A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Arizona's Second Spring II 2021

July 31-August 9, 2021 with Cory Gregory guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Visting southeast Arizona in the late-summer has many perks including witnessing a fantastic variety of hummingbirds; from the tiny Calliope all the way up to the big guys like Blue-throated Moungain-gem and Rivoli's Hummingbird. Here is the latter in Miller Canyon, photographed by the guide, Cory Gregory.

After so little travel in 2020, it felt great to get out and go birding again! Arizona, during the monsoon season, is a phenomenal spot to enjoy a wealth of western species sprinkled with some really spectacular specialties.

Our trip lined up very well with the weather and we were amazed at how lush and filled with wildflowers the country landscape looked. Although they had record-breaking amounts of rain in July, our trip really lucked out.

We kicked off this adventure in Tucson before heading to the Chiricahuas for several nights. By day, we explored the famed South Fork of Cave Creek, birded up at the cool forests around Rustler Park, visited some very productive feeders in Portal, and even made it to Paradise.

The Huachucas near Sierra Vista was our next base and we spent time exploring several canyons, including Ash Canyon with Lucifer Hummingbirds, Miller Canyon with Buff-breasted Flycatchers, Ramsey Canyon with the acrobatic deer, and even Carr Canyon after dark with Whiskered Screech-Owls.

Our route took us up and around by the grasslands that produced a stunning Scott's Oriole before we ended up in Patagonia. Spending time in this quirky town was productive indeed; we scored Violet-crowned Hummingbird, a Ruddy Ground Dove, an amazing Rose-throated Becard family, scope views of Rock Wrens, and a couple of memorable thunderstorms!

Before we knew it we were in Nogales. This was a convenient base as we ventured out each day in search of new species. Our travel took us to Patagonia Lake State Park (watch out for the bulls!), the Santa Cruz River where we watched for Green Kingfisher, and a memorable visit to Montosa Canyon where the Five-striped Sparrow and Varied Buntings put on a great show.

After it was all said and done, we topped 180 species, which included some real stunners and specialties we don't get every time. We encountered eleven species of hummingbirds, spent time with Red-faced Warblers, watched Painted Redstarts feeding young, watched a Mexican Whip-poor-will right overhead, and so much more. It was an excellent trip!

A big thanks to the FG office staff for their hard work with tour prep, and, of course, a big thank you to you all for choosing to come along! Hopefully you made good memories, saw some fun birds, enjoyed the scenery, and experienced a little of what Arizona has to offer.


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)

CINNAMON TEAL (Spatula cyanoptera)

Our best looks came from Canoa Ranch where we had several close looks at both a male and females. Although the plumage of the male wasn't as obvious, we could see the gleaming red eye.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

A lone bird was seen at Willcox on our second morning.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)

The identity of this standard duck has become more interesting since the split of the following species. We had several occasions to study Mexican Duck, and we saw a couple of pure-looking Mallards in Benson as well.

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

A fairly recent split from Mallard, this dark-bodied dabbler lacks white in the tail which we were always looking for. We managed several good looks in Benson, Willcox, and Amado.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

A few of these over-summering divers were seen on our final morning at Canoa Ranch. One of them had taken to feeding more like a dabbler, which looked goofy.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

Not a species we typically see on this trip, this diver was actually tallied multiple times, including in Benson and again in Amado on our final morning.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

This blue-billed stifftail was looking pretty dapper when we saw it at Willcox and Amado.

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata)

The "cottontop" is such a sharp little dude and always one of my favorites. Our first was seen perched up rather high at Willcox but we saw more below Portal, including one that perched up and sang repeatedly for us.

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

A common quail throughout our trip and seen most of our days. We even got to watch youngsters on several occasions.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

We had great looks multiple times at this big guy, especially in the foothills of the Chiricahuas.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Although they're usually seen high up in treetops, sometimes Band-tailed Pigeons do in fact come down to the ground to feed. Participant Paul Kittle captured this image proving exactly that!
Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

There typically isn't a ton of standing water on this trip, but a few of the ponds we visit attract waterbirds nonetheless. We encountered this water-dependent species at Benson, Willcox, and Canoa Ranch.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Fairly common in urban areas such as Tucson and Nogales.

