The numbers and species of birds swell during the peak spring (April-May) and fall (August-October) migration periods. Birders that visit the Chiricahuas seldom appreciate the strength of migration through the “Rodeo Valley,” as the desert between the Chiricahuas and Peloncillos is locally known. A large variety of passerines, including hummingbirds, flycatchers, swallows, vireos, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and grosbeaks stream through the “Rodeo” valley between the mountain ranges, seeking food and shelter during passage at the oases created by the trees and water available at the Cottage environs. As many as 75 species have been observed in a single day during peak migration.
The bird population changes with the seasons. Many species make the Chihuahuan desert their winter home (the Portal Christmas Bird Count averages about 140 species). Common winter visitors to Quailway Cottage include White-crowned, Brewer’s and Vesper Sparrows; Western Meadowlark; Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harrier and Peregrine Falcon; Pine Siskin and Lesser Goldfinch.
The breeding season at the Cottage starts early (in April for many) and brings yet more species, including White-winged Dove, Black Phoebe, Cassin’s and Western Kingbirds, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow, and many others. The monsoons, which begin in July and continue through August, trigger the start of the breeding season for some species like Cassin’s Sparrow, and a second breeding season for many species, such as Canyon Towhee and Curve-billed Thrasher.
The Chiricahua mountains and surrounding deserts have one of the largest diversity of birdlife found anywhere in the country. Rare visitors like the Elegant Trogon that nest here in the spring months draws both novice and experienced birdwatchers from around the country. Watch our news section for current rare alerts in our area.
Resident species include Gambel’s and Scaled Quail, Roadrunner, Say’s Phoebe, Cactus Wren, Verdin; Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Curve-billed and Crissal Thrashers, Black-throated Sparrow, and Pyrrhuloxia. Over 175 species of birds have been observed in this shrubby grassland habitat at the Cottage.