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Patagonia Area Birding
Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Marion Paton's House, Roadside Rest Area, and Patagonia Lake State Park
Birding Around Las Vegas, Favorite Places Far Away
Patagonia Area Birding
Elegant Trogon


The Patagonia area is a riparian valley where Sonoita Creek runs between the arid Patagonia and Santa Rita mountains in southern Arizona. The diversity of vegetation (riparian, desert, and mountain) provides habitat for many bird species, including Mexican species that reach the northern limit of their range in this area. More than 300 species of birds have been seen in the Patagonia area. The best birding is from March to September. Spring migrants are most abundant in late April and May, and fall migrants are abundant in late August and September.


There are several hot spots in the Patagonia area, including the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (Nature Conservancy Area), Paton's Birder's Haven (hummingbird feeders at private residence), the Roadside Rest Area, and the Patagonia Lake State Park & Sonoita Creek Natural Area (a state park area).

The Patagonia area is riparian valley with many big, old cottonwood, black walnut, ash, mesquite, and willow trees along Sonoita Creek, plus remnant cienagas (wetlands) that once were common. The surrounding hillsides are covered in sparse to dense thickets of southern-Arizona desert vegetation. Sonoita Creek is a perennial stream fed by surface water and underground springs, and it is one of the few streams in southern Arizona that supports native species of fish.

Link to Maps.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. The Nature Conservancy protects riparian habitat, ancient Fremont Cottonwoods, open grassy areas and the associated birds, rare fish, frogs, and other wildlife. Three trails provide access to the preserve, and a visitor center provides trail information, bird checklists, and a list of current sightings.

Marion Paton's House

Paton House. The Patons lived in the town of Patagonia, adjacent to the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, and put out hummingbird and seed feeders -- then graciously opened the yard to birders. The house is set in a rural residential area with scattered houses, trees, shrubs, and other amenities of rural living. The feeders, on the back of her house, attract a variety of hummingbirds, including Violet-crowned Hummingbirds. If the gate is open, you are welcome. It's customary to sign the guest register and leave a few bucks in the 'sugar jar' to help pay for filling the feeders.

Mrs. Paton passed away and her children are selling the property to the American Bird Conservancy and Tucson Audubon Society; the property is expected to continue to be open to birders. Donations to purchase the property are still being solicited as of October 2013.

Roadside Rest Area Roadside Rest Area. An old highway rest area on Highway 82 adjacent to Sonoita Creek. This place provides easy viewing into dense riparian areas where Rose-throated Becards nest. Sonoita Creek, which is behind a fence, is on private land and closed to public access. Rocky and densely vegetated hillsides above the creek provide habitat for desert species. Many rare and unusual birds have been seen here. Cross the highway carefully. The Roadside Rest also holds the historic Tellis Family Shrine, an interesting cultural site.
Patagonia Lake State Park Patagonia Lake State Park & Sonoita Creek Natural Area. Patagonia Lake is fringed with brush thickets and cattails and is located adjacent to a natural area. The developed areas can be noisy, but shoreline trails run through various habitat types (desert scrub, mesquite thickets, and cattail marsh) and lead to good areas for finding desert scrub, riparian, and waterfowl species. Hummingbirds are common at campground feeders. Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets are said to be fairly common in the mesquite thickets. The Sonoita Creek State Natural Area is a pristine area adjacent to the Park with 5,000 acres of cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, and mesquites. Watch for nesting Gray Hawks and Zone-tailed Hawks during spring and summer.

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140108

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