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Bird Watching

There are over 500 species of birds just waiting to be spotted in the Tucson area.

Discover a Very Birdy Area 

Whether you want to identify birds in your yard or you are interested in going on field trips with others, birding is a wonderful pastime. One of the things that makes southeastern Arizona so special is our great diversity of birds due to the range of elevations, mild seasons, Sky Island mountains that link the Rockies to Mexico's Sierra Madre, influences from Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts, migratory flyways, and tropical areas south of the border. 

Common desert birds that you can see right in urban Tucson include the brilliant Vermilion Flycatcher, Cactus Wren (the Arizona state bird), the always active Verdin, Curve-billed Thrasher, Gila Woodpecker, Gambel’s Quail and the silky black Phainopepla.

The huge number of bird enthusiasts and other wildlife watchers who live in, or visit Arizona contribute a surprising annual "total economic impact" of $1.5 billion to Arizona's economy. It doesn't matter if you are buying some bird seed, a pricy spotting scope, or staying in a bed and breakfast on a trip—you are part of the action!

Planning your trip
 
Decide when you’ll visit based on what you want to see. The breeding season in southeast Arizona extends through most of the year but primarily from early March through the summer rainy season in July and August. Summer residents generally arrive between March and June and some leave as early as August.
 
As you plan, note that many of the summer residents, including most of the “Mexican specialties” (on the northern edge of their breeding range in southeast Arizona), nest in the mountains or mid-elevation canyons. Temperatures drop as you gain elevation so birding in the mountains in the summer can be quite pleasant.
 
To help with all the details of your planning, Tucson Audubon's updated edition of Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona (2015) brings together all the latest information on when and where to find the birds you want to see.
 
WHERE TO GO:
 
If you have half a day available, any of these birding spots are worth your time:
  1. Agua Caliente Park for desert birds and riparian species.
  2. Head north on Catalina Highway to take in as many stops on Mt. Lemmon Highway as time permits.
  3. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and/or the Tucson Mountain Unit of Saguaro National Park for desert birds and Sweetwater Wetlands (except summer) for water birds.
  4. Catalina State Park for desert birds and Arthur Pack Park for water birds.
If you have a full day:
  1. Sabino Canyon plus a more thorough exploration of Mt. Lemmon.
  2. Florida Wash for desert and grassland birds, Madera Canyon for oak woodland birds and hummingbirds and visit Arivaca Cienega.
  3. Catalina State Park, Madera Canyon, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve.
If you have more time:
San Pedro Riparian NCA and Garden Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains (Cave Creek & Rustler Park), Willcox Lake, Buenos Aires NWR, California Gulch or other nearby areas.
 
Don’t forget!:
 
Tucson Audubon’s Nature Shops (300 E. University Blvd. #120 and 12325 E. Roger ..Rd. at Agua Caliente Park) are your one-stop location for current birding info and supplies such as guide books, optics and much more.
 

 

This prime location is one of the most rewarding bird-watching destinations in North America.

Video: Two part slideshow "Birds of the Catalina Foothills"


 

Bring Your Binoculars

Use the Tucson Birding Trail Map for an insider's look at local birding enclaves. Expand your search with Birding Hot Spots in Southern Arizona.

Follow the birds every month with Tucson Audubon's The Southeastern Arizona Birding Year. Find the best time to visit if your goal is to see the maximum diversity of southwestern "specialties" (between mid-April and mid-September) with tips for birding travelers from Southeastern Arizona Birding Observatory.

Discover southern Arizona's surprising natural science, from Sonoran Desert to sky islands, with the Mt. Lemmon Science Tour smart-phone app, an audio-video journey along scenic Catalina Highway featuring music and narration by Tucson band Calexico.

Birding Hot Spots

Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Regional Park

Eastside

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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Westside

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Christopher Columbus Park

Eastside

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Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Rincon Mountains - Eastside

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Tohono Chul

Oro Valley

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Tucson Botanical Gardens

Central Tucson

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The Loop

Rincon Mountains - Eastside

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Reid Park Zoo

Central Tucson

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Morris K. Udall Park

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Tumamoc Hill – Tucson Mountains

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Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Eastside

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Fort Lowell Park

Eastside

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Arthur Pack Regional Park

Northside

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Sentinel Peak, "A" Mountain

Sentinel Peak

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Pima Canyon Trail

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Sewailo Golf Club

Westside

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Starr Pass Golf Club

Rincon Mountains - Eastside

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Kino Environmental Restoration Project (KERP)

Santa Rita Mountains - Southside

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Saguaro National Park East

Eastside

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Saguaro National Park West

Westside

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Mt. Lemmon/Summerhaven

Northside

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Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Eastside

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Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival

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Kino Environmental Restoration Project (KERP)

Santa Rita Mountains - Southside

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Tucson Audubon

Eastside

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Willcox Playa Wildlife Area

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Nature's Hideaway at Discovery Park

Graham County

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Sonoita Creek State Natural Area

Central Arizona

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Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountains - Westside

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Patagonia Lake State Park

Santa Cruz County

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Saguaro National Park West

Westside

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Saguaro National Park East

Eastside

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Tucson Mountain Park

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Tortolita Mountain Park

Oro Valley

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Oracle State Park

Pinal County

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Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Eastside

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Douglas Spring Trail – Rincon Mountains

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Cactus Forest Trail – Rincon Mountains

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Mt. Lemmon Meadow Loop - Santa Catalina Mountains

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Mt. Lemmon/Summerhaven

Northside

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Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Eastside

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Las Cienegas National Conservation Area

Rincon Mountains - Eastside

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Arizona's West Coast

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Mt. Lemmon Science Tour App

Northside

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Sonoita Creek State Natural Area

Central Arizona

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Patagonia Lake State Park

Santa Cruz County

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Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

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Swift Trail

Santa Rita Mountains - Southside

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Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountains - Westside

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Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Eastside

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Whitewater Draw Wildlife Refuge

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Cave Creek Canyon Recreational Area

Oro Valley

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Nature's Hideaway at Discovery Park

Graham County

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Las Cienegas National Conservation Area

Rincon Mountains - Eastside

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Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve

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Ramsey Canyon Preserve

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San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

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Willcox Playa Wildlife Area

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Cave Creek - Gardner Canyon Loop– Santa Rita Mountains

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Bog Springs Trail – Santa Rita Mountains

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Madera Canyon

Rincon Mountains - Eastside

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Kartchner Caverns State Park®

Central Arizona

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Willcox Playa Wildlife Area

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Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

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Nature's Hideaway at Discovery Park

Graham County

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Murray Springs and Garden Canyon

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San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge

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Apache Station Wildlife Area

Cochise County

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Whitewater Draw Wildlife Refuge

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Sonoita Creek State Natural Area

Central Arizona

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Chiricahua National Monument

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Swift Trail

Santa Rita Mountains - Southside

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Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area/Bonita Creek & Gila River

Graham County

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San Pedro House Interpretive Loop

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Ajo Chamber of Commerce

Pima County

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Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory

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Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival

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Tucson Audubon

Eastside

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Pima County Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation

Oro Valley

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City of Tucson Parks and Recreation

Eastside

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Friends of Madera Canyon (FOMC)

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