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

We had stupendous looks at this species; they were even on the ground at some feeders in Paradise.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Introduced and now fairly common throughout much of the region.

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

Small and scaled, this tiny dove was seen in places like Portal and Patagonia. At times, we heard the "no hope" (or "whirlpool") songs.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

Despite the name, not a common species for us at all; our only looks came from the San Pedro House.

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

This rarity had been hanging around a yard in Patagonia and, although it took us a couple of tries, we were eventually successful with spotting this bonus species.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Abundant throughout our trip.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Like the previous species, abundant throughout.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus) [N]

These fascinating and desert-loving ground-cuckoos kept us entertained with their many antics. We even got to see an incubating adult during one of our lunches!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Cave Creek, seen here, has stunning scenery and this view was always hard to beat. Guide Cory Gregory captured this view one morning.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

It wasn't until our time around Patagonia that we encountered this secretive (but vocal!) species. The rain-beckoning calls of this "rain crow" must have worked, given all the storms we had!

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

A couple of lucky folks saw one of these flying overhead in Portal.

COMMON POORWILL (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) [*]

This tiny nightjar proved to be rather tricky; a few folks heard them in lower Carr Canyon but the birds went quiet very quickly.

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae arizonae)

We had an absolutely fantastic encounter with one of these specialties in Cave Creek one night. We could really hear the burry quality to its song as well.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

Although they may have looked like distant dots much of the time, several swarms of these aerialists were spotted high above the Chiricahuas.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

Formerly part of the Magnificent Hummingbird complex before that was split apart, this big and gaudy species first showed up once or twice in the Chiricahuas, but it wasn't until the Huachucas that we really got our fill.

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

After it was all said and done, this big species ended up being one of our most uncommon hummingbirds of the trip. We did get some good looks in Portal and another in Ramsey Canyon though. Note that this used to be called Blue-throated Hummingbird.

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer)

This fan-favorite performed very well for us in Ash Canyon during our afternoon visit. And always remember, this is named after the word "lucifer" which means "light-bringing".

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)

We had lots of good looks at this western species at a number of the hummingbird stations that we visited.


Although never abundant, this medium-sized hummer was visiting feeders in most of the canyons we visited, but especially at Ash Canyon. The magenta feathering covers most of the head with this species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the rarest hummingbirds we encountered was the tiny but classy Lucifer Hummingbird. This image, captured by guide Cory Gregory, shows one of the females we encountered in Ash Canyon.

COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

We tried for this small, desert-loving hummer in Green Valley but it wasn't until our final day at Canoa Ranch when we found a dazzling male. A great final bird to have on tour!

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

Fairly common in the high elevations in the Chiricahuas, where it looked like most of the Selasphorus were this species. Later on, we had nice males visiting feeders in Miller Canyon.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

Although a number of the Selasphorus we saw were probably this species, we did see a couple of for-sure individuals in the Chiricahuas and Huachucas.

CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus calliope)

The smallest species of bird in the US. We had beautiful looks at a male in Portal, complete with the intricate gorget pattern and all.

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris)

Overall, this was probably the most common species of hummingbird that we encountered on this trip. We tallied them on every day except for the first afternoon in Tucson.


This brilliant and distinctive hummingbird is a prized specialty of SE Arizona. Lucky for us, we saw a number of them spread across three different locations on three different days.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

SORA (Porzana carolina)

Getting to hear this bird calling from cattails is always a treat, but we actually got to see one as well! One of these small rails was scoped along the edge of the pond at Willcox.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Seen a couple of times in wetlands and ponds, mainly at Willcox and Amado WTP.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

This tall and lanky shorebird species was easy to spot at the ponds in Willcox on our first full day.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

Like the previous species, we encountered this elegant shorebird in the pond at Willcox.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our final morning yielded a wonderful treat, this beautiful male Costa's Hummingbird at Canoa Ranch. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Our only Killdeer sighting was at Benson STP when we scoped half a dozen on the distant rocky berm.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

