Select Page

Southeast Arizona Rare Bird Alert

This update of Tucson Audubon Society’s Rare Bird Alert for Southeast Arizona was made on September 20, 2019. The next update will be made on September 27.

SEVERAL IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS follow the sightings, including information on temporary closures and rules for access to other important birding areas. Abbreviation “m.ob.” = multiple observers. An asterisk (*) preceding a species name in the list indicates that it merits careful, full documentation. A pound sign (#) indicates that brief corroborating details are warranted.



#Tricolored Heron
#Sabine’s Gull
Caspian Tern
#White-eared Hummingbird
#Berylline Hummingbird
#Plain-capped Starthroat
#Lucifer Hummingbird
#Black-capped Gnatcatcher
#Chestnut-sided Warbler
#Louisiana Waterthrush
#Rufous-capped Warbler
#Clay-colored Sparrow
#Painted Bunting


A *BLACKPOLL WARBLER was photographed on the north side of James Kriegh Park in Oro Valley on 9/19 (Tim DeJonghe).
A *PURPLE GALLINULE continued through 9/17 (m.ob.) along the Santa Cruz River between Congress St. and St Mary’s Rd. but was not reported subsequently. It was frequenting the east bank (under a willow tree) just east of the intersection of Bonita Ave and Alameda St. (see A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported on 9/16 and 9/18 (m.ob.); a #PAINTED BUNTING and four #CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS were reported here on 9/17 (Levi Plummer).
A #TRICOLORED HERON continued at Sweetwater Wetlands on 9/19 (Larry Norris). It has been infrequently seen; morning and evening seem to be the best bet for catching it in flight.
A #CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER was reported in Marshall Gulch behind the restrooms on Mt Lemmon on 9/19 (Bob Perna).
Flyover #DICKCISSELS continued to be widely reported in the Tucson area: 13 on four days in southeast Tucson (Brian Gibbons), Oro Valley on 9/16 (Michael Welch), and east Tucson on 9/16 and 9/20 (Adam Dudley).
A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported at the golf course pond behind the Hardesty Building at 22nd and Alvernon on 9/17 (Mark Stevenson, Molly Pollock) and another at nearby Reid Park on 9/16 and 9/17(m.ob.). #DICKCISSELS were in both spots on 9/17 and 9/18 (m.ob.).
A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported at the El Rio Open Space in Marana on 9/17 (Andrew Core). Annotated map:
A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS was reported at the Columbus Weed Patch along Rillito River Park on 9/16 (Scott Crabtree).
A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported at Rio Vista Natural Resource Park on 9/14 (Scott Olmstead) and continued through 9/20 (Scott Crabtree).
Not necessarily rare for the region but in an extraordinary location, a Baird’s Sparrow was photographed at almost 9,000 ft elevation near the top of Mt Lemmon on 9/15 (Marty Herde) and continued on 9/16 (m.ob.).

In Florida Canyon (annotated map:, a *TROPICAL PARULA continued this week through 9/20 (m.ob.); it was seen near the large water tank and near the metal gate. The original location of discovery last week was about 100 yards past the dam. Directions: About 400 yards from parking lot is a metal gate, and just past the gate the canyon forks. The main trail follows the East Fork, but most sightings have been in the West Fork to the right. About 125 yards up the rough trail in the West Fork is a large water tank and a low dam. The oak grove is about 1/3 mile past the dam. Note: The trail for the West Fork can be difficult to find, and is steep and rough in places. If you see the sign with distances to Florida Saddle, Madera Canyon, etc you’ve missed the turn. #BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS continued this week (m.ob.); they’ve been seen near the Florida Canyon parking area and a short distance up the trail, and at the old corral at FR488 & 62A. It is not necessary, recommended or permissible to enter the research station to see these birds. A #DICKCISSEL was photographed between Florida and Box Canyons on 9/16 (Eric Kallen).
At Canoa Ranch Conservation Park at least one #DICKCISSEL continued through 9/16 (m.ob.) and up to 5 were reported this week – they were generally seen in the mesquite trees and weedy field east of the pond. A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW continued through 9/20 (m.ob.). A Caspian Tern was reported on 9/20 (Chris O’Connell, Guy David), and two #PAINTED BUNTINGS were reported on 9/14 (Brian Nicholas).
#DICKCISSELs were also reported in Marana on 9/3 (Richard Fray), Oro Valley on 9/5 (Ken Murphy) and from a southeast Tucson yard on 9/2 and 9/6 (Brian Gibbons).
A #SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was reported at the Green Valley WWTP on 9/14 (Larry Schmahl). At last check, the facility is open only on weekends.
In Montosa Canyon (annotated map: #BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS continued this week (Patricia Isaacson) near the culvert, upstream of the concrete stream crossing.

