A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Arizona's Second Spring II 2023

July 29-August 7, 2023 with Chris Benesh guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The magnificent view from the Southwest Research Station in the Chiricahuas. Photo by Chris Benesh.

Our 2023 Arizona Second Spring was characterized by overall dry conditions with the notable exception of a magnificent thunderstorm that rolled through Tucson and environs on the first afternoon and evening of the tour. Indeed, it would have flooded us out of our planned visit to Box Canyon had we not had the van issue to resolve. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing weather-wise.

We started off in Tucson and then made our way eastward to the Chiricahuas for three nights, two nights in Sierra Vista, and then on to Nogales and environs. It was a good trip for rarities, a not-so-good trip for owls (likely due to an ongoing drought), but an exceptional trip for hummingbirds! Aside from Allen’s (possible), Ruby-throated (fewer than 10 records for the state), Cinnamon (one record for the state), and Bumblebee (one record of two from the 1890s), we saw all of the species that have ever been recorded in the state! I think this was a first for a Field Guides Arizona Tour.

There were many highlights along the way and when polled at the end of the tour, some favorites emerged. Top the list of favorites was the Five-striped Sparrow, an impressive, range-restricted species that took us some effort to track down. Then it was a five way tie for the second place spot, with Plain-capped Starthroat, Berylline Hummingbird, Whiskered Screech-Owl, Montezuma Quail, and Rufous-capped Warbler all getting two votes. Filling out the survey were Elegant Trogon, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Wilson’s Phalarope, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, and Varied Bunting. Of course there were some wonderful mammals seen, including a seldom seen Kit Fox, and a variety of herps including two species of rattlesnake. We even managed to see a few of Arizona’s diverse scorpion fauna under black light.

More than anything else, there was some terrific camaraderie on this tour which I am grateful for. Lots of terrific spotting, Bill’s fabulous photography, and lots of good story telling. Thank you all for making the trip such a success. I look forward to seeing all of you again and wish you the best in birding.


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)

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Here is the gang enjoying dinner at the Portal Peak Lodge during our time in the Chiricahuas.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos)

MEXICAN DUCK (Anas diazi)

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

SCALED QUAIL (Callipepla squamata)

GAMBEL'S QUAIL (Callipepla gambelii)

MONTEZUMA QUAIL (Cyrtonyx montezumae)

Thanks to a hot tip from Kristine, we ran into a pair of quail on our second attempt on the road toward Coronado National Memorial. This one is a grail bird for many.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

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One of the most desired of all of our targets was the Montezuma Quail. Bill Thompson captured this image of the male as it made its way through the grasslands.

BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas fasciata)

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

INCA DOVE (Columbina inca)

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina)

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ROADRUNNER (Geococcyx californianus)

A couple of encounters with this iconic desert species.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

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But the bird garnering the most votes as trip favorite was the Five-striped Sparrow that we saw well in Montosa Canyon. Photo by Bill Thompson.
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

LESSER NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles acutipennis)

COMMON POORWILL (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) [*]

MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus arizonae arizonae)

A quick flight view and lots of audio of one near Portal in the Chiricahuas.

Apodidae (Swifts)

WHITE-THROATED SWIFT (Aeronautes saxatalis)

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RIVOLI'S HUMMINGBIRD (Eugenes fulgens)

PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT (Heliomaster constantii)

Fantastic views of this rare stakeout hummingbird at the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary near Hereford. This large species is a rare visitor to the US in southern Arizona.

BLUE-THROATED MOUNTAIN-GEM (Lampornis clemenciae)

A rather large, acrobatic hummingbird, we saw most of ours in the Chiricahuas, which is a stronghold for this species. One was at Ramsey Canyon where they are scarce.

LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD (Calothorax lucifer)

A really good showing of this species in Ash Canyon where we figured that we saw four in total!

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This stakeout Rufous-capped Warbler along Sonoita Creek was another rare highlight. This species has had a tenuous foothold as a breeder in southern Arizona. Photo by Bill Thompson.

