Tucson Mountains IBA

Tucson Mountains by Derek DeVries

Tucson Mountains by Derek DeVries

Size: 73.2 square miles, 190.9 square kilometers.

Elevation: 2500 to 4688 feet

Identified: 3/20/2017

Visiting the IBA: From Tucson: Located west of Tucson and can be easily accessed via Speedway to Kinney or from the northwest via Picture Rocks Rd. Virtually all of this land is open to the public and there are some very well-known recreation areas favored by birders such as Gates Pass, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, the David Yetman Trail, and many trails in Saguaro National Park.

Ownership: National Park, County Park and Bureau of Land Management.

Site Description: This IBA consists of the following public lands: Saguaro National Park (Tucson Mountain District), Tucson Mountain Park (Pima County), and Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. This IBA centers on the Tucson Mountains and adjacent Upland Sonoran Desert habitat.


Purple Martin Male and Female by Rick Leche

Purple Martin Male and Female by Rick Leche

Year-round: Gilded Flicker, Gila Woodpecker, Gambel’s Quail, Cactus Wren, Greater Roadrunner, Abert’s Towhee, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Costa’s Hummingbird, Harris’s Hawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Black-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia.

Breeding: Bell’s Vireo, White-winged Dove, Elf Owl, Western Screech Owl, Purple Martin, Lucy’s Warbler, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Hooded Oriole.

Migration: Wilson’s Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Rufous Hummingbird.

Winter: Brewer’s Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Conservation Issues: This area is used for many purposes and its proximity to Arizona’s second largest city has caused it to be used heavily for recreation. The National Forest portion of this IBA is used for recreation and logging. The small portion of BLM land does have some grazing, but the main use of this entire IBA is habitat preservation and recreation. Land use is approximately 80% recreation, 10% transportation and 10% grazing.

Other issues include invasive species, fire and habitat fragmentation caused by urbanization.

Conservation Steward: Friends of Saguaro National Park.

Maps of this Important Bird Area:

Tucson Mountains Topography

Tucson Mountains Topography

Tucson Mountains Imagery

Tucson Mountains Imagery





For an interactive map and habitat and land ownership analysis of this IBA visit the National Audubon IBA Map and select “Arizona” and then the name of this Important Bird Area. To access analysis graphs, click on the map boundary of the IBA.


State of the IBAs 2017 Baseline – More Technical info about the status of this Important Bird Area

County: Pima.

Site Status: granted IBA status 3/20/2017.

Criteria: D1: Site important to Special Status Avian Species.

D3: Rare, Unique, or Exceptional Representative Habitat/Ecological Community – Upland Sonoran Desert – some of the densest stands of saguaros in the world.

Gila Monster by Ashley Tubbs

Gila Monster by Ashley Tubbs

Site Details: The Sonoran Desert has a greater diversity of life forms and plant communities than the other North American deserts. The Tucson Mountains are a small, isolated desert range west of Tucson in southern Arizona. Some of the densest stands of saguaro to be found anywhere on earth are within this IBA. The Tucson Mountains are a floristically rich area due to several factors, especially geographic location, elevational range, and habitat diversity.

Overall, the fauna of the Tucson Mountains is similar to the wildlife found in the Sonoran desertscrub of the eastern part of this IBA; conspicuous resident vertebrates include mule deer, coyote, javelina, gray fox, bobcat, Gambel’s Quail, Greater Roadrunner, western diamondback rattlesnake, and Gila monster. However, the Tucson Mountain area is lower in elevation (2,200’-4,687’), flatter, and sandier than the eastern portion of the IBA and thus contains some faunal elements associated with the Lower Colorado River subdivision of the Sonoran desert, such as kit fox, desert iguana, long-nosed leopard lizard, and sidewinder.

Ornithological Summary:

Lucy's Warbler by Henry McLin

Lucy’s Warbler by Henry McLin

This IBA qualifies for Continental status for Gilded Flicker, Elf Owl and Costa’s Hummingbird. Costa’s Hummingbird is found abundantly in the saguaro uplands habitat. Other bird species of interest include: Gila Woodpecker and Bell’s Vireos in the lower elevations. Desert Purple Martins (eBird high count 30) favor the saguaro upland habitat and use cavities in the cacti made by woodpeckers as nest holes. This IBA is excellent for Lucy’s Warbler and Abert’s Towhees. In several different elevation zones Canyon Towhees can be encountered. This area is also great for sparrows including Rufous-crowned Sparrows and Rufous-winged Sparrow, and in the winter significant numbers of Brewer’s Sparrows in different elevation zones.