TUBAC area (annotated map:
*ROSE-THROATED BECARDS continued on the east bank of the river about 1/4 mile north of the Tubac bridge through 9/15 (Jeff Kietzmann). There is a footbridge to the east side just north of the main bridge – follow the trail north. The easiest place to start looking is near the bright orange plastic lid about 150 yards past the old nests from last year.

A #SABINE’S GULL and a #LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH were reported at Parker Canyon Lake on 9/14 (Deidre Asbjorn).

PORTAL & the CHIRICAHUAS (annotated map:
A #BERYLLINE HUMMINGBIRD(s) continued to be see along Crystal Cave Trail ( on FR 42A just west of the Southwestern Research Station through 9/11 (m.ob.) and at the Southwestern Research Station through 9/14 (m.ob.).
#LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRDS continued in a yard in Whitetail Canyon this week, and a #DICKCISSEL was reported on 9/19 (Rick Taylor).
In Portal, #LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRDS continued in several yards this week (m.ob.). A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported in a yard on 9/11 (Rose Ann Rowlett).
#CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS and a #LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD continued this week in a yard near Horseshoe Canyon (Dawn Zappone).
#CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS were reported in many locations this week: 3-4 at Willow Tank on 9/15 (Dawn Zappone) and 9/16 (Rick Taylor), 5 along Stateline Rd on 9/16 (Rick Taylor), 4 at San Simon Cienega on 9/17 (Rose Ann Rowlett), and 8 in a Portal yard 9/15 and 9/17 (Rose Ann Rowlett).
#DICKCISSELS were reported in Portal yards and Willow Tank this week (m.ob.).
At least 60 #CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS and 8 #DICKCISSELS were reported from an alfalfa field at the corner of Stateline Rd and Sulphur Canyon Road on 9/15 (Richard Webster); the field was being mowed and most of the bird had departed on 9/18.

#LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRDS continued at Ash Canyon B&B this week (m.ob.); a #WHITE-EARED HUMMINGBIRD was reported again on 9/17 (Robert Gallucci).
At the San Pedro House, a #LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH continued this week (m.ob.) between markers #6 and #7 south of the bridge.
In Miller Canyon, a #PLAIN-CAPPED STARTHROAT was reported on 9/15 (David Palmer). A #RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER was reported on 9/14 (Charlie Bostwick) at Split Rock about a mile from the parking area.
A #DICKCISSEL was reported on 9/15 (Theresa Lawson) at the Sierra Vista Municipal Airport.

A #LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD was reported at the Paton Center for Hummingbirds on 9/17 (Cindy Madson).

A #CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER was reported at Dankworth Pond on 9/17 (Hinde Silver). It was photographed on 9/18 and 9/19 (Kelly Wright).

#RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLERS continued in Sycamore Canyon in the Pajarito Mountains (Atascosa Highlands) this week (m.ob.); two have been seen 1/2 mile from the trailhead at the confluence with Montana Canyon and another pair was further downstream just before the Upper Box area. #BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS were photographed on 9/14 (Ethan Beasley).
A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported at the Pesqueira Pit ( on 9/16 (Cynthia & Jim Krakowski).
At Pena Blanca Lake (annotated map:, two #PAINTED BUNTINGS and a #DICKCISSEL were reported on 9/18 (Richard Fray); a #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, a #PAINTED BUNTING and a #DICKCISSEL were reported on 9/19 (Cynthia & Jim Krakowski). One #DICKCISSEL continued on 9/20 (Leona Mukai).

A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported along Curly Horse Ranch Rd on 9/18 (Tim Helentjaris).

A #CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was reported in a yard in the Dragoon Mountains on 9/14 (Arlene Ripley).

A #DICKCISSEL was reported on 9/16 (Alan Schmierer) at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.

Good birding!

-Andrew Core, Rare Bird Alert Compiler


Directions to Birding Sites
Where directions are not given, they can be found in the newest edition of Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, published by and available from Tucson Audubon Nature Shop.

Methodology of this Report
The sequence of sightings in this report is not random. Species are listed by order of overall rarity within locality. The first locality mentioned contains the rarest species seen during the reporting period. Within that locality, species are mentioned in relative-rarity order or in taxonomic order, if relative rarity is the same, within sub-locality. When the sightings for a locality are complete, the rarest remaining species dictates which locality is mentioned next, and so forth. At any point when 2 or more species are of the same relative rarity, taxonomic order then determines the sequence in which the localities are covered. Consequently, the order in which localities are mentioned will vary from one report to the next.

Contributors are listed in the text. The spelling of names given over the phone is not guaranteed to be accurate. Any errors or omissions are unintentional.


The revised 8th edition of Finding Birds in SE Arizona (2015) is the current edition. Addendum to the revised 8th edition is available at:

TUCSON – Mosquito control operations are scheduled at Sweetwater Wetlands from 6:30-9:00 am on Mondays.  The gate will open when operations are finished. Roger Road WRF was closed as of 1/10/2014 and it is uncertain when access will be allowed again.