On the pond at Willcox we saw the smallest shorebird in the world (Least Sandpiper) but also the largest breeding shorebird in North America. The latter title belongs to this large, sand-colored shorebird sporting a massively long, drooped bill.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

One of the many shorebird species we worked through at Willcox was this medium-sized wader. They didn't stick around long though, before they went missing.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

This is a rare migrant anywhere in Arizona and we lucked into the continuing bird at Willcox during our visit. This bird even was in transition between breeding plumage and the stark non-breeding plumage, which made for a distinctive looking sandpiper.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

The muddy shoreline at Willcox hosted a few of these tiny peeps. We could even see the yellowish legs at times.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

This is another species of peep we scoped at Willcox. We studied the bill length and shape of these and compared them to the nearby Leasts.

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

We tallied eight of these squat, long-billed shorebirds at Willcox and that ended up being our only encounter.

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

The circular antics of this unique shorebird were fun to witness. We encountered quite a number at Willcox on our second day.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

We spotted these tail-bobbing shorebirds a few times on tour, including at Willcox and again on our final day at Canoa Ranch.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

We found both flavors of yellowlegs at Willcox, including this species, which has a bill that's usually slightly upturned.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The monsoon had brought a wealth of rain through July and we reaped the benefits; the landscape was covered in Arizona Poppies! It was a wonderful backdrop for our trip. Photo by participant Paul Kittle.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

This is the daintier species of yellowlegs with a short, straight bill. Willcox provided us with our only sighting.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)

Towards the end of our trip we visited Patagonia Lake State Park where we were able to put the scope on a couple of these out on the water.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Never far from water, this big heron was spotted at Willcox and later at Patagonia Lake SP and Canoa Ranch.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

Our only encounter with this small heron was at Patagonia Lake State Park where we all heard one squawking and, later, a few folks saw one flush ahead of us.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

One of these was seen in flight at Patagonia Lake State Park but it landed behind cattails and out of view.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

On our final morning, one of these was spotted circling over the pond at Amado WTP.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

It wasn't until the last couple of days that we started seeing these mixed in with the Turkey Vultures around Patagonia.

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Common and widespread, tallied daily.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis)

This rare and graceful raptor breeds at only a couple of spots in Arizona. Lucky for us, we encountered at least four near St. David on our 2nd day.

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

One of these marsh-loving raptors was seen right after we left Whitewater Draw. It was having a bit of back-and-forth with a Swainson's Hawk.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Early on we established that we needed to check all the vultures we saw for the tricky Zone-tailed Hawk. We ended up being successful multiple times! Brian spotted this guy from a gas station even! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

It's always hard to predict when these bird-eating raptors will rip by. For us, we encountered them on three of our days, including one soaring high overhead in Miller Canyon.

NORTHERN GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis)

It didn't stick around long, but one of these huge Accipiters shot overhead while we were at the feeders in Ash Canyon. It turns out, this bird had been seen in that area before.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

This is a nicely-patterned, fairly small Buteo that we encountered in Patagonia a few times. Near the roadside rest, we were able to pull off and watch it circle lazily overhead.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

This long-winged Buteo was spotted a few times in open country like Willcox, Whitewater Draw, and on our final morning.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

Ahh, we ended up having superb luck with this tricky-to-find raptor. Our sightings included a high one over Sierra Vista, a closer bird up in Carr Canyon, another at Patagonia Lake State Park, and who can forget the gas station bird in Green Valley!

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

A fairly common and standard raptor of open habitats. We saw some that were probably the fuertesi (Southwestern) subspecies which mostly lack a breast band.

Strigidae (Owls)

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

Our persistence paid off! We finally encountered some in the Huachucas and had great looks in Carr Canyon one night (many thanks to Jake).

WESTERN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops kennicottii) [*]

Although we never got eyes on it, one of these was heard calling in Cave Creek during one of our nocturnal outings.

ELF OWL (Micrathene whitneyi)

This is the smallest species of owl in the world! Lucky for us, we had a decent encounter with one in Portal. So tiny!

