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Bird Watching

Arizona Cactus WrenSome of the best birding in the United States is in the Chiricahua Mountains, Portal, and at Cave Creek Ranch.  According to Richard Cachor Taylor’s Location Checklist to the Birds of the Chiricahua Mountains, “…the Chiricahua checklist presently stands at 375 species, not including 13 species still considered hypothetical — about half of all the birds regularly occurring on this continent north of Mexico.” 

This area is the most biodiverse landmass on the continent of North America, and the bird life reflects that.  Cave Creek Canyon is the largest and best watered canyon in the Chiricahuas, and Cave Creek Ranch sits in the mouth of the canyon. 

As Rick Taylor says in his book Location Checklist to the Birds of the Chiricahua Mountains, “Geographical position accounts for much of the bird wealth of the Chiricahua Mountain Region.  The Chiricahuas are situated near the North American apex of the 1000-mile-long cordillera of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and midway between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts.  Draining the southeast corner of the range, the San Bernardino Valley spills into the Rio Yaqui and provides a 400-mile-long natural corridor for Sinaloan Thorn Forest birds”.

He also says, “The sheer size and topographic diversity of the Chiricahua region make it possible for most birds to find appropriate habitat.  Encompassing approximately 1,000 square miles, elevations vary from 4,000 feet in the San Simon Valley to 9,796 feet at the summit of Chiricahua Peak.  Broadly speaking, there are six basic plant communities, and each supports a unique subset of birds.”

The communities Rick mentions above are Desert, Grassland, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, Sierra Madrean Pine-Oak Woodland, Ponderosa Pine Forest, and Fir-Spruce Forest. The desert scrub and grasslands provide homes for birds such as the Gambel’s Quail, the Cactus Wren, the Verdin and the Curve-billed Thrasher—residents of both the Chihuahuan and Sonoran Deserts.  The forested slopes serve up accommodations for species as diverse as the Western Screech-Owl, the Virginia Warbler, Scott’s Oriole, the Hairy Woodpecker, the Sulpher-bellied Flycatcher, the Zone-tailed Hawk, the Pygmy Nuthatch and the Greater Pewee.  The mountain crests call to the Golden-crowned Kinglet, the Red Crossbill and the Golden Eagle. 

In the same book, Rick talks about Cave Creek Ranch:  “The yard list for Cave Creek Ranch rivals any in the United States.  It is deservedly famous for its hummingbirds, and has hosted nearly every hummingbird species found in Arizona.”

Birder Map of Portal Area

Click to locate a local Bird or Natural History Guide


Ranch Checklist



Turkey Vulture


Northern Harrier


Sharp-shinned Hawk


Cooper's Hawk


Northern Goshawk


Common Black Hawk


Short-tailed Hawk


Zone-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk


Golden Eagle


American Kestrel


Peregrine Falcon


Prairie Falcon


Montezuma Quail


Scaled Quail  

Gambel's Quail


Sandhill Crane


Rock Dove


Band-tailed Pigeon


White-winged Dove


Mourning Dove


Inca Dove  
Eurasian Collared Dove  

Common Ground-dove


Greater Roadrunner


Western Screech-owl


Great Horned Owl


Northern Pygmy Owl


Elf Owl


Spotted Owl


Lesser Nighthawk


Common Poorwill




White-throated Swift


Broad-billed Hummingbird


White-eared Hummingbird


Berylline Hummingbird  

Violet-crowned Hummingbird


Blue-throated Hummingbird


Magnificent Hummingbird


Lucifer Hummingbird


Black-chinned Hummingbird


Anna's Hummingbird


Costa's Hummingbird


Calliope Hummingbird


Broad-tailed Hummingbird


Rufous Hummingbird


Allen's Hummingbird


Elegant Trogon


Eared Trogon


Acorn Woodpecker


Red-naped Sapsucker


Williamson's Sapsucker


Ladder-backed Woodpecker


Arizona Woodpecker


Northern Flicker


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Western Wood-pewee


Willow Flycatcher


Hammond 's Flycatcher


Cordilleran Flycatcher


Black Phoebe


Say's Phoebe


Dusky-capped Flycatcher


Ash-throated Flycatcher


Brown-crested Flycatcher


Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher


Cassin's Kingbird


Western Kingbird


Violet-green Swallow


N. Rough-winged Swallow


Cliff Swallow


Barn Swallow


Western Scrub-jay


Pinyon Jay  

Mexican Jay


Chihuahuan Raven


Common Raven


Bridled Titmouse


Juniper Titmouse






White-breasted Nuthatch


Brown Creeper


Cactus Wren


Canyon Wren


Bewick's Wren


House Wren


Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Townsend's Solitaire


Hermit Thrush


American Robin


Northern Mockingbird


Sage Thrasher


Curve-billed Thrasher


Crissal Thrasher


Cedar Waxwing




European Starling


Bell 's Vireo


Plumbeous Vireo


Cassin's Vireo


Hutton's Vireo


Warbling Vireo


Yellow-green Vireo


Orange-crowned Warbler


Nashville Warbler


Virginia 's Warbler


Lucy's Warbler


Yellow Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler  

Yellow-rumped Warbler


Black-throated Gray Warbler


Townsend's Warbler


Hermit Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Northern Waterthrush


MacGillivray's Warbler


Wilson's Warbler


American Redstart  

Painted Redstart


Olive Warbler


Hepatic Tanager


Summer Tanager


Western Tanager


Northern Cardinal




Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Black-headed Grosbeak


Blue Grosbeak


Lazuli Bunting


Painted Bunting


Green-tailed Towhee


Spotted Towhee


Canyon Towhee


Rufous-crowned Sparrow


Chipping Sparrow


Brewer's Sparrow


Black-chinned Sparrow


Vesper Sparrow


Lark Sparrow


Black-throated Sparrow


Lark Bunting


Fox Sparrow


Song Sparrow


Lincoln 's Sparrow


White-throated Sparrow


Golden-crowned Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow


Harris's Sparrow


Dark-eyed Junco


Yellow-eyed Junco


Common Grackle


Bronzed Cowbird


Brown-headed Cowbird


Hooded Oriole


Bullock's Oriole


Scott's Oriole


Cassin's Finch


House Finch


Red Crossbill


Pine Siskin


Lesser Goldfinch


American Goldfinch


House Sparrow


Click here for a printer friendly Ranch Checklist of birds

Click here for a printer friendly Chirircahua Checklist of Birds

Click here for spring arrival dates

Reservations and Information: 520-558-2334, email

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