Southwest Hummingbird Migrations
Follow hummingbird migration southwest with a road trip to three hummer-packed Arizona canyons along a 125-mile route.
By Marissa Conrad, Pewaukee, Wisconsin
Visitors are sure to spot hummingbirds along the 125-mile route of three Arizona canyons. Photo by Allen Chartier; www.amazilia.net
If you love hummingbirds, southeastern Arizona is chirping your name.
Of the 22 hummer species recorded in the United States, at least 15 have been spotted in this warm-weather wonderland. The black-chinned hummingbird (right) is just one of the stunning visitors you're likely to see.
To help you plan a road trip that will be anything but ho-hum, Birds & Blooms is giving you the buzz on three hummer-packed Arizona canyons along a 125-mile route. Prime hummingbird time is between April and September...but with a trip this wow-worthy, it never hurts to plan ahead.
Ramsey Canyon Preserve
Park your car, walk about 15 feet through the visitors' center, and wham-you're in a garden filled with hummingbird feeders, nectar-filled tube flowers and up to 14 different species of hummers. Welcome to Ramsey Canyon, a 380-acre preserve of grasslands, forests and more.
In the pollinator garden, you might see hummers as rare as the berylline, white-eared, lucifer and plain-capped starthroat. More common visitors include the black-chinned, broad-billed, Anna's and more.
What's unique about Ramsey Canyon? The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit organization working to restore and preserve the birds' natural environment, owns the land. To learn more, take a free guided walk along one of the preserve's hiking trails (walks are offered 3 days a week from May to October).
"Hummingbirds do nest along the trails," says Matt Killeen, the Conservancy's assistant manager for southeast Arizona preserves. "It's definitely possible to see them there, too."
To visit: Ramsey Canyon Preserve is located 90 miles southeast of Tucson. From I-10, exit on Highway 90 (Sierra Vista/Ft. Huachuca exit) and travel about 30 miles to Sierra Vista. Travel south on Highway 92 another 6 miles to Ramsey Canyon Road. Turn right and follow the road 4 miles to the end.
Ramsey Canyon is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through February; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March through October. General admission is $5 for adults and free for children under 16. For more information, call 1-520/378-2785.
This area has quickly become known as a hummingbird hot spot within the past few years-thanks in part to Tom and Edith Beatty. This couple started a hummingbird feeding station and garden in 1998 to attract tiny feathered friends to their home and guest ranch among the Huachuca Mountains. It worked, too.
The spot is a regular stop for a variety of hummers, including blue-throated, broad-billed (right), broad-tailed and Anna's. In fact, the site holds the U.S. record for the most hummingbird species seen on a single day, when 14 different varieties graced the ranch in June 2002.
Day visitors are welcome to visit the free public viewing area nearby. Or for $5 per person ($20 per tour group), the Beattys offer access to their private viewing areas, which are at a higher elevation and enveloped by trees.
"The private areas attract the rarer birds, like the white-eared," says Edith. "You can probably expect to see nine or 10 different varieties."
If you're looking for a challenge while at the canyon, try hiking the rugged trails to Miller Peak Wilderness, one of the top wildlife areas in southern Arizona. The U.S. Forest Service offers trail access to this area, where elevations range from 5,200 feet to more than 9,400 feet. But the steep trails are worth the effort with plenty of scenic views and hummingbirds to be found along the way.
To visit: From Ramsey Canyon, travel south on Highway 92 about 4 miles and turn right on Miller Canyon Road.
Miller Canyon has several government-owned hiking trails. There are no set hours and no fee to park. For more information, call the Sierra Vista Ranger District at 1-520/378-0311 and ask for the recreation staff. For more information about Beatty's Guest Ranch, call 1-520/378-2728.
Although it's a longer jaunt from Miller Canyon, a visit to Madera Canyon is worth the trip, especially when you can find stunning broad-tailed hummingbirds like the one at right.
This tree-covered hideaway offers a paved road up the canyon with multiple trails and picnic areas along the way. These provide plenty of opportunities for birders to look for hummingbirds, then grab a quick snack and discuss the birds they've found.
When Birds & Blooms Field Editor Jerrilyn Fillon of New Orleans, Louisiana visited Madera Canyon, she fell in love with the scenic, hummer-friendly setting.
"In spring and summer, hummingbirds gather at the many feeders displayed up and down the canyon road," she writes. "On the lawn of one lodge, we watched professional photographers as they captured magnificent hummingbirds on film.
"Another time, a magnificent hummingbird thought our red car was a giant feeder and spent several minutes trying to extract the non-existent nectar! Madera Canyon is truly a special place."
To visit: From Miller Canyon, take Highway 90 north to I-10 west, then merge onto I-19 south via exit 260 (Nogales). Take exit 63 (Continental Avenue) in Green Valley, Arizona. Turn east and follow the signs for Madera Canyon along Highway 62.
Madera Canyon has no set hours. Parking is $5. For more information, call the Sierra Vista Ranger District at 1-520/378-0311 and ask for the recreation staff.