Southeast Arizona's Hawk Watch

 By Chris Rohrer

Zone-tailed Hawk. All photos by Chris Rohrer

If January and February were about revisiting our regular neighboring feathered friends of Southeast Arizona, then March is about new beginnings. The trickle of migration begins as raptors make their migratory move north along the Santa Cruz and San Pedro Rivers. By the third week of March, the faucet is on full force!

So where can one go to see amazing raptors like the Common Black Hawk or Zone-tailed Hawk? The biggest hawk watching scene is undoubtedly in Tubac at Ron Morriss County Park (MAP). The person who puts all this together every year is Peter Collins, and he counts raptors every morning from roughly 8am until noon. For details, click on the link here. Bring a chair and a scope. And maybe a nice warm beverage. And this really is a scene—a social event for many birders, and sometimes, it’s the only time you see some of these people all year-long. Take it all in, learn from others, and enjoy the company!

Everyone gathers around the scope to see a juvenile Bald Eagle.

As the temps warm up, get ready for lift off as raptors begin to ride the thermals from the budding cottonwood trees. Many hawks will fly right over your head! Every year I am surprised by a random rare bird sighting such as when a juvenile Bald Eagle flew over us. I was lucky enough to get photos and we were able to document the bird. As we were focusing on the eagle, a White-tailed Kite flew over! Another amazing bird! And when everything gets going, people will be calling out birds left and right at a furious pace.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

White-tailed Kite

You'll learn about different types of Red-tailed Hawks. You'll see numerous Common Black and Swainson’s Hawks fly over. You might hear the call of an early Gray Hawk as it flies out of the riparian trees. If you're lucky, you might even spy the very rare Short-tailed Hawk. You'll see large kettles of vultures, both Turkey and Black, mix into the aerial parade above you.

There are so many wonderful possibilities. Maybe we’ll see you at the hawk watch this year? Come and join the fun!

Gray Hawk

Pair of Common Black Hawks

DETAILS: Parking is available inside the park, DO NOT park or congregate on the bridge! Local residents strictly enforce this. If the lot is full, you can park at the intersection of the road leading into the park and walk in.


Hawk Watch 2023 Optic Event with Tucson Audubon
March 12–15, 8 am–12 pm 

Tucson Audubon's optic partners are gathering with us at the Tubac Hawk Watch this year! We'll have reps from Vortex, Leica, Swarovski, and Zeiss showing off the latest birding optics. You're welcome to try them all out and purchase from our Nature Shop on site!

There will also be daily morning and afternoon bird walks along the nearby De Anza trail and Santa Cruz River, led by staff and volunteers of Tucson Audubon and Tubac Nature Center. See you there!


Chris Rohrer is an avid birder and traveler. When he's not working his full time job as a teacher, he volunteers for Tucson Audubon, does part-time guiding, and writes for his weekly blog Las Aventuras.