Elegant Trogon by Francis Morgan

Inspiring people to enjoy and protect birds


2020 Spring Survey Season Coming Soon

Join us for this year's exciting Arizona Important Bird Areas 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 Elf Owl surveys in the desert habitats near Tucson. Looking a bit ahead, we also have the Elegant Trogon Sky Island survey dates sorted out and will have opportunities for volunteers to help with Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys in July and August. Those dates will be announced soon. There's a lot going on and I hope you can join us!

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Gilded Flicker Transect Surveys - Almost at Our Goal

Gilded Flicker is a Continental qualifying species for IBAs for the IBA program. Our main goal is to determine if the new IBAs in the Tucson area qualify for Continetal status for this species – that is accomplished by documenting 30 pairs or 90 individuals. The last two springs volunteers did Gilded Flicker call-back surveys in the Tucson Mountains and did document enough pairs to qualify the new Tucson Mountains IBA as Continental for Gilded Flicker. Now Arizona IBA is hoping to do the same for the Tucson Sky Islands IBA which includes Saguaro National Park East (Rincon Mountain District) and the Santa Catalinas and Rincon Mountains. The best habitat for this species for the IBA is in the Saguaro National Park portion so our surveys will focus on these areas. If you would like to survey in Catalina State park or another area in the IBA just let me know. We nearly have enough pairs documented in both IBAs, we just need a few more to clinch the deal. Then we will have two new Continental level IBAs for this species!

See a Google Map of where we found Gilded Flickers in 2018/2019. This also gives a good idea of where we will assigning routes. 

Join the Gilded Flicker Survey Team

Bendire's Thrasher Surveys in Avra Valley

Bendire's Thrashers are a species of high conservation interest and data shows they are in steep decline. This is a high priority bird species for the Arizona Important Bird Areas program and there is strong conservation goals associated with these surveys.

Tucson Audubon will be surveying an area in Avra Valley managed by Tucson Water. With their permission we are going into this area where Bendire's Thrashers have been documented nesting so we can quantify how many nesting territories this area sustains.

  • Bendire’s Thrasher Survey in Avra Valley #1
    March 17, 2020  Sign up
  • Bendire’s Thrasher Survey in Avra Valley #2
    April 9, 2020  Sign up

There are opportunities to join in with ongoing work with these Bendire's Thrashers. Some of our partners will be doing a color banding study of these birds later this spring and will need volunteers to help monitor the behavior and habits of these birds.

If you are interested in helping with this please email the project leader Chrissy at CKondrat-Smith@azgfd.gov

Elf Owl by Jeremy Hayes

Elf Owl Surveys - Hiking in the Moonlight

Tucson Audubon is doing night time hiking surveys for the first time ever. Saguaro National Park is coordinating with us for these surveys and a ranger or two may even be joining us. We will be hiking along moonlit trails in teams of two or three and listening for Elf Owls and periodically playing their calls to try and goad them into calling back to us. You must have reasonably good hearing and be comfortable walking a trail at night while using a headlamp or flashlight. These two surveys are scheduled during the full moon to try and have as much light as possible but it will still be quite dark out there! This is something new for Tucson Audubon and we may encounter other owl species, cool reptiles and who knows what else!

  • Saguaro National Park - Tucson Mountain District (west side of Tucson)
    Monday April 6  Sign up
  • Saguaro National Park - Rincon Mountain District (east side of Tucson)
    Tuesday April 7  Sign up

Elegant Trogon Surveys in Sky Islands

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.  

To further our understanding of how many Elegant Trogons there are in the US, organized surveys have been ongoing in the Chiricahuas and Huachucas led by Rick Taylor for many years, and beginning in 2013 Jennie MacFarland and Tucson Audubon assisted Rick and helped expand the surveys to three more ranges. The new areas we surveyed the last four years are the Atascosa Highlands, Santa Rita Mountains and Patagonia Mountains.

  • Saturday May 16 - Atascosas (near Nogales)
  • Saturday May 23 – Patagonias (near Patagonia)
  • Sunday May 24 - Santa Ritas (near Green Valley)
  • Saturday May 30 – Huachucas (near Sierra Vista)
  • Sunday May 31 – Chiricahuas (near Portal)

To sign up for any or all of these survey dates please fill out this survey

We always need more people for these surveys! The more the better, so please tell your friends. These surveys are suitable for beginning birders, and more info about these surveys, including results for the 2019 survey, can be found here

Thank you for joining with us to protect birds, other wildlife, and the places they live in Arizona, for future generations. The Arizona Important Bird Areas Program would not exist without your support! 

Jennie MacFarland
AZ IBA Coordinating Biologist | Tucson Audubon

Tice Supplee
Director of Bird Conservation | Audubon Arizona

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Tucson Audubon Society | 520 629-0510 | 300 E University Blvd #120, Tucson, AZ 85705


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