Buenos Aires NWR--Arivaca Cienega

Birds of Interest

This IBA is important in Arizona because it supports significant breeding numbers of Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Gray Hawk, Swainson's Hawk (Arivaca Creek), Lucy's Warbler, and Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and small but reliable numbers of nesting Costa's Hummingbird, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Tropical and Thick-billed Kingbirds, Rufous-winged Sparrow, and Varied Bunting, all of which are Species of Conservation Status (SCS) in Arizona (11 SCS total). Sora and Virginia Rails nest within the cienega as well, rare and uncommon species respectively in Arizona. Buff-collared Nightjar another rare species, is know to nest along Arivaca Creek. Additionally, the IBA supports many conservation species in migration, such as, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, Lucy's Warbler, Virginia's Warbler, and MacGillivray's Warbler (6 SCS in migration). In winter this IBA becomes a hotspot for Sparrows, both in terms of diversity and density, notable Species of Conservation Concern include: Brewer's, Cassin's, and Grasshopper Sparrows. Lastly, winter brings an influx of raptors and wading birds, these include, Peregrine Falcon and Great Egret (both SCS) (5 total SCS in winter). Although, not SCS, the following other raptors (or functional raptors) and wading birds are also present in winter: Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Loggerhead Shrike, and wading birds: Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, and Black-crowned Night Heron. Green Kingfisher, a rare species in Arizona, has been known to winter as well.

About this Location

This IBA is rare desert cienega and connected creek system in southern Arizona. These wet habitats are just a small part of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses 118,000 acres. Arivaca IBA is located thirty miles west from the main north-south interstate highway in southern Arizona, near the town of Arivaca. The cienega is supported by seven springs. Arivaca Creek in most years is a perennial creek for 2 miles of its 5-mile length to where it joins the Brawley Wash system.

Seven springs form this rare desert wetland. A boardwalk gives visitors the chance to see vermilion flycatchers, gray hawks, Virginia rails, and other wildlife up close.

About Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

See all hotspots at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Located in southern Arizona, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge was established for the reintroduction of masked bobwhite quail and to restore the natural landscapes and native wildlife that depend upon it.

Spanning the 117,464-acre refuge are several distinct groups of plants and animals that are dependent on each other, also known as biotic communities. Visitors will enjoy the semi-desert grasslands that blend into the cottonwoods and willow that line river banks and wetlands within the refuge. Settled in amongst the grasslands and wetlands is a beautiful sycamore-shaded canyon of extraordinary diversity. Brown Canyon is home to 200-million-year-old volcanic rocks that support a distinct variety of plants and animals that have evolved within this amazing sky island ecosystem.

Established in 1985, the refuge was purchased under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. Open to the public, visitors can enjoy wildlife watching and photography, hunting, fishing, wildlife photography, and special wildlife-related events. It is one of more than 550 refuges that comprise the National Wildlife Refuge System, a national network of public lands and waters set aside for the benefit of wildlife and you!

Notable Trails

It’s just over 0.5 miles to Willow Pond, or take the entire 2-mile loop to view additional areas. 
Location: 0.25 miles east of Arivaca at the Wildlife Viewing Area.
Length: 2 miles.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

  • Roadside viewing

Content from Arivaca Cienega and Creek Important Bird Area, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge Official Website, and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge brochure