A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Arizona: Birding the Border II 2021

May 11-20, 2021 with Dave Stejskal guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the unambiguous stars of the tour was this cooperative Plain-capped Starthroat in a private yard in the Chiricahuas! Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

It had been a couple of years since I had guided this tour for Field Guides. COVID-19 and the ensuing nationwide shutdown took care of any thoughts of running a tour here in 2020.

I was a little nervous going into this tour after such a long break in my 35-year pattern of guiding spring Arizona tours – there was a lot to think about and there was a lot that could go wrong after such a long break. Hotels, restaurants, the van, the birds, the birding sites, someone in the group testing positive for COVID – they were all on my mind. But, my worries were mostly for naught – this first full-length spring Arizona tour was a big success, with the exception of Kate having to head home early to deal with a medical emergency (we missed you, Kate!).

To be honest, my biggest worry on this tour concerned the drought and the presence/absence/responsiveness of the birds due to our ongoing megadrought. This drought has been going on for 21 years now, and the past year was absolutely awful for precipitation in the state. To have the second-worst monsoon (summer) rain totals last year followed by a very dry 2020/2021 winter was something that no one here had ever experienced before, and we all knew that it couldn't be good for the plants, birds, and other wildlife. For sure, some of the birds were extremely difficult to detect, let alone show to a group, but we did remarkably well, considering the challenge.

We started out with a very coy Five-striped Sparrow near Madera Canyon on our first afternoon, followed by a nice picnic dinner and a couple of owls (Elf & Whiskered Screech-) and Mexican Whip-poor-will. These early successes on our first afternoon really put my mind at ease. The bird highlights flowed pretty regularly after that with such prizes as Northern Jacana in Tucson, and Elegant Trogon, Blue-throated Mountain-gem, a surprise Plain-capped Starthroat, Northern Goshawk, Flammulated Owl, Thick-billed Kingbird, Mexican Chickadee, Bendire's and Crissal thrashers, Olive Warbler, and Red-faced Warbler in the Chiricahuas. The Huachucas gave us Lucifer and White-eared hummingbirds, our 3rd Zone-tailed Hawk of the tour, Greater Pewee, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, another Olive Warbler, Virginia's and more Red-faced warblers, and Varied Bunting.

Continuing west, a couple of productive days in the Sonoita/Patagonia/Nogales area produced some great birds, including Buff-collared Nightjar, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, a surprise Elegant Tern, nesting Rose-throated Becard, an all-too-brief Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, more Thick-billed Kingbirds, our only Botteri's Sparrow of the trip, plus countless others.

Thanks to all of you for coming back to Field Guides or for joining us for the first time after the longest year of all of our lives! It was a real pleasure to show all of you a piece of Arizona, the state that I grew up in and love. I hope that I run into all of you again in the state (or elsewhere) during my 'golden years' – if I can ever get to my retirement!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

A single adult bird roosting with a couple of Mexican Ducks at a small pond at Kino Springs near Nogales. This species has really declined in abundance in the state in the past couple of decades, likely due to the ongoing megadrought.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A lucky find on our first morning in Tucson was this soaring adult Zone-tailed Hawk on the west side of town. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera) [b]

A few lingering birds at Benson and Willcox.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata) [b]

Besides the Cinnamon Teal above, Willcox and Benson hosted a pretty good variety of late ducks, including these two males at the former.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera) [b]

Late at Willcox and at Benson.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana) [b]

Late at Willcox. Larger numbers than usual here at this late date.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

A recent split from the familiar Mallard, we had good looks at a few places along our route. We also saw what appeared to be hybrid Mexican Duck X Mallard males, which can be very difficult to separate from 'pure'-looking Mexican Ducks here.

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca) [b]

Late at Benson.

CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria) [b]

A late female at Willcox had been hanging around here for a couple of weeks.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana) [b]

Late at Benson and Willcox.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We got very lucky when we spotted this silent male Elegant Trogon perched above the dry creek bed in the Chiricahuas on our first full afternoon there. Photo by participant Dan Blower.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris) [b]

More than usual around this year.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Including a couple of males in high breeding condition at Willcox.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata)

Only at Willcox this time.

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

One of the most characteristic species of the desert lowlands on this tour.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo) [I]

All of the Wild Turkeys that we saw and heard on this tour are presumed to be descendants of birds re-introduced into the mountains of s. Arizona back in the 70's & 80's.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis) [b]

It was getting late for these, also.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

Portal is a pretty reliable spot for this one in the spring.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Even though this isn't the ideal angle to identify a kingbird, the dark head and contrasting white chin tell us that this is indeed a Cassin's Kingbird. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

I can't think of any other Arizona bird whose numbers have plummeted as much as this species numbers have. It started around 2000, and this one is now quite scarce thoughout s. Arizona where it used to number in the 1000's! No one has determined a reason for the decline.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

Poor looks at the San Pedro House.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

You can never find a Roadrunner when you really need one!

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

Quite a few of these were seen flying up the canyon on our first evening together.

COMMON POORWILL (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)

Brief but decent views along the Paradise Road near Portal.

BUFF-COLLARED NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus ridgwayi)

Luckily for us, our singing male bird stopped to sing on an exposed dead branch just upstream from where we were waiting, giving all good looks in the beam of the light. A very scarce and local bird within the US.

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae)

Nice looks in flight in Madera Canyon after our picnic dinner that first night. A fairly recent split from the Eastern Whip-poor-will of eastern N. America.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

Numbers are way down this spring for this species - I'm sure it's because the overall insect numbers are so dismal.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

Numerous fine views at what we were calling Magnificent Hummingbird the last time I guided an Arizona tour! Now split from the Talamanca Hummingbird of the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama.

PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT (Heliomaster constantii)

WOWWWW!!!! Timing is everything in birding, folks! We all enjoyed repeated, great views of this vagrant from Mexico at a private residence in the Chiricahuas. Thanks, Barbara!

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

Another name change to a long-standing hummingbird name - this time to conform to the naming of several other hummers in the Neotropics that are in the same genus.

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer)

It was just a matter of time before this scarce US hummer showed up at the feeders in Ash Canyon - and show up he did!

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)


COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

A few of us got on an immature male along the road where we searched for the Tufted Flycatcher seen the day before.

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) [b]

One lingering bird at the Paradise feeders.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This hunting Green Heron at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson was the picture of patience. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus calliope) [b]

Notably smaller than anything else at the Miller Canyon feeders.

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris)

Likely our most numerous hummingbird species on this tour. It used to be a rare bird as far east as the Chiricahuas.


Patagonia is THE place to see this one within the US.

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Hylocharis leucotis)

Our second visit of the morning to the Miller Canyon feeders proved to be the winner! This is probably the most reliable locale for this rarity from Mexico.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson only.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

A couple of pairs may have been nesting at Willcox again this year.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

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This handsome Rufous-crowned Sparrow in Barbara Bickel's yard turned out to be the only one that we saw well on the entire tour. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.
Jacanidae (Jacanas)

NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa gymnostoma)

YESSS!!!! After checking from the Ina Rd. bridge over the Santa Cruz R., we got some good intel from another birder there who had just seen it from the bike path under the bridge. A quick check brought us some fine views of this long-staying vagrant from Mexico. Only the 7th record for the state!

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii) [b]

A single late bird at Willcox.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) [b]

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri) [b]

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus) [b]

A single adult bird was scoped at the Benson sewage ponds. A real rarity in the state in spring.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus) [b]

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor) [b]

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) [b]

A single migrant with the numerous Wilson's Phalaropes at Willcox.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) [b]

Field Guides Birding Tours
This male Gilded Flicker strikes a pose atop a blooming Saguaro cactus west of Tucson. Photo by participant Marc Lewis.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria) [b]

A late individual was found with a few Spotted Sandpipers at the east end of Patagonia Lake.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

ELEGANT TERN (Thalasseus elegans)

WOWWW!!! What a surprise it was to find this marine species at the spillway at the Patagonia Lake dam! A couple of birds had been seen on the lake a couple of days before our visit, but they had clearly left before we got there. This one has, rather surprisingly, become more regular in s. Arizona following strong s.w. winds during the spring and early summer months.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

Decent numbers at Patagonia Lake.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula) [b]

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) [b]

Only a few birds were still hanging around by the time this tour started.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

Jack spotted our first in the Tucson Mountains on Day 2. We didn't see it again until we got to Patagonia at the end of the tour.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [b]

A single bird fishing at Patagonia Lake.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaetos)

Box Canyon in the Santa Rita Mts. – where we saw our Five-striped Sparrow on Day 1 – has turned out to be a fairly reliable spot for this one.

