For many birders, the fame of southeastern Arizona is based on species such as Elegant Trogon, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, White-eared Hummingbird, Gray Hawk, Mexican Chickadee, and Five-striped Sparrow. Rarities such as Aztec Thrush, Eared Quetzal, Sinaloa Wren, Crescent-chested Warbler, Plain-capped Starthroat, and Blue Mockingbird occasionally thrill visitors and draw birders from around the country, but all these birds are found regularly not far south of the border in Sonora and Chihuahua.

The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory has a long history of birding in Mexico and promoting bird conservation through the development of birding sites and activities benefiting local landowners and communities.

Helpful sites about Mexico Birding include:

Mexico Birding Trail

eBird: Hotspots in Sonora

eBird: Hotspots in Chihuahua

Some of our favorite sites in northwestern Mexico are:

Rancho El Aribabi

Only about thirty miles south of the border as the trogon flies, the Robles family has protected a biological treasure. Their 10,000 acre ranch includes the headwaters of the Rio Cocospera just below the veranda of the comfortable lodge. Trail cameras have documented jaguar and ocelots along the streams and Green Kingfishers, Grey Hawks and Five-striped Sparrows are a short hike from the lodge.

SABO does occasional 2-3 day trips from Bisbee to this remarkable ranch where researchers are still conducting surveys of the biodiversity.

Puerto Peñasco/Rocky Point

Brown Booby at Puerto Penasco, Sonora (photo by Sheri L. Williamson)

Brown Booby at Puerto Penasco, Sonora (photo by Sheri L. Williamson)

This tourist town on the northeastern coast of the Gulf of California is just 66 miles from the border town of Lukeville, Arizona. Seabirds, including Brown and Blue-footed boobies, Yellow-footed and Heerman’s gulls, Elegant Tern, and Magnificent Frigatebird, are the stars of the show, but explorations of desert and canyon habitats nearby will turn up a variety of interesting landbirds as well.

The field station headquarters for CEDO, the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans, is worth visiting, and the organization also offers family-friendly public events and guided ecotours for small groups.

The best months for birding in Puerto Peñasco are October through April.

Map of Puerto Peñasco Birding Sites by Andrew Core

Alamos, Sonora

A day’s drive from the border, southern Sonora is a landscape of tropical deciduous forest filled with tropical birds. From the spectacular Black-throated Magpie-Jay to Bare-throated Tiger-Herons and Mexican Parrotlets, the birdlife truly feels exotic.

Nestled in this spectacular landscape is the charming colonial town of Alamos. From a home base at El Pedregal, a lodge on the edge of town owned and managed by David and Jennifer McKay, day trips to the Rio Cuchujaqui  make this trip a magical experience. A return to the border with a side trip to Guaymas and San Carlos on the coast of the Gulf of California is the perfect end to a relaxing trip. Check for SABO trips to this magnificent location.

Madera, Chihuahua

About 175 miles south of Douglas, Arizona is the logging town of Madera, Chihuahua. Although the pine-covered mountains look much like parts of New Mexico or Colorado, they are the home of Eared Quetzals, Mountain Trogons, Slate-throated Redstarts, Russet Nightingale-Thrushes, and the largest remaining population of the endangered Thick-billed Parrot. SABO pioneered birding trips to Madera from 2003 through 2008, and it remains one of our favorite international destinations.

Useful links:

Wild Sonora