The gravel pit at the south end of Renaissance Ave may be viewed from outside the fence, but do not enter the pit. Similarly, the fields at the intersection of nearby Indian Agency Rd/Los Reales Rd. may be viewed from the road, but the pit is posted “No Trespassing”.

EL RIO OPEN SPACE PRESERVE/COACHLINE GRAVEL PIT – park in the dirt lot along the south edge near the berm, not in the neighborhood to the west. Annotated map:

GREEN VALLEY WRF – Under construction, access on weekends only for now. Protocol for visiting when open: use the call box at the gate, sign in at the office on the west side of the complex before birding, and stay away from buildings and construction equipment. If gate is open, proceed to office to sign in. Sign out when finished. If you’d like to call ahead, you can try at 520-625-0025. Map:

ASH CANYON – Ash Canyon B&B is open dawn to dusk daily, except for Wednesdays.

PATAGONIA – Patagonia Ranch Estates has posted signs that say “No Hunting – No Camping – No Parking” but birders may continue to look along Circulo Montana for grassland sparrows according to Alan Schmierer (July 2017). This is the neighborhood on the west side of the Patagonia Lake State Park entrance road.

FORT HUACHUCA – is an active military installation and will suspend your driving privileges on Post for 30 days on your first offense for talking or using a cell phone while driving. You MUST use a hands free device. Current entry requirements (subject to change without notice): US citizens should be prepared to show photo ID for everyone in the vehicle at the entrance, and possibly your vehicle registration and insurance as well. Foreign nationals must be accompanied by an approved military escort; contact the base (520.533.7111), or possibly the Sierra Vista Visitor’s Bureau (520.417.6960) well in advance.

IMPORTANT: Ft. Huachuca has posted information on access requirements on its official webpage at – look for the “Gate Information” tab on the left side of the homepage. Read the information at the “Visitors Access” button. If you click the “Installation Access Forms” button, you can see the information you’ll have to provide to get access. The Visitor Control Center is located at the Van Deman Gate on Hwy 90 and opens at 5:00 am.

ACCESS NOTE: apparently some states driver’s licenses do not meet federal requirements for base entry (IL, MN, MO, NM, and WA); see for details.

ACCESS NOTE: Despite the signage, as of March 2016 Garden Canyon was indeed now open to vehicles up to the upper picnic area and foot traffic beyond this. As of late July 2016, it was reported that it was open all the way to the top.

SANTA CRUZ FLATS – Management at the Evergreen Turf Sod Farm has asked birders not to drive into the property (i.e., the 2750 road); birding from perimeter roads (i.e., Tweedy or Pretzer) is still fine.

BAIRD’S SPARROW HILL AND THE VACA RANCH CORRAL in the San Rafael Valley is off limits to birders due to the thoughtless actions of a few birders. DO NOT ENTER THE PROPERTY.  A sign has been posted previously stating that “stopping within 0.25 mile of the corral is prohibited.”

The Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department’s  security procedures and rules are subject to change any time. Please see this link for important information regarding access: Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

  • AVRA VALLEY WRF: Gates open at 6AM and close PROMPTLY at 2PM (do not linger, you will be locked inside). UPDATE: under construction; if the gate is locked, use the call box to request access (not guaranteed). Due to ongoing construction, birders are advised to call ahead at 520-577-7341 to check on access.
  • ROGER ROAD WRF: closed
  • NOGALES STP: closed



California Gulch annotated map:


Ramsey Canyon:
Hunter Canyon


Portal annotated map:


Madera Canyon annotated map:
Florida Canyon annotated map:
Green Valley WRF:


Patagonia Lake annotated map:
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve annotated map:

TUBAC area

Tubac annotated map:
Puerto Canyon map:


Slaughter Ranch and San Bernardino NWR annotated map:

Birding Southeast Arizona App

A great interactive companion to our Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona, our new app covers over 130 birding sites in six subregions in and around Tucson, all vetted by local experts. Search by nearest site, by bird, or by city and get exact directions! Keep track of your sightings and share with friends on Facebook.

Learn more and download now!

Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona

Revised 8th Edition, 2015
Tucson Audubon’s updated edition brings together all the latest information on finding birds in southeast Arizona. This is your best source of detailed information that will help in planning bird watching adventures in the region.

Learn more

Sweetwater Wetlands

Sweetwater Wetlands is a gem of urban bird and wildlife activity right in urban Tucson. 306 bird species have been documented here. Join our weekly bird walks on Wednesdays and see what you can find!

Learn more

email-iconSign up for email updates. Stay Informed!

Choose from weekly updates, volunteer news, conservation alerts, Paton Center news, Habitat at Home news and more.

Sign up here


Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120 Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447


Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447


Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447