Southeast Arizona is one of the biggest destinations for bird watching and nature studies and on the other side of the mountain from well known birding sites like Ramsey Canyon and Madera Canyon is an isolated spot known as Portal, Arizona. Those of us who live here know that we are some of the most organized people in the US. It’s not that we want to be, it’s that we have to be. To get to a gas station we have to travel to Lordsburg, NM, about 50 miles north one way or Douglas, AZ about 60 miles one way to the south. That is also where the closest grocery stores are. We make friends and let everyone know when we are going to town because sometimes even the most organized of us need milk or fresh fruit, and the favor will be returned when you only need a half gallon of milk.
Why do we choose to live here? Well, let’s start with 14 species of hummingbirds. What, you want me to name them? OK, there is the Berylline, Violet-crowned, Lucifer, Broad-billed, White-eared, Blue-throated, Magnificent, Plain-capped Starthroat, Black-chinned, Costa’s, Anna’s, Broad-tailed, Calliope, and….Rufous. I knew I could name them if I thought hard enough.
Although it may not be possible to see all 14 types of hummingbirds in one visit, the best time to visit Portal to see hummers is in Mid May during spring migration and then again mid August to mid September during the fall migration. Many of the bird species can be drawn to campsites with hummingbird feeders. Two feeders that we can recommend would be the 8 oz Best 1 and the window mount Nectar Bar. The Nectar Bar is small enough to mount on the window of your RV. (I know–a shameless plug for our site). Many of the local lodging establishments have hummingbird feeders up for you to enjoy.
Two warblers that can be seen each year are the Red-faced warbler and the Painted Redstart in the mountain canyons. Look for Painted Redstart around water (under the bridge as you enter South Fork). The Red-faced Warbler can be seen in lower canyons during migration, but nests at higher elevations (Rustler Park Campground). You should be watching for Sulfer-bellied Flycatchers while walking through the sycamores.
The area is also known for a number of Mexican and Central American species who sneak across the border. (Don’t mention this to the Border Patrol!) The most recognized of these is the Elegant Trogon who can be seen from mid April through Mid October. We have had as many as 10 nesting pairs in Cave Creek Canyon in recent years.
Other species include the Aztec Thrush, Rufous-backed Robin, Crested Flycatcher, Fan-tailed Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart and Flame-colored Tanager. These species will test your birding skills! If fact we have moved to Portal to add some of them to our life list. We wish you luck in your bird adventures and if you see the Aztec Thrush let us know!!
We setup our yard with all of these wonderful birding possibilities in mind. Although not all of the birds will come to feeders, all will come to water features. That is how we got the Rufous-backed Robin to stop in and say hola to us. Let us help you attract birds to your backyard by providing the best feeders and bird baths for your area (shameless plug #2). Now if you have stuck with us and read all of this we would like to reward you by offering you a FREE DOWNLOAD – a map of our favorite birding spots around Portal. It will give you a detailed map of the roads in our area (both of them) and let you know a little about each stop.