Overview

Arizona boasts the third highest total of bird species by state in the United States, pretty impressive for being completely landlocked. In particular, the southeast corner holds the highest diversity due to the confluence of eastern and western species and many southern species that just spill over the international border here. Southeast Arizona is a land of contrasts, where rugged, forested mountains form “sky islands” within the Sonoran Desert. Rivers, like the Santa Cruz and San Pedro, flow slowly across arid valleys, creating ribbons of greenery along their banks by supporting cottonwoods and willows. Middle elevations are covered by rich grasslands and juniper-oak woodland while the highest elevations harbor mixed coniferous forests. In between, one finds desert areas dominated by impressive saguaro cacti, dense mesquite thickets, man-made wetlands that are magnets for water birds, and ancient stands of sycamores along creeks and canyons. This variety of habitats packed into a relatively small area is home to the greatest diversity of breeding birds in the United States.

Many species from further south reach their range limits in southeastern Arizona and occur nowhere else in the country. This tour will focus on these southeast Arizona specialties, southwest desert birds, and the spectacular variety of nocturnal birds that can be found here, including up to eight species of owls and four species of nightjars. Some of the specialty species we seek include Montezuma Quail, Grey and Zone-tailed Hawks, Elegant Trogon, Arizona Woodpecker, Gilded Flicker, Greater Pewee, Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped and Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Tropical and Thick-billed Kingbirds, Bendire’s and Crissal Thrashers, Olive, Virginia’s, Lucy’s, Grace’s and Red-faced Warblers, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Abert’s Towhee, Rufous-winged, Five-striped, Cassin’s and Botteri’s Sparrows, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Varied Bunting. Some rarer possibilities include Short-tailed Hawk, Rose-throated Becard, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Rufous-capped Warbler, and Flame-colored Tanager.

Southeast Arizona is also the hummingbird capital of the United States and we will search for Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, Blue-throated Mountain-Gem, Rivoli's, Black-chinned, Anna’s, Broad-tailed and Lucifer Hummingbirds. The canyons and mountains here also offer some of the most productive night birding anywhere and we will conduct several evening outings or search for species on day roosts. Possibilities include Whiskered and Western Screech-owls, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Flammulated, and the impressive Spotted Owls. Among nightjars, we will look for Mexican Whip-poor-will, Common Poorwill, Lesser Nighthawk, and the exceedingly rare Buff-collared Nightjar. These nocturnal outings can also be productive for mammals, including Collared Peccary, Black Bear, several species of skunks, Ringtail, Bobcat, and even Mountain Lions still roam these wilderness areas. Our itinerary will take us from the desert around Tucson to the famous sky islands of the Santa Rita, Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains through the Patagonia and Sonoita Creek areas and the unique California Gulch.

Tour Facts Top Birds
Montezuma Quail; Grey & Zone-tailed Hawks; Elegant Trogon; Arizona Woodpecker; Gilded Flicker; Greater Pewee; Buff-breasted & Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers; Thick-billed Kingbird; LeConte’s, Bendire’s, & Crissal Thrashers; Olive, Lucy’s, and Red-faced Warblers; Abert’s Towhee; Rufous-winged, Five-striped, & Botteri’s Sparrows; Yellow-eyed Junco; Varied Bunting; Violet-crowned, Blue-throated Mountain-Gem, Rivoli's, Broad-billed & Lucifer Hummingbirds; Whiskered Screech-owl; Flammulated, Elf & Spotted Owls.
Top Mammals
Collared Peccary; Black Bear; Ringtail; Bobcat; Mountain Lion (very rare).
Habitats Covered
Desert flats and scrub, mesquite thickets, grassland, riparian forest, and mountain coniferous forests.
Expected Climate
Spring is an ideal time for warm to mild temperatures in the mountains 20℃ (70℉), low lying desert areas can become hot during the day with temperatures exceeding 32℃ (90℉). Mornings could be cool at higher elevations, carry at least one warm layer. Throughout the tour, sunny and dry conditions prevail.
Max Group Size
14 with 1 Rockjumper Leader and 1 Highlonesome Leader
Tour Pace & Walking
easy, but some early mornings and later evenings, one moderate hike (optional), few long drives
Accommodation
very comfortable hotels; some fine local restaurants
Ease of Birding
mostly easy with a few difficult species
Number of Species Expected
140 - 150
Other Attractions
wonderful scenery, mountain views, wild west landscapes, historical towns, Spanish missions and historical parks
Photographic Opportunities
good to excellent
Tour Route Map Route Map Client Testimonials

Stephan & Claudia were so hardworking, friendly & fun! And I feel their personal efforts made a huge impact for our first ever RJ birding tour, a success.

Stephan & Claudia were so hardworking, friendly & fun! And I feel their personal efforts made a huge impact for our first ever RJ birding tour, a success.

The hotel was a very nice place to stay and it was so nice staying in one place the entire tour. Stephan was an excellent guide and a very safe driver, He went out of his way to find the birds for us and he made sure that everyone saw them. I also admired Stephan's concern for other wildlife and how he would make the effort to move them to a safer location.

The group saw 24 warblers (me 21) & I was elated!! Not to mention all the other quality birds. Stephen was superb. There were 13 of us & tho a high count of clients by RBT standards, it worked very well-we were lucky too-a fallout. Thanks Stephan thanks RBT.

It is great to be traveling again, even if it is a short domestic trip. But I don’t want to sell the tour short. It really was an excellent short tour. We saw a great number of migrating warblers and shorebirds. Stephan Lorenz has an uncanny ability to find the one special shorebird or a rare migrating warbler buried in the bushes. He is also kind, informative and always helpful. And a special thanks to Claudia for her help with the driving and coordination.

Dates, Leaders and Pricing
2022 DEPARTURES
2023 DEPARTURES
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