This 15-mile-long mountain range within Coronado National Forest is home to Elegant Trogon, Plain-capped Starthroat, and other southwestern specialties.
By Jennie MacFarland | Published: 6/28/2016
Many birders are familiar with the town of Patagonia, in southeastern Arizona, for its small but famous birding destinations. Less well known but just as marvelous are the Patagonia Mountains to the east. The first time I visited the sky-island range, I found the abundance of species that places like Madera Canyon are famous for, and I was amazed at how easy the birds were to find.
In the summer months, I have seen vibrant male Elegant Trogons calling from the large sycamore trees that line Harshaw Rd. and heard the squeaky-toy call of Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers. Flocks of Bridled Titmice forage in nearby lush oaks, while Hutton’s Vireos sing their repetitive song.
Eastern Bluebirds of the ‘Azure’ subspecies are restricted to the Sierra Madre Mountains of western Mexico and a tiny portion of southeastern Arizona. They’re common residents of the Patagonias’ tree-lined meadows. The area is also where I have encountered lots of Montezuma Quail. They may startle you when they explode into flight — fluttering straight up and then zooming away just above the ground.
The Patagonia Mountains take you off the beaten path — and into sky-island birding at its best. — Jennie MacFarland
Jennie MacFarland is the conservation biologist for the Tucson Audubon Society and the coordinator of the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program and the Tucson Bird Count. She also wrote about Tanque Verde Wash, Hotspot Near You No. 221, in Tucson.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Oak/juniper woodlands with large sycamore trees lining drainages that parallel and cross the main road.
Well-maintained dirt road, flat and easy to walk, suitable for passenger vehicles most of time; summer rains can make travel difficult.
197 species. Year-round: Montezuma Quail, Eastern ‘Azure’ Bluebird, Arizona and Acorn Woodpeckers, Hutton’s Vireo, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Verdin, Bushtit, Rock, Canyon, and Bewick’s Wrens, Painted Redstart, Rufous-winged and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Canyon Towhee. Spring: Gray Hawk, Elf Owl, Whiskered Screech-Owl, Mexican Whip-poor-will, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Lucy’s Warbler, Hepatic Tanager, Scott’s Oriole. Summer: Elegant Trogon, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Plain-capped Starthroat, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Thick-billed Kingbird, Varied Bunting. Migration: Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Virginia’s Warbler, Lazuli Bunting.
When to go
Spring through fall.
None. Food, water, and restrooms in Patagonia.
Forest Service land. Birding is excellent from Harshaw Rd. as well as along numbered Forest Service roads that intersect it; some difficult to drive but suitable for hiking.
Bring water and snacks. Stay oriented on main road, Harshaw Rd. When you finish birding, simply turn around and follow it back to Patagonia. Be sure to bring a map.
For more info
Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave., Patagonia. Feeders attract many species, including Violet-crowned Hummingbird.
Patagonia Roadside Rest Area
3.5 miles south of Patagonia on Hwy. 82. More than 200 species. Thick-billed Kingbird in summer.