Chiricahua National Monument Birdwatching Overview

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Chiricahua National Monument Birdwatching Travel Tips

  • The Chiricahua National Monument sits on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains. Here you will be able to see Zone-tailed Hawks and Golden Eagles as well as the Hepatic Tanagers, Grace’s and other warblers, Strickland’s Woodpecker, and a variety of hummingbirds.
  • Along Cave Creek Canyon in the Coronado National Forest you may spot the Calliope Hummingbird, Peregrine Falcons, Elegant Trogons, and even some Burrowing Owls.
  • Sulfur Springs Valley is one of the best spots for winter birding. Sandhill Cranes, Lark Buntings, Curved-bill Thrashers, birds of prey, and sparrows are among the many species that can be found here. The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, formally known to veteran birders as the Hyannis Cattle Company, is in the Sulfur Springs Valley and is a known hotspot for birding.
  • Volunteer opportunities are also available at the Southwestern Research Station. In exchange for food and lodging, boundless birding, naturalist activities, and classes, volunteers must commit to chores at the station for 24 hours per week for four to eight weeks. Contact the Research Volunteer Coordinator for more information.
  • Every summer Victor Emanuel Nature Tours operates Camp Chiricahua. A 12-day excursion for young naturalists, the tour begins and ends in Tucson with the majority of the time spent in the Chiricahua mountain range.
  • The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory is the best resource for birding activities in the area. It offers bird lists, hot spot recommendations, birding guides, and a calendar of events.
The rugged fault-block range that makes up the Chiricahua Mountains in southeast Arizona is home to a wide variety of birds, partially because of the many different habitats that the mountains encompass. From deep canyons to grasslands to the high-elevation sky-islands, Chiricahua has a variety of places for birds to make their homes. And there are numerous species that just stop by on their way to somewhere else.

The region is especially famous for the variety of hummingbirds that can be found here. Look for the Blue-throated Hummingbird, the Magnificent Hummingbird, and the Black-chinned Hummingbird when you visit. More hummingbird species are found in southeastern Arizona mountain canyons than in any other place in the United States.

Some people believe that nighttime is the best time to go birding in this area, because of the owls and nightjars that can be found. More than a dozen species of owls, including the Western Screech-Owl, the Whiskered Screech-Owl, the Great Horned Owl, the Flammulated Owl, and the Elf Owl, have been spotted at Chiricahua. Birders may also spot the rare Buff-collared Nightjar and the Common Poorwill.

Bird Habitats

Riparian Deciduous: This limited area in Siphon Canyon and Apache Spring enjoys the decoration of Arizona walnut, netleaf hackberry, velvet ash, mesquite, and desert willow. Although merely a trickle at times, Apache Spring is a reliable water source. Some breeding birds are White-winged Dove, Elf Owl, Crissal Thrasher, Phainopepla, Lucy's Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, and Hooded Oriole.

Riparian Forest: Within Chiricahua National Monument are intermittent streams, such as Bonita and Rhyolite, lined with a mixed canopy of Arizona walnut, Fremont cottonwood, velvet ash, Arizona cypress, and several oaks including Emory, silverleaf, and netleaf. A few perennial springs are found within the boundary. Typical breeding birds in this area consist of Cooper's Hawk, Western Screech-Owl, Whip-poor-will, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky-capped and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Cassin's Kingbird, Gray-breasted Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's Wren, Solitary Vireo, Black-throated Warbler, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Northern Oriole.

Desert Grassland: A mix of grasslands and small shrubs occur in the surrounding areas of Fort Bowie and lower Bonita Canyon in the Chiricahua National Monument. Breeding birds include Red-tailed Hawk, Scaled Quail, Common Poorwill, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Say's Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Northern Mockingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Lark and Black-throated Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, and Scott's Oriole.

Oak Woodland (Encinal): These grassy, low-elevation areas in Fort Bowie merge with pinyon, junipers, and several oaks to form an ecotone similar to a savanna. Typical breeding birds are Montezuma Quail, Strickland's Woodpecker, Gray-breasted Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Hutton's Vireo, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Chaparral: The steep slopes of innumerable exposed cliff faces of Chiricahua National Monument are clothed with one-seed juniper, mountain mahogany, and pointleaf manzanita. Birds of the chaparral include Scrub Jay, Rock Wren, Rufous-sided Towhee, and Black-chinned Sparrow.

Madrean Woodland: Mid-elevation woodlands of Chiricahua National Monument are dominated by Mexican pinyon, Arizona oak, netleaf oak, silverleaf oak, Chihuahua and Apache pines, Arizona madrone, and alligator juniper. Breeding birds include Whiskered Screech-Owl, Acorn Woodpecker, Gray-breasted Jay, Bridled Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's Wren, and Virginia's and Black-throated Gray Warblers.

Coniferous Forest: The dominant trees in the upper elevations of Chiricahua National Monument include Arizona pine, southwestern white pine, Douglas fir, and Gambel oak. Typical breeding birds are Band-tailed Pigeon, Northern Flicker, Steller's Jay, Mexican Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Solitary Vireo, Grace's Warbler, Redfaced Warbler, Olive Warbler, and Yellow-eyed Junco.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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