The right landscapes, the right climate, the right place in the world to spot rare birds
Birdwatching is the opposite of looking something up online.
You can’t really look for birds; you can’t make a bird come out and identify itself to you. The most you can do is walk quietly and wait until you hear something, and then stand motionless under a tree, using your animal senses to figure out where and what it is. ~Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing & Resisting the Attention Economy, Melville House, 2019.
With more than 350 species of birds among those sighted in Tucson and Southern Arizona and at birding events every August, this is an incredible place to take up this pastime or to finally check a flying friend off your list. With that in mind, here are some key places in the area for birding.
Sweetwater Wetlands: Built in 1996, this is a paradise for urban birders, with more than 300 species spotted here. There are lots of ducks, but rare birds can be found, too. Tucson Audubon Society offers a free guided walk on Wednesdays; check their website for the schedule, as the time changes with the seasons.
Mt. Lemmon: The 9,157-foot-tall peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers the great views and biodiversity of what naturalists call a sky island. The drive up means you find wildly different species at the base (ladder-backed woodpecker, hooded and Scott’s oriole) than you see nearer the top (mountain chickadee and Grace’s warbler). Did we mention there are fantastic city views along the way and fresh-baked cookies at the village of Summerhaven near the peak?
Madera Canyon: About 30 miles south of Tucson, the natural beauty of the Santa Rita Mountains appeals as much to birds, such as hummingbirds, quail, and owls, as it does to humans exploring the area. Like Mt. Lemmon, the terrain changes dramatically, leading to a variety of birding opportunities in creek beds and coniferous forests.