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.