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)

Actually, this was the first owl of the trip that we encountered. Also, remember, this roadside bird standing next to its burrow was actually in New Mexico.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Voted as one of the highlights of the trip was our encounter with some sleek Mississippi Kites. It was hard to beat getting to see several of these soaring lazily overhead, sometimes even reaching up with their feet to eat on the wing! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

SPOTTED OWL (MEXICAN) (Strix occidentalis lucida)

Serendipity put us right in front of this owl high in the Chiricahuas! Whew, what a great (and tricky) bird to see. This "Mexican" Spotted Owl is a different subspecies from the ones in California and the Pacific NW.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

ELEGANT TROGON (COPPERY-TAILED) (Trogon elegans canescens) [N]

One of the most quintessential species in all of southeastern Arizona! It took a couple of visits to South Fork but we eventually saw a female point blank after she fed her young! We also had a fortuitous encounter with a singing male elsewhere in Cave Creek. Last but not least, a couple of us saw one fly over as we were driving down the west side of the Chiricahuas, which I had never seen before.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

GREEN KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle americana)

This is a very rare bird in Arizona and so we tried our luck in Rio Rico. As bad luck would have it, the bird zoomed by when only a few folks were looking at the river.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

This striking woodpecker was pretty common throughout our trip in both the Chiricahuas and Huachucas. We got the chance to study these at length and talk about the plumage differences between males and females.

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)

If you're familiar with Red-bellied Woodpeckers from out East, you'd recognize this as a close relative. Fond of the lowland and desert regions, these were seen mostly in Saguaro deserts and riparian areas.


This "Desert Downy" has a black-and-white barred back and is often found in the lowlands and deserts.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

In this region, this familiar and medium-sized woodpecker is limited to the higher elevation forests. Indeed, our only encounter was from high in the Chiricahuas.

ARIZONA WOODPECKER (Dryobates arizonae)

Within the US, this is a specialty woodpecker of Arizona (and a little bit of New Mexico). Most of this species' range is in Mexico and it can be seen south all the way to Colima. This species used to be called Strickland's Woodpecker before it was split (the southern birds retained the name Strickland's Woodpecker).

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

Seen a few times, often up in the higher elevation forests like around Rustler Park.

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

This Saguaro specialist has a fairly limited range within the US and it was the focus of our first afternoon together. However, our best looks at a perched bird came on our final morning just south of Tucson.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

We encountered a couple of these small falcons on our trip and they were almost always on power-lines.

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One of the most quintessential species in all of southeast Arizona, the famed Elegant Trogon, took a little effort but it paid off when we got to see a female feeding chicks in their nest hole. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

This rare, mostly tropical species has an interesting history within the US. Its presence seems to fluctuate up and down and, this year, they nested in the Patagonia area (whereas some years there isn't even a trace of them!). We really hit the jackpot too. We didn't find just one or two, but we tallied at least SIX different becards, probably a couple of adults and a full brood of youngsters. Pretty wild, we got smashing looks too.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


This minuscule flycatcher, the smallest flycatcher in the US, made us work for it. They were vocal in Portal several times but we didn't manage to get looks at them until our walk at Patagonia Lake State Park.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

Although tricky to find, this big Contopus was spotted a couple of times near Rustler Park and we had scope-views from the parking area.

WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

A widespread and common flycatcher in most of the mountain habitat we visited.

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

This yellowish Empid with a bold eyering was seen at higher elevations in the Chiricahuas.

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons)

A very range-restricted species in the US, this tiny (but distinctive!) flycatcher was a main target of ours and we eventually caught up to a couple in upper Miller Canyon.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

This spiffy phoebe was spotted on three of our days and always near water.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

No more than 3 seconds after some of us were talking about this species, boom, one flies by and lands on a fence right next to us!

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

Some were vibrant, some weren't. Either way, we got repeat views of all sorts.

