Just about every birder with a life list in North America knows that Southeast Arizona is birding Disneyland. If they haven’t been, they are probably planning a trip. At the very least they have been subjected to countless enthusiastic “You gotta goooooo!” admonishments from fellow bird nerds.
Between the abundant and varied ecosystems of the Madrean Sky Islands and the abundant and varied food sources—well over 300 species of bugs, insects and spiders; native fruits and seeds, and the backyard installations of many a birdwatcher—the array of avian life that is drawn to this region is boggling. More than 500 species have been observed here and Arizona doesn’t even have a coastline! The Sky Islands attract regular visitors from Mexico that are rarely seen anywhere else in the US—elegant trogon, tufted flycatcher, streak-backed oriole, green kingfisher, white-eared hummingbird, berylline hummingbird—it’s no wonder that birders contribute $1.5 billion to Arizona’s economy every year.
Winter migrants to the area include large flocks of Sandhill Cranes, feted during the Wings over Willcox festival, 90 minutes east of Green Valley. Professionally-guided photography tours are a feature of this popular annual event celebrating its 25th year in 2018.
Green Valley, Arizona is just about the best “base camp” imaginable for active adults who enjoy birding. The Chiricahua Mountains, Huachuca Mountains, Patagonia, San Rafael Valley, Santa Cruz River and flats—these are only a few of the famous birding destinations within a few hours’ drive. Just twelve miles across the valley is Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains—an internationally famous birding destination that local birders treat like a great big back yard. Many a friendship has been made among birders who encounter each other on the trails again and again. Green Valley birders meet up and car pool to various nearby destinations every week from October to April. A number of guide services provide both personalized and programmed tours. The Tucson Audubon society offers tours all over Southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico, publishes an outstanding guide to finding the birds, and hosts a number of annual birding events, workshops and surveys.
Green Valley is affordable, beautiful, quiet, easy, and situated for maximum nature-loving opportunity. Plan a visit! Rent a small villa for a month, or bring friends and fill a house. Between April and September, there is no shortage of long-term lodging. Two summertime birding festivals, Southwest Wings in Sierra Vista (90 minutes away) and the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival attest to the outstanding birding the monsoon season provides. Pick up a copy of Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona and start planning to expand your life list!