Sierra Vista is well known as the “hummingbird capital of the US,” but those little hummers aren’t all Sierra Vista has to offer. For all of those who don’t know what’s humming in Sierra Vista, take a look at this interactive brochure about the local area.
While strolling or biking in any of our canyons or along the San Pedro River, you’ll realize that you’re in a world-renowned migratory corridor for birds, and the lush home of rare, watchable wildlife.
Numerous javelina, white-nosed coatis and elegant trogons reside throughout the greater Sierra Vista area. Our location makes birding, outdoor activities and watching wildlife year-round pursuits.
No matter your interests or the season, there are always dramatic and rewarding experiences for every type of outdoor enthusiast.
Sierra Vista is home to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) and its diverse collection of mammals, birds, raptors, amphibians and lizards. The National Audubon Society recognized this area as the first Globally Important Bird Area. Organizations throughout the area offer regularly scheduled hikes and docent-led excursions to delight your outdoor spirit.
When to watch
The best time to see tropical bird species and wildlife such as trogons, flycatchers, amphibians and reptiles is mid-April through September.
Winter birding has its own special appeal with a host of raptors and owls. The Sierra Vista (Ramsey Canyon) Christmas Bird Count regularly has one of the highest inland species totals in the US, with more than 150 species. You’ll also want to see the sandhill cranes at the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.
Where to watch & play outdoors
Once you settle into your accommodations, get ready for an exciting adventure.
With Sierra Vista as your home base, you are able to take daytrips throughout southeastern Arizona. Go out, explore to your heart’s content.
Dense mountain foliage gives shelter to diverse wildlife, and both resident and migrant birds. Our mountains and canyons are home to tens of thousands of songbirds and sky-island wildlife. As you explore, you can find multiple rare birds to check off your life list paired with challenging trails to enjoy.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve is a premier location to find our little hummers looking for a lick of nectar. More than 14 varieties of hummingbirds – and 10 times as many other bird species – have been regularly recorded. This location also offers several trails with watchable wildlife you can discover on your own, or you can register to take an organized hike.
Carr Canyon is definitely a must-visit locale. Here outdoor enthusiasts and birders will find challenges just off the mostly unpaved switchback road – not for the faint of heart – but the experience is one to behold.
A great place to start this adventure is at the Carr House Visitor Center, which has designated nature trails and offers presentations and expeditions. This canyon offers birders the chance to see some of the more sought-after species, such as the slate-throated redstart and yellow-eyed junco.
Miller Canyon is a birder’s paradise where the rare berylline and white-eared hummingbirds have taken roost. The night action includes the sounds of whiskered screech-owls and the whip-poor-will. For the more patient, in the right spot near a water pool, there is the reward of tiny leathery wings as bats dip to lap at the water before vanishing into the night sky.
Just south of Miller Canyon, Ash Canyon offers three separate habitats – Chihuahuan Desert grassland riparian, woodland and oak forest. Ash is home to a rarely sighted hummingbird, the plain-capped starthroat. Arrive early to listen to the Scott’s oriole, one of the first songbirds to tweet in the morning.
Don’t forget to visit Coronado National Memorial, where more than 140 species of birds have been recorded. This area has become an important water source to the mountain inhabitants – pumas, black bears, bobcats and deer are all residents.
While at the memorial, don’t forget to go up to the scenic lookout at Montezuma Pass. Just south of the memorial’s Montezuma Pass is the beginning of the 816-mile Arizona Trail, stretching to the Arizona-Utah border.
The city’s Environmental Operations Park (EOP) is a wastewater facility that has become a water and food source for many animals throughout the area. Wetlands and native grasses at the EOP have created a marshlike habitat of bull rushes, cattails, reeds and other grasses.
When you visit, try to catch a glimpse of a bobcat or deer taking a morning drink, or the lucky birder could be rewarded with the sound of the rarely heard black-bellied whistling-duck or the yellow-headed blackbird.
Due to the additional bird life species recorded at the EOP, Cochise County was declared the “birdiest inland county in the United States.”
Garden Canyon – located on Fort Huachuca, an active Army installation – is home to the Cassin’s sparrow and the elegant trogon.
Be captivated by the rare opportunity to witness hummingbird banding for research purposes. Watch licensed banders catch, weigh, measure, feed and release the tiny birds. Dates and times are listed on the calendar of events at www.visitsierravista.com.
Huachuca Canyon has an intermittent stream with pine and oak forests. This locale offers refuge for birds ranging from the Mexican spotted owl to the hepatic tanager. Other locals include the Coues white-tailed deer and an occasional coatimundi (white-nose coatis).
Reservoir Hill Outlook, also located on Fort Huachuca, offers picnic areas, trails, abundant trees, desert plants and wildlife, including golden eagles nesting in the area.
Note: Fort Huachuca visitor passes are available for US citizens with a valid drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of vehicle insurance (or rental vehicle agreement). All passengers 13 and older must also have photo IDs. Fort Huachuca is occasionally closed for maneuvers. International visitors need to contact the Sierra Vista Visitor Center.
Why not watch?
Hummers flutter, birds sing, coyotes howl and many other birds and wildlife await your visit. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this southeastern Arizona paradise.
To find out more about birdwatching, watchable wildlife or other outdoor activities go to www.visitsierravista.com or call (800) 288-3861.
(Brought to you by Sierra Vista Visitor Center.)