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

This Myiarchus was spotted at higher elevations in the Chiricahuas than the others. Its call is a descending, mournful note that we heard several times as well.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The raucous Acorn Woodpeckers kept us company throughout our time in the various mountain ranges. Sometimes they would visit feeders which allowed for us to study (and photograph) them closely. This female was photographed by guide Cory Gregory.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus) [N]

The big, western cousin of the Great Crested from out east. This riparian species has a big honkin' bill which we got to see several times. We even got to watch them fly to their cavity to feed chicks.

SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris) [N]

Our final morning in Cave Creek delivered pretty good scope views of these streaky flycatchers. Farther downhill on the west slope of the Chiricahuas, we found some more attending a nest hole.

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

The high, sputtering trills of this species gave away their presence while we were birding along the De Anza Trail. At one point, a family came down and fed along the Santa Cruz River while we were looking for kingfishers.

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

This is the kingbird with a darker gray head that contrasted sharply with a bright white malar/throat. They were fairly common and we tallied them most of our days.

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

Our good luck put this range-restricted specialty right along the road in Portal as we were driving by. We hopped out and eventually had scope views of this blocky-headed flycatcher.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Fairly common, especially around Willcox and the flats below the Chiricahuas.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

For all the times we actually saw this drab vireo, we had heard probably 3x as many! Although rather shy, one or two were eventually seen in Portal and a few other places.

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

Along the slopes of the Chiricahuas and Huachucas provided us with several encounters. This vireo looks startlingly like a beefy Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

We heard the burry songs of this vireo in Miller Canyon and then eventually got a couple of views. Many years ago this species was part of the Solitary Vireo complex before it was split out three ways.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Only a couple of these showed up for us; the first was a migrant in the trees at Willcox and then we encountered just one other in Montosa Canyon.

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These two go hand-in-hand: the desert-loving Gilded Flicker atop the quintessential Saguaro. This scene, which was just south of Tucson on our final morning, was captured by guide Cory Gregory.
Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

We managed just one of these distinctive predators at Willcox on our second day. I find it surprising that we don't see more of these on this route.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

STELLER'S JAY (Cyanocitta stelleri)

This was the common jay up at higher-elevation spots like Rustler Park.

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

Our first encounter came from the feeder setup in Paradise where we got to see a couple work down the hillside towards the house. We later saw more in Carr Canyon and a few other spots. Several years ago, "Western Scrub-Jay" was split into two species; Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay and California Scrub-Jay.

MEXICAN JAY (Aphelocoma wollweberi)

A common and widespread jay in the Chiricahuas and Huachucas.

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

We got lucky when we finally spotted this species flying over at the Scott's Oriole spot. It even croaked a few times for us (or at us?).

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Common and widespread in most habitats we visited.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

We bumped into this range-restricted specialty several times although they never came down from high up in the trees. Our first encounter was along the roadside shy of Onion Saddle, then more at Rustler Park, and finally a couple more at Pinery Canyon.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

Probably winning the gaudiest titmouse award, this fantastic little guy was fairly common for us in the Chiricahuas and we saw them again in Miller and Madera canyons.

JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)

This is a fairly difficult species to find most of the time and so I was thrilled to pull one in while we were at the feeders in Paradise. Many years ago, this and Oak Titmouse were classified as one species, the Plain Titmouse. Descriptive and accurate!

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

Our very first outing in the mountains west of Tucson was great for this yellow-headed dry-country bird. We could even see the chestnut bend in the wing sometimes.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the highlights of our trip was encountering the noisy family group of Rose-throated Becards near Patagonia. This is a very rare species and some years they aren't even present in the US. Here is a male photographed by guide Cory Gregory.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

We saw this direct-flying swallow a couple of times and always at spots around water. First was a sighting at Benson STP and then another at Willcox.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

In southeastern Arizona, a range-restricted subspecies can be found around Saguaros. We had a couple of brief looks at these big swallows on our first outing.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

Seen at Benson STP and then a few days later at Whitewater Draw.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Although we didn't see very many of these fork-tailed swallows during our days in the Chiricahuas, we saw them daily afterwards.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) [N]

The most memorable encounters came from our hotel in Nogales where hundreds of these were nesting under the eaves.

