Birding in the Sky Islands
of Cochise County
The Sky Islands of Cochise County create five distinct life zones that are magnets for birds from Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains, the Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts, and beyond. Sky Islands are where desert and forest meet and are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The Cochise County sky islands have a diversity exceeding anywhere else in the U.S., supporting well over half the bird species of North America, 29 bat species, over 3,000 species of plants, and 104 species of mammals.
This 1,500-acre wildlife habitat is famous for the large population of Sandhill Cranes during the winter season of October through February, plus many waterfowl, shorebirds and passing flocks. Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area lies in the Chiricahua desert grassland habitat of the Sulphur Springs Valley, south of Willcox. Spotting scopes are located on the viewing platforms for use by visitors. For more information, call 520-642-3763.
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
Located just 8 miles east of Sierra Vista, the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area is one of only two national riparian conservation areas in the entire United States. This 58,000-acre area teems with wildlife - over half of the known breeding bird species in the U.S. have been spotted here. Start at the San Pedro House with docents or explore on your own. San Pedro House 520-508-4445
Sierra Vista Canyons
Four canyons slice into the Huachuca Mountains just off Hwy 92. The canyons offer superior birding with hundreds of species. Sightings of the Plain-capped Star Throat, the Flame-colored Tanager and the Slate-throated Red Start have gained national attention and these canyons are world famous for hummingbirds.
Ash Canyon offers three separate habitats: Chihuahuan Desert grassland, riparian woodland, and oak forest. It is also home to one of the most rarely seen hummingbirds, the Plain-capped Starthroat. Ash Canyon is a great place to spot the Scott’s Oriole and the Lucifer Hummingbird.
A popular public bird feeding station is at Beatty’s Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon, where a U.S. record for hummingbird species sited in one day was set (14 species). Looking for night-hunters? Hit the trails or wait patiently by the water pool.
At 7,200 feet, the cooler temperatures in Carr Canyon make it a terrific place to spot birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy manages a 280-acre National Natural Landmark inside Ramsey canyon that provides a haven for over 170 varieties of birds, including 14 species of hummingbirds. Explore on your own or take a tour with Nature Conservancy guides. Nature Conservancy 520-378-2785.
Sierra Vista Environmental Park
The Sierra Vista Wastewater Wetlands has over 200 acres of land planted in native grasses, creating a habitat for birds and other wildlife. Check it out from the 1,800 square-foot wildlife viewing platform, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guided bird walks are conducted on Sundays, courtesy of Friends of the San Pedro. For more information, call 520-458-5775.
Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival
Over Martin Luther King Weekend
Location: Willcox Community Center- 312 W. Stewart St
The Willcox area is Arizona’s mecca for wintering species. Wings Over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival celebrates Arizona’s great birding and outdoors. It offers education and adventure for birders and the great outdoors centered on the tens of thousands of wintering sand hill cranes. Seminars, tours, and an expo with live animals every Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. For more information, visit www.wingsoverwillcox.com.