Birding and Wildlife
Madera Canyon is one of the most renowned birding destinations in the United States. The desert grasslands of the lower canyon blend into Arizona Sycamores, Freemont Cottonwoods, and Alligator Junipers around 4500’, and give way to maples, Box Elders, and several varieties of pine and oak at higher elevations. This, and the many active springs and seasonal creek, creates an avian Utopia!
Over 250 species of birds have been identified in Madera Canyon. Some of our ‘celebrity’ birds that draw visitors from all over the world include the Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl, Sulphur-Bellied Flycatcher, and Painted Redstart. The Santa Rita Lodge is one of the best locations in the canyon to view up to 15 species of hummingbirds, including Broad-billed, Anna’s, Black-chinned, Rufous, Broad-tailed, and Magnificent. The lucky birder might catch sight of the more rare Violet-crowned, Blue-throated, Calliope, and Plain-capped Starthroat. The best time to catch sight of the most varied array of birds is during migration season in the spring. However, several species can be spotted through summer and well into fall andwinter.
Night birding can bring more variety to your canyon experience. Rely on your ears and a flashlight (use judiciously and avoid pointing directly at their faces and sensitive eyes!) and you may find varieties of Screech-Owls, Elf Owls, Barn and Great Horned Owls.
Enjoy checking as many species off your Life List as possible from the many trails and picnic areas in Madera Canyon or from the Santa Rita Lodge Bird Viewing Area. Parking here is free if you are visiting the viewing area (no parking for hiking). Sit comfortably in our shaded seating area, that is also wheelchair accessible, while watching your favorite birds visit our feeders in their natural and protected habitat.
Which bird species can you see at Santa Rita Lodge right now? (scroll down for current sightings!)
Birds are not the only winged creatures in Madera Canyon. Sixteen species of bats also call the canyon home, most seasonally and some year-round. You may notice the ‘Bat Houses’ near Whitehouse Canyon Picnic Area, and in other locations throughout the canyon. The bats most active around the Santa Rita Lodge are the Long-Nosed and Long-Tongued bats. These bats are pollinators and feed on the nectar and pollen of the Saguaros, Ocotillos, and Agave blossoms. It’s easy to conclude that they find the nectar in our hummingbird feeders just as appealing!
From the desert floor to the peak of Mount Wrightson, you will pass through 4 life zones, many habitats, unique and varying plant life, and several seasonal streams. It would be almost impossible to visit without seeing some of the native wildlife that call Madera Canyon home. Whitetail and Mule Deer, Wild Turkey, Black Bear, Coati, foxes, Ring-tailed Cats, and raccoons are all frequently spotted in the canyon. Bobcats and Mountain Lions reside here, but are less commonly sighted. We are home to approximately 30 species of snakes as well. These are commonly seen on the road leading up to Madera Canyon, so please drive with caution and help protect our fragile ecosystem!