Welcome to Audubon’s Arizona Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program!

Elegant Trogon Surveys of SE ArizonaElegant Trogon in Corral Canyon Patagonia Mountains by Laurens Halsey May 2014

Southeast Arizona is lucky enough to have nesting Elegant Trogons every spring and summer. But how many are there? You can help us find out. Every year Tucson Audubon coordinates a massive survey effort of 5 different sky island mountain ranges in May and June. For more info and to sign up visit the Elegant Trogon Survey Page
Surveyors should be familiar with trogons (or willing to learn about them before survey day) and able to navigate uneven terrain and tolerate hot temperatures.

Saturday May 18 – Atascosas (near Nogales)
Saturday May 25 – Patagonias (near Patagonia)
Sunday May 26 – Santa Ritas (near Green Valley)
Saturday June 1 – Huachucas (near Sierra Vista)
Sunday June 2 – Chiricahuas (near Portal)

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Surveys coming up this summerYBCU flyer_Mick

Tucson Audubon will be coordinating Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys this summer in a very similar effort to what we did last summer. We will be surveying in three mountain ranges for a total of nine survey routes. Our volunteer surveyors are invited to help with these surveys again soon with sign up links forthcoming. There is also a separate survey effort happening in SE Arizona Sky Islands that is not being coordinated by Tucson Audubon but is being led by Nick Beauregard of Northern Arizona University. Nick needs help with his surveys as well and we wanted to make sure you all knew about this opportunity. More information about Nick’s survey project of SE Arizona Sky Islands is here.

s Warbler by Henry McLinLucy’s Warbler Foraging Study

Tucson Audubon has set out to study how Lucy’s Warblers use native and non-native types of mesquites as a food source. This is part of our larger effort to determine what Lucy’s Warblers need to successfully nest in urban Tucson which includes our nestbox experiment. We would love your help in watching Lucy’s Warblers forage for insects in locations where both types are present. More info here


2018-2019 Winter Grassland Survey SeasonChestnut-collared Longspur Davis Pasture 18-0116 06 (1)_edited_small

Join us for this winters’s grassland surveys

Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus) is a charismatic grassland bird that has declined by more than 87% since 1966, with an estimated 33% decline within 2003-2015. It has been listed as Near Threatened since 2004 on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and this year was elevated to Vulnerable status, which is one step below Endangered. Chestnut-collared Longspurs nest in the Great Plains in north-central U.S. and winter in short grass prairie and desert grassland in the American southwest and north-central Mexico. The species’ dramatic decline is largely due to habitat loss, both on its breeding grounds and wintering grounds. Much of the prairie it needs to nest has been converted to croplands and urban areas, or has been otherwise fragmented by activities such as fracking, making what habitat remains less suitable. Essential wintering areas have also deteriorated, especially in Mexico where many formerly suitable wintering grasslands have been converted to irrigated agriculture. IUCN predicts that a decline in this species’ population will continue into the future. National Audubon’s large-scale climate change and associated habitat change prediction model shows likely additional pressure in the future with a decrease in suitable breeding and wintering habitat.It is that time of year again and our wintering species have already started to arrive. See the full article about Arizona IBA’s efforts with Chestnut-collared Longspurs here. 

2018-2019 Winter Surveys

If you are available to help with one of four half-day driving surveys of the Las Cienegas Global IBA and San Rafael Grasslands Global IBA we could really use your help. Our main target is the Chestnut-collared Longspur, a bird of such sudden and dramatic decline that it is a bird of global conservation concern. We have counted these birds each winter since 2011 and need to keep up this monitoring effort. We will also be recording all bird speceis we encounter, including those tricky little sparrows and the amazing winter raptors these grasslands attract including Northern Harriers, Short-eared Owls, Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcons, White-tailed Kites and who knows what else!

This is a fun survey that is less physically rigorous than other group surveys we do but is detail oriented in terms of identifying sparrows.. Each team will drive an assigned route and get out to bird wherever they like with direction from scouting efforts and an emphasis on spending time at all accessible tanks and ponds. We will also be spending some time recording grass species and types along our routes.

Those who have helped with the survey in the past and/or have experience identifying sparrows are especially encouraged to help but all are welcome, even if you are not IBA trained.

Please sign up using the links below ASAP if you are interested, some years the surveys have actually filled.

Wednesday November 28, 2018 – Las Cienegas 1 Sign up here
Friday November 30, 2018 – San Rafael Grasslands 1 - Sign up here
Thursday February 7, 2019 – Las Ciengas 2 Sign up here
Saturday February 9, 2019 – San Rafael Grasslands 2 - Sign up here
Chestnut-collared Longspur by Alan Schmierer

Chestnut-collared Longspur by Alan Schmierer

Desert Nesting Purple Martins

Male "Desert Nesting" Purple Martin

Male “Desert Nesting” Purple Martin

Purple Martins are widespread throughout the United States but the Purple Martins we have nesting in SE Arizona are different and amazing. They nest in woodpecker holes in saguaros and are a separate sub-species known as the “Desert Nesting” Purple Martin (herperia in its scientific name). They especially favor areas where saguaros lie near riparian zones which provide insects for them to hunt on the wing. Our hesperia sub-species is restricted to Sonoran Desert habitat and sometimes nest colonially with several pairs nesting near each other in a large saguaro or stand of saguaros. These charismatic birds are also an Important Bird Areas (IBA) priority species and Tucson Audubon is curious about where they occur in southern Arizona. If you see Purple Martins please take a moment and document them using eBird and share the list with username ArizonaIBA.

If you have an observation but don’t use eBird please email jmacfarland@tucsonaudubon.org with the date, time, location, number of birds and behavior or details you notice.

2018 Yellow-billed Cuckoo Surveys

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo by Dan-Pancamo

Tucson Audubon has been given an excellent opportunity to monitor Western Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the Sky Islands of the Coronado National Forest for a fourth year. We are focusing on further demonstrating that these Threatened birds use Madrean Sky Island habitat to nest.

Tucson Audubon’s surveys are focusing on three areas, the Santa Catalina Mountains  (all three routes near Peppersauce canyon, near Oracle), the Whetstone Mountains (two routes near Kartchner Canyon State Park) and Chiricahua Mountains (four routes all on the NE side of the range, all north of White-tail Canyon). The Chiricahua routes all involve camping the afternoon before.

It could have real conservation outcomes, including increased Critical Habitat designated for this species! We can use your help!

If you will be in southern Arizona through most of the summer and are a reasonably strong hiker, you are qualified to help us! You do not need advanced bird ID skills.

See the dates of our 2018 surveys and sign up here at our Yellow-billed Cuckoo Resources Page. There are also surveyor resources such as how-to videos on GPS etc.

Elegant Trogon Surveys in Sky Islands – 2018 results are in!

Elegant Trogon male by Julio Mulero
Elegant Trogon male by Julio Mulero

There is an abundance of evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, that the ecological influence of tropical Mexico has grown over the last century in Southeastern Arizona. Mammals such as Javalina and White-nosed Coati have both extended their range out the tropics into southern Arizona as part of this larger ecological system expansion. The expansion continues even today with the birding community noting the recent increase in prevalence of Gray Hawks and rarities in general including the recent first ever US nesting record of Tufted Flycatcher this past spring. Elegant Trogons are also part of this story with their United States range expanding over the last century which can be tracked with mainly anecdotal evidence and isolated incidents of collecting.

See a Map of all 2018 results here

See the route detail information here on our Trogon Survey Page

Bringing Birds Home – Landowner Habitat Improvement Guides

Both Grasslands and Riparian Habitat Guides now available for download

The Arizona Important Bird Areas Program along with its partners, Arizona Game and Fish, Tucson Audubon, Audubon Arizona present two Habitat Management Guides. Below are links to PDFs for both the Grasslands guide and the Riparian Guide. There is a third and final guide coming in the near future focusing on Desert habitat. These guides would not have been possible without the support of the following partners: Sonoran Joint Venture, Arizona Antelope Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, SRP, and National Audubon Society’s Western Water Initiative. Visit this page for more information and to download the guides.

Grassland and Riparian Habitat Improvement Guides Download

Grassland and Riparian Habitat Improvement Guides Download

2018 Spring IBA Survey Season

Join us for this year’s exciting Spring Surveys

We have quite the spring survey season forming for this year! We will be investigating Bendire’s Thrashers in Avra Valley Northwest of Tucson. We are also planning some Gilded Flicker surveys and some general IBA route surveys as well. Looking a bit ahead we also have the Elegant Trogon Sky Island survey dates sorted out and a special training session this summer for volunteer to help with Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys. There’s a lot going on and I hope you can join us!

Tucson Mountains by Derek DeVries

Tucson Mountains by Derek DeVries

Adopt a NEW IBA Survey Route!

There are two new Important Bird Areas near Tucson and we need help monitoring some newly established survey routes. You can choose one or more routes in either the Tucson Mountains IBA or the Tucson Sky Islands IBA and survey it on the morning of your choice five times a year. Even if you are not available the entire year you can still adopt a route and survey it when you are available. These will be surveyed using standard IBA transect protocol.

Join the Tucson area IBA survey team here to find out more about the available routes and get more info


Arizona IBA StoryMap

Take a virtual tour of Arizona’s 48 Important Bird Areas here

Stroy Map Screen Shot

s Warbler_Scott Olmstead_ok to use_facing left

Lucy’s Warbler Study – You can help us study these amazing birds.

Tucson Audubon is launching an initiative to learn more about Lucy’s Warbler nesting needs as well as study how effective different nestbox designs can be for these charismatic warblers. We need help with three aspects of this study: nestboxes (both building and monitoring), foraging investigation, and searching for natural nests. Find out more about this engaging and fun project at our Lucy’s Warbler Page Here.


Eastern “Azure” Bluebirds Nest Box Program

Azure Bluebird in nest hole by Richard Thompson
Azure Bluebird in nest hole by Richard Thompson

Tucson Audubon needs you help to monitor and maintain nest boxes in SE Arizona for the Azure sub-species of Eastern Bluebirds that nest in the grasslands and oak foothills of our Sky Islands.

These birds are special as they are a distinct sub-species of Eastern Bluebird that occurs in southeast Arizona known as Azure Bluebird or Mexican Bluebird and they are quite different from the “regular” Eastern Bluebirds. The Azure Bluebirds that love the meadows and grasslands of southeast Arizona are smaller and paler than their eastern cousins and stay in this habitat year-round instead of migrating. It is tempting to think of these birds as pioneers from the eastern population that have made it out west, but in reality the situation is more complex and international. The range of Eastern Bluebirds extends significantly into Mexico and our Azure Bluebirds are a northern extension of the birds that inhabit the Sierra Madre mountain chain. This means that the Azure Bluebird that helped to make the Patagonia Mountains an Important Bird Area are one more “Mexican specialty” bird that makes Southeast Arizona such a great place for birders.

For information on the Azure Bluebird Nest Box program and for information on joining the monitoring team please visit this link.


Audubon Launches Multistate Grassroots Network to Protect Rivers

Join the Effort to Save Critical Habitat for Birds and Other Wildlife

Audubon is taking a major step to address threats to rivers in the arid west, launching the Western Rivers Action Network, a multistate grassroots coalition to advocate for rivers and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them.

To find out how you can help restore and protect our rivers and to be invited to our upcoming advocacy workshops in Tucson and Phoenix, sign on at http://az.audubon.org/rivers-and-water-0

The Colorado River and its tributaries provide water for tens of millions of people, including twenty-two Native American tribes and the populations of Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Tucson. In Arizona, millions of migrating birds representing over 250 species depend on these waterways for their survival. Over 100 species, including the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo and Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, breed in Arizona’s riparian forests. Some 80% of Arizona’s vertebrates spend some portion of their life cycle in riparian areas. Many of these species are now threatened or endangered.

Years of drought, invasive species, over-allocation and unsustainable management have resulted in loss of riparian habitat and significantly reduced flows. Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network will work across the intermountain west to raise awareness of threats to rivers, promote conservation actions to increase flows and improve habitat, and advocate for sensible water management policies that benefit communities and wildlife.


Check out the online interactive National IBA map here

Take the IBA volunteer/participant survey here and let us know what you think!


Checkout our new booklet on Arizona’s Important Bird Areas. This booklet features each of Arizona’s 42 IBAs with information on how to best visit each IBA, site information, the birds that make each area special and conservation issues that each IBA is facing.

A PDF of the booklet suitable for online viewing here

If you have comments and edits for this second draft booklet, you can download this PDF file and make corrections/suggestions right in the PDF. If you could then add your name to the end of the file name and send it to jmacfarland@tucsonaudubon.org and we will make those changes. Thank you so much for helping us to make this booklet the best it can be!

The Arizona Important Bird Areas Program is co-administered by:
Audubon Arizona (Tice Supplee, Director of Bird Conservation) and Tucson Audubon Society (Jennie MacFarland, AZ IBA Program Conservation Biologist).

The Arizona IBA Program, Avian Science Initiative is led by the Arizona IBA Program at Tucson Audubon Society. This website and the AZ IBA Bird Survey Database linked within it are administered by Tucson Audubon Society.

To participate in science-based IBA bird surveys managed by Audubon’s IBA Program in Arizona, including surveys at potential IBAs, existing IBAs, or at sites of interest to Audubon chapters in AZ, please contact Jennie MacFarland, AZ IBA Program Conservation Biologist at Tucson Audubon Society (520) 209-1804.

To inquire about the AZ IBA Program in general, including the IBA nomination and review process, the AZ IBA Science Committee, IBAs identified to date, and IBA recognition & publicity, as well as Audubon state policy issues, please contact Tice Supplee, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon Arizona (620) 468-6470 x106.

Additionally, both IBA Program offices in Arizona work on issues and specific projects for the conservation of Important Bird Areas in Arizona . The IBA Program works with people to promote win-win-win objectives for people, wildlife, communities, and sustainable economies.

The AZ IBA Program also works in partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (through the Arizona Bird Conservation Initiative), the Sonoran Joint Venture, the Intermountain West Joint Venture, Arizona State Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, land trusts, and various non-governmental organizations, colleges, and universities.

Other Citizen Science and Birding Opportunities:

  • Hummingbird Monitoring Network – This organization primarily uses volunteer hummingbird banders, data recorders and trappers to track movements and abundance of hummingbirds. There are several trapping sites within or very near Important Bird Areas. The sites in southern Arizona are: Sabino Canyon, Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, Florida Canyon (Santa Ritas), Harshaw Creek (Patagonia), Garden Canyon (Huachuca Mountains), Ft Huachuca Public Affairs Office, Mt Lemmon, El Coronado Ranch (Turkey Canyon, Chiricahua Mtns), George Walker House (Paradise, Chiricahua Mtns), South Western Research Station (Chiricahua Mtns). Information about how you can volunteer with the HMN can be found at www.hummonnet.org and information about the Sabino Canyon site specifically can be found at www.humbander.net

2016 Tucson Bird Count

The spring count of the Tucson Bird Count is coming up! Any birder that can readily identify the birds of Tucson is invited to adopt a route to survey. It only takes one morning of your choice between April 15 …

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View from the Jesus Goudy Trail in the Piñaleno Mountains

IBA of the Month

Pinlaeño Mountains IBA The Pinaleño Mountains are one of the most northern of the Coronado Forest “Sky Islands”. Located in Graham County and south of the agricultural community of Safford, this mountain has provided resources for settlers in the region. …

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Upcoming Events

Many of our survey efforts have individual pages that can be found at our Resources section  EVENT CALENDAR

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