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus)

Where you find one of these, you will probably find 20 more! We came across several flocks of these tiny, gray, twittering birds including one in the South Fork of Cave Creek and then another up in Carr Canyon.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

Fairly common, these were tallied most of our days. Note that this was the "Interior" subspecies.

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

This small nuthatch is pretty interesting for its tendency to travel in large gatherings. We came across a couple of these flocks in the Chiricahuas including at Rustler Park and again at Pinery Canyon.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

If you saw a piece of bark move, and then creep up a tree, it was probably this cryptic species!

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

We came across a couple of these including one in the Chiricahuas and then the Montosa bird. Although several local experts thought the Montosa bird was indeed a Black-capped, the more the photos circulated, the more apparent it became that it was actually a tricky Blue-gray instead! Shucks.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Arguably one of the hardest owls to find is the threatened Spotted Owl. But sometimes they almost fall in your lap! We found this roosting bird in the Chiricahuas completely by chance. Photo by participant Paul Kittle.

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura)

We got lucky and scored a couple of these right outside the gates at Patagonia Lake State Park. It happened to be a good spot for poppy photography as well!

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

Although we had very distant looks near Bisbee, we had better encounters in Patagonia from the roadside rest.

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus) [*]

The classic, descending song of this wren was heard several times but the bird stayed high up in the canyon and out of view.

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

We had a couple of these in Pinery Canyon high up in the Chiricahuas. This subspecies is the "Brown-throated" variety which is found south through the highlands of the tropics.

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

It was surprising how sneaky these were being for us. We eventually got eyes on one at the San Pedro House but even then it took a while.

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

This big wren, the largest in the US, is a desert species and so we encountered them in the Saguaro deserts near Tucson and in some lowland areas around Portal.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

We almost got through the entire tour without one of these. But, unfortunately, we saw one on our final morning.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

The most common of the thrashers for us, these were tallied almost daily.

BENDIRE'S THRASHER (Toxostoma bendirei)

We were lucky to encounter this tricky species near the golf course in Willcox. This continuing bird has been in the area for some time.

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

Perhaps one of the hardest-to-see thrashers in Arizona, this pale, desert-wash dweller actually came into Bob Rodrigues' feeders! At dusk, we got to hear several of these calling in the area as well.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Enjoying the cooler mountain air high in the Chiricahuas, here we are appreciating a fantastic Red-faced Warbler at Rustler Park. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Encountered near Tucson and again in Willcox.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

Our only sighting was at Rustler Park high up in the Chiricahuas.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

I was surprised by how few we saw on our trip. The best encounter was at the Reef Campground up in Carr Canyon in the Huachucas.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Unlike much of country, southeastern Arizona hosts this familiar thrush only in the montane forests.

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

This glossy and black desert-dweller was a popular bird whenever one came into view. This is the only member of the silky-flycatchers that regularly reaches the US.

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

Although sometimes terribly tricky to find, this montane specialty ended up being fairly easy for us and we encountered a number at Rustler Park and Carr Canyon. Note that this species is in its own family and not in with the other warblers.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Seen fairly regularly at feeder setups and urban settings.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Tallied daily. The desert birds we encountered were REALLY red, something we noticed many times.

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra) [*]

I would say that this was a good sighting... but we never actually saw them. Instead, we heard the repeated jip-jip-jip-jip calls during a day high in the Chiricahuas.

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Some of these tiny finches were the green-backed variety, some were the black-backed variety. Either way, we tallied these daily except for our first afternoon in the desert.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Although we focused mostly on birds, we still certainly paid attention to other fauna and flora. Here is some attention-grabbing Velvetpod Mimosa photographed by participant Paul Kittle.
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW (Peucaea carpalis)

A very range-restricted species in the US, this sparrow was spotted a couple of times including at some feeders in Portal (where it's rare) and then again at Patagonia Lake State Park where we had close scope views of a singing bird.

BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii)

Like the previous species, this too is a very range-restricted species in the US. We heard the intricate song (that ends with the bouncing ball cadence) many times and our best view of one was just down the road in Portal. That particular bird was really unique because it switched between songs of Botteri's and Cassin's!

CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii)

We thought the bird downhill from Portal was one of these until we figured out that it was a Botteri's singing a Cassin's song! Not to worry, we went on to see a "real" Cassin's later in the grasslands north of Patagonia.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

An extremely handsome, desert-dwelling species. We had great looks in the desert around Tucson and then again around Portal.

FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW (Amphispiza quinquestriata)

Ooh la la! This specialty species performed so incredibly well for us in Montosa Canyon! This was a real highlight and something all of us enjoyed seeing so closely.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

The white corners in the tail was something we always noticed when this sparrow would flush. Some of the feeders we visited in Portal and Paradise had good numbers of these.

YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (Junco phaeonotus)

This is another range-restricted specialty. We encountered these pretty regularly in the higher reaches of the Chiricahuas and Huachucas.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

It wasn't until our time near Patagonia that we began to hear and see this widespread sparrow.

CANYON TOWHEE (Melozone fusca)

Several decades ago, this species was part of the Brown Towhee complex (along with California Towhee). For us, we had many good looks and sometimes they'd even come into feeders.

ABERT'S TOWHEE (Melozone aberti)

Encountered far fewer times than the previous species, this black-faced towhee was spotted at feeders in Portal and then again at the San Pedro House and at the park in Green Valley.

Field Guides Birding Tours
It was a fantastic year for the rare Five-striped Sparrow in southeast Arizona. Towards the end of our trip, we had absolutely smashing looks at this big and dark sparrow in Montosa Canyon. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW (Aimophila ruficeps)

Fond of grass-covered rocky hillsides, this sparrow was seen reeeeally far away through the scope. Thankfully we got to hear them much more frequently.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

Common in the mountainside chaparral.

Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


We finally started encountering these once we got to Patagonia; the State Park there was loaded with them! Note that this species is now in a family of its own.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

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

This range-restricted subspecies was seen and heard a few times in the grasslands around Sierra Vista. Even the parking lot at our restaurant had them singing. It's a good idea to keep a note of these in case they someday get split out.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

Fairly common during our time in Portal. Seeing a bright one in good light often produced oohs and ahhs.

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

We were lucky to encounter one in Montosa Canyon towards the end of our trip. Oftentimes, this is a bird that is missed on this tour in August.

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

One of these black-and-yellow orioles materialized out of thin air while we were birding the grassland along Elgin Road. This was a great encounter for one of our main targets!

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Although familiar through much of the country, this marsh dweller wasn't a species that was common for us. Our group encountered them at Benson and Willcox on our second day but that was about it.


Seen at various spots, often around feeders.

GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

The five spots we found these had something in common, they were spots with water. Benson, Willcox, Patagonia Lake, Amado WTP, and Canoa Ranch.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This tour is one of just a couple that will encounter the range-restricted Yellow-eyed Junco. We encountered them multiple times high up in the Chiricahuas and, let's be honest, it's a really attractive junco! Photographed by participant Paul Kittle.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

This is a tiny, mostly gray warbler that we finally got at Patagonia Lake State Park. At times, we could even see the rusty-colored patch on the rump.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

Although typically pretty rare on this tour, this migrant was spotted in Montosa Canyon. There were even two of these that were chasing each other around up on the slope above us.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

This cattail-loving warbler was spotted a few times at Willcox and Whitewater Draw. Other than that, we weren't around a ton of habitat for these.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

This classic warbler was fairly common at Patagonia Lake State Park, but we also saw them at Montosa Canyon and again along the Santa Cruz River north of Nogales.

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

It's always a pleasure to see these western warblers. We encountered them a couple of times high up in the Chiricahuas and almost always in pines.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

Like the previous species, this is a western warbler that we were keen on seeing. Our best looks were in the South Fork of Cave Creek and again up near Onion Saddle.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

We crossed paths with this black-capped migrant in Montosa Canyon towards the end of our trip.

