Birding

Cochise County is for the birds! The high mountains and cooler temperatures - an unexpected southern delight - attract birds all year long. From Sandhill cranes to falcons, elegant trogons to hummingbirds, Cochise County is a year-round birding hot spot. Bring your binocs and boots, and find out why birds (and people) flock to this southeastern Arizona destination!

Waterways, towering mountains, and playas create one of the most diverse ecosystems in the U.S., attracting a staggering range of avian visitors - from acrobatic hummingbirds to graceful Sandhill cranes. With abounding adventure and feathered friends, Cochise County is an experience you won't want to miss!

Whether you’re a novice or experienced birdwatcher, you can explore Cochise County’s birding hot spots, birding events and birding tours. You’ll find sample birding itineraries and helpful birding resources below.

 

Begin your sightings just west of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and explore Carr Canyon and Miller Canyon in the Coronado National Forest. You'll be astounded by more than 400 species of birds! 

The Nature Conservancy's internationally famous Ramsey Canyon - near Sierra Vista - is home to a rainbow of hummingbirds. Cave Creek Canyon, located in the Chiricahua Mountains, and the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge near Douglas are also havens for hummingbirds and many other species. 

The Whitwater Draw WLA, formerly a cattle ranch, was purchased in 1997 and is now managed to enhance wetland habitats and provide waterfowl habitat, management for plains leopard frogs, and wildlife viewing.

Need a guide? Contact these local resources for expert birding guides in Cochise County.

Mark Pretti Nature Tours, Sierra Vista, Arizona http://www.markprettinaturetours.com/index.htm 
Southeast Arizona Bird Observatory, Bisbee, Arizona http://www.sabo.org
Naturalist Journeys, Portal, Arizona http://www.naturalistjourneys.com/
Cochise Outfitters https://www.cochiseoutfitters.com/

You can also visit the gift shop and information center at the San Pedro House. Volunteers from the Friends of the San Pedro River staff the center. It is an excellent resource for visitors who want information on the area's hiking and birding opportunities.

Tour operators are listed for informational purposes only. They are not sponsored or endorsed by the Cochise County Tourism Council. 

Three Days with the Birds

Day 1
Begin your birding adventure on the Benson Birding Trail and Waterfowl Viewing Pond.  Ask for your free trail map at the Benson Visitor Center. It will provide detailed directions. 

Then head south on Route 90 to Sierra Vista, which lies just west of the lush San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area - a popular habitat for many species. You will also find birds aplenty in nearby RamseyMiller and Carr Canyons, about six to nine miles south on Arizona Highway 92.

Spend the night at any one of a number of inns located in prime birding habitats or travel onto Bisbee (15 miles east on Highway 90, then 10 miles southeast on Arizona Highway 80) to overnight in a unique bed and breakfast. 

Day 2
Visit the Southern Arizona Bird Observatory in Bisbee (520-432-1388) to gather information on top local birding spots. Then head out to Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area (about 20 miles northeast of Bisbee on Double Adobe Road, 520-642-3763). 

Spend the night in Douglas (25 miles southeast on Arizona Highway 80) and enjoy the ambiance of this captivating border town.

Day 3 
In the morning, pack a lunch and head to the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, just 15 miles east of town (520-364-2104). Natural springs near the trail along Black Draw are riparian magnets for 237 species of Southwestern and migratory birds. 

Two Days with the Birds

For "life list" birds, including golden eagles, hepatic tanagers, bridled titmice, elegant trogons and Mexican chickadees, visit the Chiricahua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest.

Begin your day at on the east side of the Chiricahuas in Cave Creek Canyon and tour the American Museum of Natural History's Southwest Research Station. Then head off to the "Wonderland of Rocks" at the Chiricahua National Monument for leisurely hiking and bird watching.  

Spend the night in the campground or drive to Willcox (38 miles northwest on Arizona 186) for more "developed" accommodations. If you are visiting from May to October, get a list of U-pick farms from the Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and pick fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the fields. In the winter, thousands of sandhill cranes migrate from as far away as Alaska and Siberia to winter in Cochise County's marshy areas. Willcox celebrates the cranes’ arrival with "Wings Over Willcox," held every year over Martin Luther King holiday weekend in January. View the cranes on the Willcox Playa, the Apache Generating Station Wildlife Observation Area or numerous other locations. 

Some rare birds make southeastern Arizona their temporary home in winter and summer. Sandhill cranes and hummingbirds are some of the most notable migratory species. Birding and nature festivals are the perfect opportunity to enjoy birding at its finest, or to learn from experienced birding tour guides.

The annual Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival in Willcox takes place each January on the third full weekend (coinciding with the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday). 

The Southwest Wings Spring Fling Festival is held in Sierra Vista the first week/weekend of May. And the organization's official Southwest Wings Birding and Nature Festival - also held in Sierra Vista - is the first weekend in August each year.

Southeastern Arizona Birding Trail map and guide: This map includes 52 bird-rich and birder-friendly locations and is available for purchase online at from the Tucson Audubon Society.

Huachuca Audubon Society, 3327 Eagle Ridge Drive, Sierra Vista, AZ 85650. Phone: (520) 378-4937

The local chapter of the Audubon society holds monthly meetings September through May in Sierra Vista. They have lectures and slide shows on birding and natural history subjects. Frequent birding trips to birding hotspots are offered year round.

Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (www.sabo.org)

National Audubon Society (www.audubon.org)

Friends of the San Pedro River is a mostly volunteer organizaton dedicated to the conservation and restoration of the San Pedro River. The organization operates a gift and bookstore, leads guided interpretive walks/hikes along the river and throughout the adjacent area, presents educational programs to schools and community groups, and assists the BLM in a variety of other programs.

Want to explore more ways to watch wildlife in southern Arizona? Visit the Wildlife Viewing Web Cam List on the Arizona Game and Fish website.

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