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus alexandri)


COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD (Calypte costae)

It was a good showing for this species with sightings at three locations beginning with one in Green Valley.

CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus calliope)

It was a tremendous tour for this species. Normally one or two might be seen, but we had them at six different sites.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus platycercus)

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris)

WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD (Basilinna leucotis)

This is another really scarce hummingbird in the US and Arizona, so to have two of them in view at the same moment in Miller Canyon was notable.


This was another species that seemed to be exceptionally numerous this year. We had sightings at five different locations.

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This lovely Red-faced Warbler was a treat from our first afternoon on Mt. Lemmon as captured by Bill Thompson.

BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD (Saucerottia beryllina)

Not to sound like a broken record, but it was great to see this species well at the Southwest Research Station and to realize that there were actually two individuals from our photos!

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana)

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus)

MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa)

One at Willcox was a nice find. This species is one of our scarcer shorebird migrants.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Calidris bairdii)

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It was a really remarkable trip for hummingbirds. Aside from Allen's, we managed to sweep all of the reasonable possibilities. This male Broad-billed Hummingbird taken by Bill Thompson was one of the many to delight us.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Nannopterum brasilianum)

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It was a really terrific tour for Calliope Hummingbird with birds seen at several different feeding stations. This male was at the Portal Peak Lodge. Photo by Chris Benesh.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

COMMON BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus anthracinus)

One seen soaring over Patagonia Lake was a really nice treat. This species is reasonably common as a breeder in the state, but very few nest along the tour route.

HARRIS'S HAWK (Parabuteo unicinctus)

Another scarce species on our tour route, we had a breeding family group in northeast Tucson on the first full day of the trip.

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Another highly desired species is the Lucifer Hummingbird, and we managed to see up to four at the Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary, like this one photographed by Chris Benesh.

GRAY HAWK (Buteo plagiatus)

This species has become more common in recent years. Our first good looks were in Patagonia.

SWAINSON'S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni)

A terrific look at one while searching for quail.

ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus)

A couple of individuals seen of this cryptic species.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)

BARN OWL (Tyto alba) [*]

Strigidae (Owls)

WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

Great views of one in Cave Creek Canyon.

WESTERN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops kennicottii) [*]

GREAT HORNED OWL (Bubo virginianus)

Seen by some in Portal.

NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium gnoma) [*]

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Miller Canyon once again proved to be good for White-eared Hummingbird, and we enjoyed views of two different males there during our time watching feeders. Photo by Chris Benesh.
Trogonidae (Trogons)

ELEGANT TROGON (Trogon elegans)

After some work we did connect with a pair of birds in Ramsey Canyon.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

ACORN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes formicivorus)

GILA WOODPECKER (Melanerpes uropygialis)


HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

ARIZONA WOODPECKER (Dryobates arizonae)

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

GILDED FLICKER (Colaptes chrysoides)

Perhaps the last new bird of the trip, we had a pair of birds in Desert Mountain Park west of Tucson. This species favors saguaro rich deserts.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

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While in the Chiricahuas, we had great views of Berylline Hummingbird including this one captured by Bill Thompson.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

ROSE-THROATED BECARD (Pachyramphus aglaiae)

This species is currently a scarce breeder along the Santa Cruz River in the vicinity of Tubac, and we encountered a pair of birds there. Most of us enjoyed the male, while Bill photographed the female as well.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)


This scarce species is easily overlooked. We had good studies in Harshaw Canyon.

GREATER PEWEE (Contopus pertinax)

This large southern pewee was seen at Rose Canyon Lake and then again high up in the Chiricahuas.

WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus sordidulus)

WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax traillii)

CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax occidentalis)

By the time you receive this triplist, this species will be part of Western Flycatcher, Empidonax difficilis.

BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax fulvifrons)

Three birds seen in the Chiricahuas. This species favors pine forests with an open, grassy understory.