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)

Of all the targets we had, I think this beauty had to have been most popular. Thanks to the keen spotting by Fran, we all got killer looks at Rustler Park. A little later in the trip, we saw this specialty again in Miller Canyon.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

Right behind the previous species in terms of our most-wanted, this SW specialty was eventually very well at spots like the South Fork of Cave Creek and Miller Canyon. We even got to watch adults feeding a youngster!

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

HEPATIC TANAGER (Piranga flava)

Fairly common during our time in the mountains.

Field Guides Birding Tours
It was a good trip for tanagers; we spotted Western, Summer, and Hepatic. Here's a male Hepatic Tanager with a beak full of food in Madera Canyon. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

Although we heard these more often than we saw them, we did eventually see some around Patagonia Lake State Park and by the creek in Montosa Canyon.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

For whatever reason, we saw these mostly in the Huachucas and again in Montosa (but not many in the Chiricahuas at all).

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

This bright red, crested species was encountered fairly regularly around feeders in Portal.

PYRRHULOXIA (Cardinalis sinuatus)

This "Desert Cardinal" was thankfully fairly common at the start of our trip at spots around Tucson and then around Portal. At times, they would visit feeders which gave us great chances to compare them to the previous species.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

Common, widespread, and tallied every day.

BLUE GROSBEAK (Passerina caerulea)

Although it's a grosbeak by name, this stocky blue species is actually in the same genus as Lazuli and Varied buntings. We encountered these on more than half of our days.

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

Who can forget the huge numbers of these that poured out of the fields surrounding Whitewater Draw? There must have been at least 50 of these, which is a rare spectacle indeed.

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

We had to be patient through the first half of this tour because it wasn't until Montosa Canyon that we found gobs and gobs of this attractive bunting. It was worth the wait!


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

We saw a few of these when were were up at elevation in the Chiricahuas.

DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

Fairly common in the desert habitats.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We are lucky to host several different Passerina buntings here in the US. However, despite the variety, there's nothing quite like the unique colors found on the Varied Bunting. This was voted as one of the highlights of the trip and for good reason! The guide, Cory Gregory, captured this image in Montosa Canyon where we found ourselves surrounded by these colorful songsters.

CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)

For a while, we were seeing these daily during our time in the Chiricahuas.

HARRIS'S ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus harrisii)

These cute little guys always held their tail up and over their back which gave them a very distinctive look.

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

Fairly common in both the Chiricahuas and the Huachucas.

MEXICAN FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus nayaritensis)

This species is actually quite range-restricted in the US. For us, we saw one in Cave Creek.

ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis)

Although not quite as range restricted as the previous species, this squirrel is indeed found mostly in Arizona. We had good looks at Ash Canyon.

GRAY FOX (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

We were doing some nocturnal birding in the Chiricahuas when we spotted one of these along a roadside.

STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis)

Fairly common around Portal, these were seen each of the nights we went owling there.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

The deer we saw were the Coues' subspecies of White-tailed. Quite approachable around Cave Creek, this subspecies is the smallest in the US except for the tiny Key Deer in Florida.


COACHWHIP (Masticophis flagellum)

That reddish snake near Whitewater Draw was actually quite amazing! Turns out, it was this species.


We were slowly cruising around the roads near Portal one night when we found one of these crossing the road.

AMERICAN BULLFROG (Lithobates catesbeianus)

Found at Patagonia Lake State Park.

CHIRICAHUA LEOPARD FROG (Rana chiricahuensis)

These were the frogs Tom Beatty was showing us in Miller Canyon. Once fairly common at aquatic sites in southeastern Arizona, they've declined precipitously and are now found at fewer than 80 spots.

ORNATE TREE LIZARD (Urosaurus ornatus)

You might remember this little guy was perched on a rock at Bob Rodrigues' feeders.

YARROW'S SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus jarrovii)

We were hiking up Miller Canyon when this good-sized lizard was hanging out on a large limb next to the trail. We got some photos and can see now that it's this fairly-common species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here's one last view of Cave Creek, as captured by participant Paul Kittle. Hopefully everyone made good memories of our birding adventures together here in the Chiricahuas!

Totals for the tour: 180 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa