Arizona is a birder’s paradise! Every year millions of birds travel through the state on their northern and southern migrations. To avoid crossing large swaths of desert, they fly along riparian corridors or stop over at seasonal wetlands. Areas like the San Pedro and Verde Rivers are jam packed with seasonal visitors. During migrations in the spring and fall, Arizona’s river systems become avian superhighways used by over 250 species of birds.
In 2007, over 82 million people in the U.S. enjoyed recreational birdwatching, called “birding.” Arizona is a popular destination for this increasingly popular form of ecotourism. The Tucson Audubon Society estimates that tourism related to birding brings $1.3 billion dollars to the state every year. Bird enthusiasts from around the world come to see green kingfishers and other rare species on their yearly journeys, or the sparrow-sized elf owl that makes its home in the mesquite bosques outlying our river systems.
Share Your Birding Experience
National Audubon Society Facebook page and the Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN) are inviting fans to email their photos of western rivers to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to have their image featured in their newsletter, on the website, and as the cover photo on the Audubon page! The winners will also receive specialty Audubon gift items. All fans need to do is send their landscape and wildlife photos (up to four) to email@example.com until Monday, June 30th, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. ET with your name and the description of the photo attached. Submitters will then receive a release form to complete and return in order to enter the photo contest.
Audubon staff will select up to 40 photos to highlight in an album to be posted on Friday, July 18th.
(Text from the Audubon Society website.)
The San Pedro River
The San Pedro is the largest north-flowing river in the U.S. The river flows from Mexico through the heart of Cochise County north to the Gila River. It is one of the few remaining north-south corridors where birds can find food, water and shelter on their trips through the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts. The river was recognized by the American Bird Conservancy in 1996 as the first Globally Important Bird Area in North America and is protected by Congress as a National Riparian Area.
Over 400 bird species fly through the San Pedro River corridor each year. Three million to 5 million birds representing depend on the river during their migrations, with additional 100 breeding bird species that call the river home.
With its wide variety of habitats from desert to grassland to the Sky Islands of the Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise County is a must see stop for people who are interested in birds from all over the world. Sierra Vista lies at the foot of the 10,000 foot Huachuca Mountains, only minutes away from some of the most famous birding spots in the United States—places such as Garden, Sawmill, Huachuca, Ramsey, Carr, Miller and Ash Canyons. Miller Canyon provides the opportunity to see high elevation specialties such as the Red-faced Warbler, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Painted Redstart, Greater Pewee, Hepatic Tanager and, with some luck, the Spotted Owl. These canyons have been known since the late 19th century for their great biodiversity, not only of birds, but of butterflies, odonates and other insects, as well as mammals and reptiles. According to the Sky Island Alliance, over 400 bird species, 100 butterfly species, 83 mammal species and 47 amphibian and reptile species have been documented along the San Pedro. The Huachucas have close to 1,000 species of plants.
Largely because of the astounding bird diversity, nature tourism is the second largest contributor to Cochise County’s economy. The health of the San Pedro River and Arizona’s other riparian systems are vital not only to the health of our wildlife (both native species and visitors) but to our economies that depend on the visitors who come to experience our iconic landscapes and biodiversity. Riparian areas are under constant threat from development and overpumping of groundwater. Despite congressional protection, the Lower San Pedro River is in danger of running dry if water management practices are not carefully considered and implemented.
Explore Arizona's wildlife! Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona (8th edition) by Kenn Kaufman is available at the Arizona Experience Store