BLACK PHOEBE (Sayornis nigricans)

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And finally, Ash Canyon also hosted this male Plain-capped Starthroat that eventually paid a visit for us. Quite a rare bird in the US. Photo by Chris Benesh.

SAY'S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya)

VERMILION FLYCATCHER (Pyrocephalus rubinus)

DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tuberculifer)

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

Our only encounter was one at the Paradise Cemetery.

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes luteiventris)

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)

CASSIN'S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans)

THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD (Tyrannus crassirostris)

An impressive species. Our first ones were near Portal.

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We saw a nice mix of raptors on the tour including this handsome adult Gray Hawk photographed by Bill Thompson. This species has been expanding its range in Arizona.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis)

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

We saw an incredibly worn bird along Sonoita Creek near Patagonia Lake. This species is a rare visitor to the state, though there have been several sightings in recent years.

BELL'S VIREO (Vireo bellii)

HUTTON'S VIREO (Vireo huttoni)

PLUMBEOUS VIREO (Vireo plumbeus)

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus)

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

STELLER'S JAY (INTERIOR) (Cyanocitta stelleri macrolopha)

WOODHOUSE'S SCRUB-JAY (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

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A lovely dark morph Swainson's Hawk that sat cooperatively for us while we were searching for quail. Photo by Chris Benesh.

MEXICAN JAY (Aphelocoma wollweberi)

CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Corvus cryptoleucus)

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE (Poecile gambeli)

A pair of birds at Rose Canyon Lake.

MEXICAN CHICKADEE (Poecile sclateri)

Three encounters with this species in the Chiricahuas, which is the only place to normally see this species in the US.

BRIDLED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus wollweberi)

JUNIPER TITMOUSE (Baeolophus ridgwayi)

We found a pair of these at the Paradise Cemetary. This is the southern extreme of this species range.

Remizidae (Penduline-Tits)

VERDIN (Auriparus flaviceps)

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

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Bill Thompson shot this image of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk that was vocal around Rose Canyon Lake on the first morning of the trip.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)

PURPLE MARTIN (HESPERIA) (Progne subis hesperia)

A few of these desert breeding forms south of Tucson.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW (Tachycineta thalassina)

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)

BUSHTIT (INTERIOR) (Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus)

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (INTERIOR WEST) (Sitta carolinensis nelsoni)

PYGMY NUTHATCH (Sitta pygmaea)

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

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Bill also shot this nice portrait of Inca Dove in Portal. Inca Dove is another species that is on the short list for a name change, as it was erroneously associated with the Inca of Peru rather than the intended Aztec empire.
Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER (Polioptila melanura)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

ROCK WREN (Salpinctes obsoletus)

CANYON WREN (Catherpes mexicanus)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes bewickii)

CACTUS WREN (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

CURVE-BILLED THRASHER (Toxostoma curvirostre)

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This Whiskered Screech-Owl showed well for us in Cave Creek as Bill's capture illustrates. Its yellowish beak and tiny feet are two ways in which it differs from Western Screech-Owl.

BENDIRE'S THRASHER (Toxostoma bendirei)

A couple of encounters with this declining species. Our best views were of a pair of birds foraging in the field east of Portal.

CRISSAL THRASHER (Toxostoma crissale)

Our first was east of Portal in mesquite thickets.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

WESTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia mexicana)

Two birds high up in the Chiricahuas.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Ptiliogonatidae (Silky-flycatchers)

PHAINOPEPLA (Phainopepla nitens)

Peucedramidae (Olive Warbler)

OLIVE WARBLER (Peucedramus taeniatus)

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

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Despite drought-like conditions we had some nice views of Scaled Quail near Portal, such as this one taken by Bill Thompson.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)

Quite a few of these were hanging around in the high country of the Chiricahuas.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

LESSER GOLDFINCH (Spinus psaltria)

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW (Peucaea carpalis)

Our best looks came near the end of the tour on our way out of Montosa Canyon.

BOTTERI'S SPARROW (Peucaea botterii)

Good study right outside of Portal.

CASSIN'S SPARROW (Peucaea cassinii)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

FIVE-STRIPED SPARROW (Amphispizopsis quinquestriata)

After quite a bit of searching we came across a single bird in Montosa Canyon. Whew!

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We had a good mix of tyrant flycatchers, the smallest of which was this Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet taken by Chris Benesh in Harshaw Canyon.

BLACK-THROATED SPARROW (Amphispiza bilineata)

A striking species and thankfully plentiful.

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)

The best views were at Ash Canyon.

SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus)

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And the smallest of the three Myiarchus seen was this Dusky-capped Flycatcher again by Bill Thompson.
Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

CHIHUAHUAN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella lilianae)

This recently split species was seen in Willcox and again while searching for quail near Hereford.

HOODED ORIOLE (Icterus cucullatus)

BULLOCK'S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii)

SCOTT'S ORIOLE (Icterus parisorum)

Named after Old Fuss And Feathers, Winfield Scott, a general in the US Army. As a result of his involvement with the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans where many died along the journey, the oriole named in his honor has been at the top of the list of species to be re-named in the future.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

BRONZED COWBIRD (Molothrus aeneus)


GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)

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And one of the the tiniest passerines seen on the trip was this Bushtit. It pale eye indicates that it is a female. Photo by Bill Thompson.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)

LUCY'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis luciae)

Named for Lucy Baird, the daughter of Spencer Baird. We saw our only one at the Paton's in Patagonia.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (Leiothlypis virginiae)

Named for Virginia Anderson, the wife of William who discovered this species in New Mexico while serving in the US Army in 1860 shortly before defecting to the Confederate army the following year.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

GRACE'S WARBLER (Setophaga graciae)

This one is named for Grace Coues, the sister of Elliot Coues, a US Army surgeon who was quite active in early ornithology in the US and who discovered this species in Arizona in 1865. We saw it at Rose Canyon Lake and again in the Chiricahuas.

BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens)

RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER (Basileuterus rufifrons)

This was a nice one to track down along Sonoita Creek near Patagonia Lake. This one was quite worn, but hey...

RED-FACED WARBLER (Cardellina rubrifrons)

Always a crowd-pleaser! We were fortunate to see it well at Rose Canyon Lake and again in Pinery Canyon.

PAINTED REDSTART (Myioborus pictus)

Another striking species that is a wonderful part of the Madrean oak pine forests of Arizona.

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We ended up seeing two species of rattlesnakes, this being a Black-tailed seen on the Paradise Road. Photo by Bill Thompson.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

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)

LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena)

VARIED BUNTING (Passerina versicolor)

Nice views of this in Montosa Canyon.

PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris)

One was briefly at the feeders at the San Pedro House.


DESERT COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus audubonii)

BLACK-TAILED JACKRABBIT (Lepus californicus)

CLIFF CHIPMUNK (Tamias dorsalis)

HARRIS'S ANTELOPE SQUIRREL (Ammospermophilus harrisii)

ROCK SQUIRREL (Spermophilus variegatus)

MEXICAN FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus nayaritensis)

ARIZONA GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus arizonensis)

ARIZONA COTTON RAT (Sigmodon arizonae)

KIT FOX (Vulpes macrotis)

GRAY FOX (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

COLLARED PECCARY (Tayassu tajacu)

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

PRONGHORN (Antilocapra americana)




CHIRICAHUA LEOPARD FROG (Lithobates chiricahuensis)

ORNATE TREE LIZARD (Urosaurus ornatus)


CLARK'S SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus clarkii)

YARROW'S SPINY LIZARD (Sceloporus jarrovii)

CHIHUAHUAN SPOTTED WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis exsanguis)

SONORAN SPOTTED WHIPTAIL (Aspidoscelis sonorae)

Totals for the tour: 189 bird taxa and 14 mammal taxa