
Gray-collared Chipmunk/Neotamias dorsalis

Gophers (Geomyidae)

Botta's Pocket Gopher/Thomomys bottae

Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae)

Antelope Jackrabbit/Lepus alleni
Black-tailed Jackrabbit/Lepus californicus
Desert Cottontail/Sylvilagus audubonii

Shrews (Soricidae)

Crawford's Gray Shrew/Notiosorex crawfordi

New World Leaf-nosed Bats (Phyllostomidae)

Mexican Long-tongued Bat/Choeronycteris mexicana

Free-tailed Bats (Molossidae)

Brazilian Free-tailed Bat/Tadarida brasiliensis

Dogs (Canidae)

Coyote/Canis latrans

New World Tree Climbers (Procyonidae)

White-nosed Coati/Nasua narica
Northern Raccoon/Procyon lotor

Deer (Cervidae)

Mule Deer/Odocoileus hemionus
White-tailed Deer/Odocoileus virginianus

Pronghorn (Antilocapridae)

Pronghorn/Antilocapra americana

Total seen 19