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis)

We were lucky to spot those distant birds soaring above the cottonwoods at Benson. I wish that they'd been closer, but we'll take it!

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus) [b]

A late bird on our first afternoon.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

NORTHERN GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis)

A gorgeous adult bird circled overhead in the parking lot in Portal just as we were wrapping up our first picnic breakfast there. Lucky!

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

We didn't find these beautiful hawks until we got to Patagonia and Nogales. This one has expanded northward in Arizona quite a bit in the last 20 years.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A second visit to the feeders at the Beatty's in Miller Canyon late in the morning after our hike up the canyon proved essential to seeing this continuing male White-eared Hummingbird (left). He really had to think about sharing the feeder with that male Rivoli's Hummingbird on the right. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

All of ours, as usual, were light-morph adults.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

We ended up with three good looks at this uncommon species on the tour – more than usual in my experience.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)

BARN OWL (Tyto alba)

A cooperative and reliable bird – at least this year!

Strigidae (Owls)

FLAMMULATED OWL (Psiloscops flammeolus)

It took some patience, but we all eventually got a great look at this one on the side of the road in the Chiricahuas. I've never had a more challenging year for this one in my 35 years of guiding!

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

Wonderful looks on our first evening together.

WESTERN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops kennicottii)

We really had to work for our looks in the Chiricahuas, then we found it roosting in a cavity at the San Pedro House during the middle of the day! If I'd only known...

NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium gnoma) [*]

ELF OWL (Micrathene whitneyi)

Excellent views of this tiny owl on our first evening of the tour!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Barbara Bickel's yard was full of birds when we paid her a visit to see the Plain-capped Starthroat, including this vibrant adult male Hooded Oriole. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.
Trogonidae (Trogons)

ELEGANT TROGON (Trogon elegans)

This was a difficult year for this species – one that every birder who comes to Arizona wants to see. We finally tracked down a silent male along the South Fork Trail for excellent scope looks.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

I really had low expectations of actually seeing this one when we stopped at the trailhead in Rio Rico – but there she was! Great views of this rare and local species.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

Seen nearly daily on this tour.

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)


HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

A small, dark race here in the mountains.

ARIZONA WOODPECKER (Dryobates arizonae)

We had a few sightings of this Arizona specialty species.

NORTHERN FLICKER (RED-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus cafer)

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

We found a very responsive bird on our first full morning together west of Tucson. A Saguaro cactus specialist.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Tracking down the long-staying Northern Jacana in Tucson on our first morning was a great way to start this tour! Photo by participant Marc Lewis.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

Still busy building her nest – but there was no sign of a male near Tubac this time.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


Very cooperative at Patagonia Lake.

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi) [b]

Single migrant birds at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson and in Patagonia.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

We really had to work for our Greater Pewee this trip! We finally tracked one down – a silent bird – in one of the remaining patches of conifers along the Carr Canyon road.

WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER (Empidonax hammondii) [b]

Widespread in the mountains on this tour. All of our birds were migrants still on their way north.

DUSKY FLYCATCHER (Empidonax oberholseri) [b]

A couple of lingering migrants.

PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis) [b]

As far as anyone can tell, all of the lowland migrants n. Arizona are this species, and not the very similar Cordilleran (that's borne out in the specimen record). It's thought that Cordillerans migrate from mountaintop to mountaintop.

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

These breeders still hadn't arrived in numbers yet.

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons)

Excellent looks at this scarce and local species in Carr Canyon in the Huachuca Mts. One of the easier Empidonax flycatchers to identify!

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

Plenty of these throughout, especially in the Patagonia/Nogales area.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

We missed one day early on, but otherwise a bird encountered daily.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

This Myiarchus prefers drier habitats than the other two regular Myiarchus species.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

The race here, M.t. magister, is the largest of the several races of this widespread species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A nice surprise on our afternoon visit to the San Pedro House near Sierra Vista was this colorful male Varied Bunting - which had just arrived here from its wintering grounds in W. Mexico. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris)

Jack spotted a silent bird just below the canopy high above the Anza Trail near Tubac. It flew off before we could all get a good look, though. This species, usually one of the last of the breeding birds to arrive in the state, was particularly late this year.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

One at Sweetwater Wetlands and another near Tubac were the only ones recorded this trip.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

The only flycatcher that we actually saw on every day of this tour.

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

Most got a good look at a bird in Portal, and the rest of us caught up with it outside of Patagonia near the end of the trip. Unmistakable!

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

Easy to hear, but often not so easy to see!

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

Very Ruby-crowned Kinglet-like.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

Quite sluggish – almost never flicking its wings at all – and a bit larger than the similar Cassin's and Blue-headed vireos (from which it was split many years ago).

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Watch for a split of this one in the next year or two. Ours will be called the Western Warbling-Vireo (Vireo swainsoni).

Field Guides Birding Tours
After struggling to see one in the Chiricahuas, it was nice to see an 'easy' Western Screech-Owl at the San Pedro House during daylight hours! Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.
Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Very few on this tour, which is a little concerning.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Only up in the high elevation conifers in the Chiricahuas on this tour.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (WOODHOUSE'S) (Aphelocoma woodhouseii woodhouseii)

More of a Juniper/oak species than the similar Mexican Jay.

MEXICAN JAY (Aphelocoma wollweberi)

Know in the recent past as the Gray-breasted Jay.

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

If you spend enough time with this and the next species, you can pick them out pretty readily – but they can be really tough, and they're extremely over-reported in the state.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

This is the only chickadee along our route, and the Chiricahuas are the only accessible place within the U.S. to see it.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

The default titmouse just about everywhere we go on this tour.

JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)

This widespread Great Basin species gets very close to its southern range limit here in the Chiricahuas.

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This long-staying female Rose-throated Becard near the town of Tubac continued to build her nest, despite the seeming absence of a mate. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.
Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

The breeding race in this neck of the woods in Southeast Arizona is the rufous/pinkish-backed E. a. adusta, which is pretty much confined to Southeast Arizona.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

Numbers this year have been greatly reduced due to the extreme reduction of flying insects because of the ongoing 21-year megadrought.

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia) [b]

A few at Willcox only.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

It was really interesting to check out the birds nesting on the side of our Nogales hotel. These birds are the race P.p. melanogaster which, unlike other races, has a dark chestnut forehead patch.

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (Psaltriparus minimus)

Never really common on this tour, but we did have a few small groups in the upper elevations.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula) [b]

A few still heading north.

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This rare and local Five-striped Sparrow returned to the same site discovered just last year, which is only an hour's drive from metro Tucson. Photo by participant Dan Blower.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis) [*]

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

All of ours are the resident race S.c. nelsoni.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

You generally don't run into this tiny Western nuthatch in Arizona until you get high enough in the mountains to support large stands of Ponderosa Pines.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

This one might be due for some taxonomic revision.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea) [*]

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura)

A single male near Portal on our final morning there.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

Seen by a few on our first afternoon in Box Canyon.

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus) [*]

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

Our most common and widespread wren.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Right up there in the 'Surprise!" category was this loafing adult Elegant Tern from the Gulf of California at Patagonia Lake. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

The largest of the wrens here and also the Arizona State Bird.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

Always the most common and conspicuous of the thrashers here.

BENDIRE'S THRASHER (Toxostoma bendirei)

I'm not completely sure what was going on on that little island in the middle of Willow Tank, but a pair of these local thrashers seemed to be in some sort of territorial scuffle with a Curve-billed Thrasher. That interaction afforded us some great comparisons!

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

A little squeaking in the right habitat got one of these shy thrashers up high enough in the bushes for some scope looks.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

Nice looks in Carr Canyon in the Huachuca Mts. The race here is S.s. fulva, which is quite a bit paler/duller than the familiar birds of Eastern N. America. The eastern race, s.s. sialis, has very recently started to establish itself locally in s. Arizona, and we're anxiously awaiting to see if the two races remain separated from one another.

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

A few high in the pines of the Chiricahuas.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus) [b]

The birds that I saw on this tour all seemed to be one of the reddish West Coast races.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum) [b]

We had a few in the Portal area, but that big flock near the water tanks in Box Canyon was a surprise.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

We saw our first birds in the Patagonia area.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

This is a very strange little bird. For years it bounced around from family to family, taxonomists unsure of where it belonged. Not too long ago, it was determined that it belongs in its own family. It's not a warbler, and it's hardly 'olive'. The new name of 'Ocotero' was proposed a couple of years ago, but the AOS voted down the name change.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens) [b]

A single bird feeding out on the golf course at Willcox was quite late regionally.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

CASSIN'S FINCH (Haemorhous cassinii) [b]

This was a great spring for this species in Southeast Arizona, so it wasn't too surprising that several of these were still hanging out at the local feeders.

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The brick-red color, gray cheek, and black bill tell us that we've got a male Hepatic Tanager at the Madera Canyon feeders. Photo by participant Dan Blower.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus) [b]

It was quite a winter and spring for this one as well in the lowlands here, and every feeding station hosted a large flock on the tour.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis) [b]

A single late female was seen at the feeders in Paradise.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW (Peucaea carpalis)

This one seems to be expanding its range eastward in Arizona, so the bird at the San Pedro House was a bit of a surprise.

BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii)

The ongoing drought has really hit this one hard, but we were able to pull one out of the tall sacaton grass at Las Cienegas.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

BREWER'S SPARROW (Spizella breweri) [b]

A few late birds on the golf course at Willcox.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)


FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW (Amphispiza quinquestriata)

It's so nice to be able to drive on a decent road in order to see this scarce and local Mexican species! This site was only discovered last year, so most folks are opting to look for it here instead of the traditional sites along the border.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

DARK-EYED JUNCO (PINK-SIDED) (Junco hyemalis mearnsi) [b]

A very late bird along the South Fork Trail.

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All of the Swainson's Hawks that we saw on this tour were, as usual, light-morph birds. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (GRAY-HEADED) (Junco hyemalis caniceps) [b]

A few of these always seem to hang around into May, but we saw some unprecedented numbers this time.

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

Some of these birds were amazingly confiding!

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (ORIANTHA) (Zonotrichia leucophrys oriantha) [b]

More than usual of these late migrants from the southern Rocky Mountain breeding race were hanging around the feeders this trip.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)

As close to an 'Arizona endemic' bird as it gets.

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

I was happy to see one so close at the feeders where we saw the Starthroat – the drought seems to have hit this one hard, too.

GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE (Pipilo chlorurus) [b]

Like the Dark-eyed Juncos and the White-crowned Sparrows, there were many more of these around than usual for mid-May.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

A common voice in the dense brush of the mountains.

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


Who knew that these guys liked grape jelly so much?

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (LILIAN'S) (Sturnella magna lilianae)

Quite a few on the golf course at Willcox, but scarce elsewhere. A paper just recently came out in support of splitting this pale form from the 'true' Eastern Meadowlark, so a split may be imminent.

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Mexican Jay is the ubiquitous jay species throughout the highlands of Southeast Arizona. Photo by participant Dan Blower.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

Outstanding views at the feeding stations.

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

The only oriole here with a 'pretty' song.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)

This brood parasite specializes on Hooded Oriole nests.


GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata) [b]

A few late migrants in the Chiricahuas and Huachucas.

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

This and the Yellow Warbler are the two most common lowland breeding warblers in Southeast Arizona.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

That area around the Reef Townsite campground on the Carr Canyon road seems to be the easiest area to see this rather shy warbler.

MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER (Geothlypis tolmiei) [b]

Brief looks at this skulking warbler for some.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

The birds breeding in the mountains of Southeast Arizona are quite dark, approaching the plumage of some Mexican races.

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

A pine specialist in the mountains here.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

A common voice in the mixed pine/oak woodland of the mountains.

TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (Setophaga townsendi) [b]

Including that absolutely stunning adult male at Sweetwater on our first full morning together.

HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis) [b]

One or two late birds in the Huachucas. This one is much more common as a migrant in the mountains in August & September.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla) [b]

Our most common migrant warbler on this tour.

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)

Great views in Pinery Canyon and then we ran into it again in Miller Canyon on our hike up the canyon.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

One of the most endearing of the many Southeast Arizona specialty birds, and one of my earliest birding memories as a kid growing up in Arizona.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

Scarce this year in the Chiricahuas for some reason.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

The very large-billed race P.r. cooperi here.

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I'll bet that this Pronghorn near Sonoita was thinking about where it might get a drink of water during this ongoing drought. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

Still some substantial numbers passing through at all elevations; seen every day of this tour.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

Nice side-by-side comparisons with the closely related Northern Cardinal at the various feeding stations in Portal.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus) [b]

A couple of birds in the Portal area, which is a normal event in May here.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

These were just arriving in the region during our tour.

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena) [b]

Still attending most of the feeders that we visited. They would soon vanish, though.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

Another recent arrival. I particularly enjoyed that adult male at the feeder at the San Pedro House.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

The cottontail of the denser upland habitats.

DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

The cottontail of the dry desert flats.

BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus)

Long and lanky with huge ears. A black tail instead of the cottontail's white tail.

CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)

The only chipmunk in the region.

HARRIS'S ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus harrisii)

A 'regular' at Dave Jasper's feeders in Portal. Though it looks a bit like a chipmunk, the two are unrelated.

SPOTTED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus spilosoma)

This was the first time that I'd seen this one at Dave Jasper's feeders.

Field Guides Birding Tours
It seemed like we waited almost no time at all before this scarce adult male Lucifer Hummingbird paid a visit to a favored set of feeders near Sierra Vista. Photo by guide Dave Stejskal.

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

Often mistaken for one of the tree squirrels (Sciurus, sp.), but it's much closer to the above Spotted Ground Squirrel.

ROUND-TAILED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus tereticaudus)

Identified by its complete lack of identifying marks.

ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis)

This one has a very restricted World range, being almost completely confined to the mountains of s.c. Arizona.

GRAY FOX (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

A brief look on our first night drive in the Chiricahuas.

STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis)

Close looks next to the road one evening in the Chiricahuas. The most common of the skunks there.

HOODED SKUNK (Mephitis macroura)

A beautiful white-backed, white-tailed individual next to the road in Madera Canyon that first evening together.

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

A regular sight in the Portal area.

MULE DEER (Odocoileus hemionus)

We saw this one in the desert on the drive up to Madera Canyon that first afternoon. In n. Arizona, this is the common deer species in the higher elevations.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

The small race here, O. v. couesi, is the 2nd-smallest race in N. America (only 'Key Deer' is smaller).

PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)

Most visitors to Arizona are surprised at the amount of grassland that there is in the state, and also surprised by how widespread Pronghorn is here.

Field Guides Birding Tours
An exciting find was this cryptic Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake near some of the feeders that we all visited near Portal. Photo by participant Marc Lewis.


GOPHERSNAKE (Pituophis catenifer)

A big, fancy adult stretched out across State Line Road near Portal. He tried to convince me that he was really a rattler when I got too close.


At the Portal feeders for most folks while I was heading back from the Tucson airport.

AMERICAN BULLFROG (Lithobates catesbeianus) [I]

POND SLIDER (Trachemys scripta) [I]

ORNATE TREE LIZARD (Urosaurus ornatus)

The common 'tree lizard' throughout the lowlands here.

DESERT SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus magister)

We saw a couple of really big ones at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson that first full morning of the tour.

CLARK'S SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus clarkii)

Another large 'spiny lizard', this one is strictly arboreal, unlike the above Desert Spiny Lizard.

SONORAN SPOTTED WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis sonorae)

Seen on the last day on the Anza Trail near Tubac. Unlike the next species, there are numerous pale spots on the back between those pale stripes that run the length of the body.

DESERT GRASSLAND WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis uniparens)

Widespread in a number of upland habitats throughout the region.

TIGER WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis tigris)

Another one of our Sweetwater Wetlands herps that first morning.

Totals for the tour: 217 bird taxa and 16 mammal taxa