California Gulch IBA

California GulchSize: 3.2 square miles, 2,042 acres

Identified: 07/2002

Visiting the IBA: From the town of Arivaca drive south on the Ruby Road for less than 11 miles and take the second FR 217 turnoff that is prominently marked by a Forest Service “CALIF. GULCH” sign. The road is rugged and requires a high clearance vehicle. Audubon chapters occasionally lead field trips to this IBA. Detailed instructions can be found in the book Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona.

Ownership: Coronado National Forest

Site Description: In the remote Pajarito Mountains of southeast Arizona California Gulch IBA is a unique thornscrub vegetated canyon. California Gulch IBA is 5 miles west of Sycamore Canyon IBA. The canyon is unique with its dense shrub layer on its steep sides, and a perennial spring-fed stream draining into Mexico.

Elegant Trogon by Marcel Holyoak

Elegant Trogon by Marcel Holyoak

Birds: This area is well known among birders for the rare species found here at times.California Gulch IBA - bird on map

Year-round: Montezuma Quail, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Cactus Wren, and Black-throated Sparrow

Breeding: California Gulch has a small but consistent population of Five-striped Sparrows (10 to 15 pairs), Gray Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Elegant Trogon, Tropical Kingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Rose-throated Becard, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Lucy’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Varied Bunting, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Bell’s Vireo, Purple Martin, Abert’s Towhee, and Buff-collared Nightjar, a rare species in Arizona.

Migration: Rufous Hummingbird, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Gray Vireo, Tree Swallow, Hermit Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Virginia’s Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak. Winter: Red-naped Sapsucker, Gray Flycatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend’s Solitaire, Green-tailed Towhee.

eBird focus species: Five-striped Sparrow, Gray Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Elegant Trogon, Tropical Kingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Montezuma Quail, Lucy’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Varied Bunting, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Bell’s Vireo, Purple Martin, and Abert’s Towhee.

Conservation Issues: Poor water quality from past mining activities, grazing, and illegal activities (drugs and immigrants).

Conservation Strategies: Border enforcement, Coronado Forest land management plan.

Maps of this Important Bird Area:

California Gulch IBA GIS Map

California Gulch IBA GIS Map

California Gulch IBA GIS Map - zoomed out

California Gulch IBA GIS Map – zoomed out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State of the IBAs 2014 Baseline – More Technical info about the status of this Important Bird Area

National Audubon Profile Page for California Gulch IBA

Complete eBird.org Checklist of birds Reported for California Gulch IBA

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.

Location: 31.4145°N:  111.2394°W

County: Santa Cruz

Site Status: Identified 07/2002

Ownership: Coronado National Forest

Area: 3.2 square miles, 2042 acres

Criteria: B1: Continental (Potential): Species of Conservation Concern  (5-stripped Sparrow, Montezuma Quail)

D1: State: State Species of Conservation Concern

D3: State: Species in rare/unique habitat

IBA07

Site Description:

In the remote Pajarito Mountains of southeast Arizona, California Gulch, a unique thorn-scrub vegetated canyon, has been identified as an IBA in Arizona. California Gulch IBA is 5 miles west of Sycamore Canyon IBA. It is accessed from Ruby Road by a rugged road south into the drainage. The canyon is unique with its dense shrub layer on its steep sides, and a perennial spring-fed stream draining into Mexico.

Vegetation Description Hectares
ENCINAL OAK COMMUNITIES 54679.32

Ornithological Summary:

Species or group Season Maximum Year
Five-striped Sparrow Breeding 12 individuals 1991
Montezuma Quail Resident Common 2002
Lucy’s Warbler Breeding Abundant 1993
Riparian Habitat Breeding 6 species of conservation concern: Gray Hawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tropical Kingbird, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Lucy’s Warbler, and Varied Bunting 2004
Five Striped Sparrow by Marcel Holyoak

Five Striped Sparrow by Marcel Holyoak

California Gulch has a small but consistent population of Five-striped Sparrows (10 to 15 pairs), a Species of Conservation Status (National PIF Watchlist). This species probably has the smallest regularly occupied breeding range of any bird in the U.S. (excluding island nesters), which is localized to the Pajarito Mountains and Patagonia Mountains (and sometimes the southern Santa Rita Mountains This IBA has probably the best habitat for Five-striped Sparrow within their U.S. range. Additionally, the canyon supports nesting Gray Hawk, Montezuma Quail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Tropical Kingbird, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and Lucy’s Warbler (very abundant), all of which are Species of Conservation Status. The canyon also supports Buff-collared Nightjar (3 pairs, M. Stevenson pers. com.) a rare species in Arizona.

Conservation Issues:

Cattle grazing in the area is an impact to the riparian vegetation, causes erosion, and degrades stream water quality. Illegal immigrant passage and drug smuggling are serious concerns, affecting both habitat quality and human visitor safety. Past mining activities may be a concern due to soil/water contamination.