Santa Cruz River

Tips for Birding

The Santa Cruz River crosses the Mexican border at Nogales and parallels I-19 on its way to Tucson and points north. Though its once lush cottonwood forest and mesquite bosques have all but disappeared, the river remains a corridor for migrating birds. This is especially evident in early spring, when a variety of birds of prey follow the river north from wintering grounds in Mexico. Common Black-Hawks, Gray Hawks, and Zone-tailed Hawks are the stars of the show, though a variety of more common raptors and many other birds use the Santa Cruz River as a migration corridor. To document the phenomenon, a hawk watch has been established at Ronald R. Morriss County Park in the charming historic town of Tubac. Raptor viewing is best during the middle two weeks of March, from mid-morning to early afternoon.

About this Location

The Santa Cruz River is about 184 miles long. It begins in the high grasslands of the San Rafael Valley east of Patagonia. At first, it runs south into Sonora Mexico for several miles before it changes its mind and heads north back into Arizona where it passes the early Spanish missions of Tumacacori and San Xavier del Bac, and the old Spanish Presidio de Tucson about 70 miles north of the International Border.

Content from Santa Cruz River webpage and Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory webpage