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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 pricey 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 brings together all the latest information on when and where to find the birds you want to see.
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.

Sandhill Crane Cam

Between October and March or early April, Arizona Game and Fish has a wildlife viewing camera trained on Whitewater Draw where the sandhill cranes spend the winter. The site says that the cranes tend to be seen early in the morning and return after feeding shortly before noon.

Birding Hot Spots

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