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NEW! Arizona

Fantastic spring birding across the Copper state!

2025 Dates
  • 02 Apr - 15 Apr 2025
Duration14 Days
2025 Price
£6495 pp
£875 single supplement. Deposit £1200

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

Max Group Size12

With more than 550 species recorded, Arizona is one of THE premier birding destinations in all of North America. With spectacular scenery too, the amazing cacti desert and ‘sky-island’ mountain landscapes often attract as much attention as the birds. Sharing a border with Mexico, there is a diversity of fabulous birds to match the scenery. From desert and Mexican specialities, to gorgeous breeding plumaged American Wood-warblers heading northwards into the mountains. There is always something to see and with migration in full swing at this time of year, wave upon wave of new birds can arrive in the right conditions.

Out on the plains we watch for Greater Roadrunner, an iconic and much sought after species for anyone visiting Arizona. The state is equally famous for its hummingbirds, Violet-crowned, Rivoli’s, Lucifer’s, Anna’s and Calliope among our biggest targets. Other key targets include Montezuma Quail, Elegant Trogon, hard to find Olive and Red-faced Warbler, stunning Vermillion Flycatcher and Arizona’s state bird - the Cactus Wren. A range of other desert specialities and migrant passerines will feature, of which it is the American Wood-warblers which inevitably attract the most attention with their bright plumage. Water is limited, and where present an array of waders and wildfowl are drawn to wetland habitats. In the surrounding grasslands we keep an eye out for sparrows and buntings, including range restricted Five-striped Sparrow. With such enjoyable birding, this is the trip every birder should do at least once in their lifetime!

Thanks to Ben Knoot for images of Arizona's birdlife.  

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Days 1 - 3: Wednesday 2 – Friday 4 April 2025 - Fly to Arizona and birding around Tucson
We fly from London to Arizona (flight details to be confirmed closer to departure date) and our tour begins at Tucson. There, we meet our local guide in the afternoon and once acclimatised, enjoy some introductory, birding within the Sonoran Desert over the first two days. Well placed, we have a good variety of birding sites and habitats right on our doorstep, taking time to explore city parks, man-made wetlands, farmland and of course the desert itself. Costa’s Hummingbird, Gila Woodpecker, Glided Flicker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Hooded Oriole, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-winged Sparrow are all early targets, and we may even get lucky with our first Greater Roadrunner. Overnight Tucson for two nights.

Day 4: Saturday 5 April - Santa Catalina Mountains
Leaving early we head straight for Mount Lemmon, just 15 miles from the city and the tallest within the Santa Catalina range. At an elevation of 2790m, the Ponderosa Pine forest-covered summit is significantly cooler than the deserts below. Olive Warbler is a big target here, and also likely around the summit are Cordilleran Flycatcher, Band-tailed Pigeon with Rivoli’s Hummingbird possible at a feeding station too. Descending to lower altitudes the forests become more varied, supporting a greater diversity of birds but with specialists at each level. At around 2000m we look for Red-faced, Grace’s and Virginia Warbler, Greater Pewee, Pygmy Nuthatch, while lower still where Alder and Sycamore trees dominate we may see Arizona Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Painted Redstart, Black-chinned Sparrow and Bridled Titmouse. Reaching the base in the afternoon, we travel south towards the Santa Rita range taking time to look for any unseen desert species on the way. We stay overnight in Green Valley for three nights.

Days 5 & 6: Sunday 6 & Monday 7 April - Santa Rita Mountains including the Madera Canyon
Widely regarded as one of the best birding areas in North America, the Santa Rita Mountains support a number of specialist breeders, at the same time boasting an impressive list of migrants and vagrant birds! Over 250 species have been recorded, and in the riparian woodlands of the Madera Canyon we have our first chance to encounter Elegant Trogon – aka the ‘Star of Arizona’! The hummingbird feeders here are often well attended and likely are Back-chinned, Broad-billed and Magnificent Hummingbird, with rarer species including Blue-throated, Berylline and White-eared Hummingbird previously recorded. Stunning Montezuma Quail is another top target within the region as is rare Five-striped Sparrow, a Mexican species which occurs in the Santa Rita’s more regularly than anywhere else. A number of warblers migrate through the region at this time of year, and we could encounter Orange-crowned, Yellow, Townsend’s, Black-throated Grey, Wilson’s, Lucy’s, MacGillivray’s, Hermit Warbler - all in stunning summer plumage! Turkey Vulture and Zone-tailed Hawk patrol the skies, and in the lower canyons and deserts we look for Scaled Quail, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Botteri’s, Cassin’s, Black-throated and Brewer’s Sparrow, Varied Bunting and many more. On one evening, we take an (optional) evening excursion to look for Elf Owl and Whiskered Screech-Owl, both of which occur in the Green Valley area.

