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

  • 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
  • Whip-poor-will
  • 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
  • Verdin
  • Bushtit
  • 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
  • Phainopepla
  • 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
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • 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