Whitewater Draw WA

Birds of Interest

Whitewater Draw is of state and regional significance as the primary wintering area for Sandhill Cranes and includes both the Lesser (most numerous) and Greater subspecies. Two other species of conservation status occur in the winter and migration periods at Whitewater Draw: Mountain Plover (winter) and Long-billed Curlew. Many species of relatively small populations (in Arizona in the winter) also are known to occur regularly at the Wildlife Area in small numbers, they include Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon), and occasionally Peregrine and Merlin. Sulphur Springs Valley, a raptor hotspot in the winter (including for owls), brings numerous raptor species into Whitewater Draw, they include Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, Barn Owl, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, Ferruginous Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Bald Eagle, and Golden Eagle. The diversity of waterfowl present in winter at the Wildlife Area, is also noteworthy, including Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, Mexican Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and Canada Goose, and rarely White-fronted Goose. Summer nesting species, when conditions are favorable include Mexican Ducks, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Pied-billed Grebes, and Cinnamon Teal. Both the Sora and Virginia's Rail are present in migration and may breed. Swallows, Tree and Violet-green, occur in large numbers in migration. Blackbirds, Yellow-headed and Red-winged, occur in very large numbers in the winter. The grassland habitat of Whitewater Draw hosts breeding Scaled Quail, and small numbers of Bendire's Thrasher, and Cassin's Sparrow.

About Whitewater Draw WA

See all hotspots at Whitewater Draw WA

The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, formerly a cattle ranch, was purchased in 1997 and is now managed to enhance wetland habitats and provide waterfowl habitat, management for plains leopard frogs, and wildlife viewing. Since 1997, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has made substantial improvements to make this a premier southeastern Arizona wildlife viewing site. Available water is managed to provide marshland, mudflats, and open water areas. Viewing opportunities are enhanced by viewing decks, an interpretive trail, viewing scopes, and an educational kiosk. Several ponds surrounded by native vegetation provide habitat that has become rare in southeast Arizona. Native grasslands, with intermittently flooded wetlands surrounded by agricultural fields, provide shelter and feeding opportunities for cranes and a wide variety of other birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

The number of wintering sandhill cranes has increased dramatically since the 1950s, and over 30,000 sandhill cranes may be present in winter, making this the premier crane viewing site in Arizona. The number of waterbirds wintering here has also increased in recent years, and thousands of ducks and other waterbirds are usually present all winter. This is a great place to see avocets, stilts, and yellowlegs. Wetland birds include a wide variety of ducks, geese, herons, egrets, and migrating shorebirds, gulls, and terns. The small stand of riparian woodland attracts many migratory birds including warblers, vireos, flycatchers, orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings, and sparrows. You may see mourning doves, white-winged doves, Gambel’s quail, and scaled quail. Several species of sparrows can be found, including lark, vesper, white-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Cassin’s. Members of the flycatcher family including vermilion flycatcher, Say’s phoebe, and black phoebe are common here. Common yellowthroat and marsh wren are easy to find in wetland areas. During the winter months look for mountain plovers and longspurs adjacent to the site in cut alfalfa or barren fields along Davis Road. This site and the surrounding area is the best place to see wintering birds of prey, including golden eagles, prairie and peregrine falcons, northern harrier, Cooper’s hawk, American kestrel, ferruginous hawk, red-tailed hawk, merlin, and rough-legged hawks.

Mammals include the javelina, mule deer, black-tailed jackrabbit, and desert cottontail. Whitewater Draw also features the healthiest and most stable of the plains leopard frog populations in the state. This frog is one of the most narrowly distributed of all Arizona leopard frogs. A variety of other amphibians live around and breed in the draw including green toad, Great Plains toad, Mexican spadefoot, and Sonoran Desert toad. Some of the more common reptiles of the area include western hog-nosed snake, gophersnake, nightsnake, desert kingsnake, common side-blotched lizard, Texas horned lizard, and southwestern fence lizard. One of Arizona’s more unique invertebrates, the whip-scorpion or vinegaroon, can be commonly viewed in this area, particularly after sunset on paved roadways.

During wet weather, dirt roads can become slick with mud; use extreme caution.

From US-191 at McNeal, drive west on Davis Road for 3 miles to Coffman Road. Turn south on Coffman Road and follow the signs for 2 miles; turn west into the parking area and trailhead.

Content from Whitewater Draw Important Bird Area webpage and Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area webpage