Day 7: Tuesday 8 April - Sonoita Creek Valley and the San Rafael Grasslands
Travelling to the tiny town of Patagonia, we are well placed within the Sonita Creek Valley to look for a number of desirable species. A visit to the famous Paton’s feeders will hopefully give us Anna’s and Violet-crowned Hummingbird, and we may see Vermillion Flycatcher or the unique Phainopepla here too. Exploring different habitats near the town, also possible are Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Western Wood-Pewee and Albert’s Towhee. Travelling south, scarce inhabitants of the San Rafael Grasslands include Chihuahuan Meadowlark and the local race of Grasshopper Sparrow. Hopefully we will see both before we continue towards the Huachuca Mountains. We stay overnight at Sierra Vista for two nights.

Day 8: Wednesday 9 April - Huachuca Canyons
A number of canyons bisect the Huachuca Mountains, and we have some great options for today. The birding varies year on year, and depending on up-to-date news and the birds we have seen so far, we choose from Carr, Ramsey, Ash or Miller Canyon. Likely targets include Red-faced Warbler, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee and Hepatic Tanager, while the hummingbird feeders may give us rare Lucifer’s Hummingbird among others. If lucky we may also see Spotted Owl too, plus a range of migrating wood-warblers, orioles, finches, sparrows and buntings.

Day 9: Thursday 10 April - Huachuca’s to the Chiricahuas
We spend the morning in one or more of the Huachuca’s for any unseen birds, before travelling east towards Portal in the Chiricahua Mountains. The flat desert-lands between the two ranges are prime Greater Roadrunner country, and we keep an eye out for Prairie Falcon too. A stop at a wetland hotspot in Wilcox for wildfowl, waders and terns is always productive with chances to add lots of new species. With limited water in the desert, an oasis such as this often attracts a variety of migrants and possibilities include American Wigeon, Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal, Killdeer, American Avocet, Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird's, Spotted, Least, Stilt and Semi-palmated Sandpiper and White-faced Ibis. In the surrounding grasslands, endemic Chiricahua Raven are likely and difficult species such as Shore Lark, Chestnut-collard Longspur, Lincoln’s, Brewer’s and Savannah Sparrow may be found. We reach Portal in the afternoon, where we stay overnight for three nights.

Days 10 & 11: Friday 11 & Saturday 12 April – Chiricahua Mountains
With two full days to explore, new targets in the higher reaches of the eastern Chiricahua's include Mexican Chickadee and Yellow-eyed Junco. We also have another chance for some earlier higher-elevation birds, perhaps dedicating time to look for Red-faced and Olive Warbler. A trip across the state line into New Mexico will hopefully see as add three more new species - Bendire’s Thrasher, Juniper Titmouse and Calliope Hummingbird. Crissal Thrasher, Inca Dove, Cassin’s Kingbird and Gambel’s Quail are also often easier to see here. Back in Arizona state, Elegant Trogon may be seen at Cave Creek canyon, alongside Arizona Woodpecker, Painted Redstart, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Plumbeous and Hutton’s Vireo. Also likely in the Chiricahua's are Steller’s Jay, Hermit Thrush, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-headed Grosbeak, Hooded and Scott’s Orioles, Pacific-slope, Cordilleran and Hammond’s Flycatcher plus a selection of American Wood-warblers.

Day 12: Sunday 13 April - Portal to Tuscon
A flexible day, but within it we need to make our longest drive (3 hours) back to Tuscon. Your guides will choose the best locations to add new species, or perhaps obtain better views of sought after desert specialities. Options include birding at the Wilcox wetlands again where a high turn-over of migrant birds ensures plenty of variety, or we could return to the deserts early for another encounter with Greater Roadrunner and desirable birds there. We stay overnight at Tuscon for one night.

Day 13: Monday 14 April - Departure
Our tour ends this morning, and after transferring to the airport we travel back to the UK arriving on (day 14) Tuesday 15 April.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight from London Heathrow to Arizona. Airport taxes, transfers from and to airports (where appropriate).
  • ground transportation as outlined in a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle.
  • accommodation and all meals (as specified), including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • the services of your leaders.
  • National Park entry fees
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions.  Read more.

Free Field Guide! ‘Birds of Western North America’ by David Allen Sibley is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, esta costs where necessary, optional tips to the local guide, hotel/restaurant staff, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information

Accommodation is in hotels or lodges. All have en-suite facilities, and are comfortable to a good standard.
Food full-board accommodation at hotels and lodges (as specified) including picnic lunches and some meals at diners. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There may be some uphill track and road walking, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather it is springtime in Arizona during this holiday, and the weather should be lovely! The Green Valley area & Portal areas are usually around low to mid 20's with the low desert (Tucson, Phoenix) warmer, reaching up to up to 28/29c.
Insects There are biting insects, though not usually as a major problem.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights return scheduled flights from Heathrow to Arizona. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights should you wish. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Visa Travellers are required to obtain authorisation (known as ESTA) before arriving at the airport and can apply online. The application process should take around 20 minutes, and authorisation is normally granted immediately but may take up to 72 hours. Once granted, authorisation is valid for two years. At the time of writing the Esta application charge is $21.


Other birding and wildlife holidays in USA

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248