Tours: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming, Birding Ecotours (Worldwide)
2023 Northern Arizona – The Grand Canyon and Condors
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging
Group Size Medium Group
Our exciting adventure to the northern portion of Arizona begins immediately following our tour of the desert and scrublands of the south-eastern portion of the state. The area to the north of Mogollon Rim, an escarpment defining the south-western edge of the Colorado Plateau, presents a completely different notion of Arizona with its expansive ponderosa pine forests, permanently snow-capped peaks, and steep canyons. The best-known of these canyons, the Grand Canyon, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is located in the fascinating Grand Canyon National Park. Here, the birds are more typical of the Rocky Mountains, such as Pinyon Jay and Lewis’s Woodpecker.
We begin our tour with some desert and juniper scrub birding in a region just outside of Phoenix for a few special birds such as Black-chinned Sparrow. We then head north out of the desert to the city of Flagstaff, which will be our base for most of the tour. Just north of the city are the majestic San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountains in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 meters). These mountains are home to a long list of iconic Western United States species, such as the amazingly colored Mountain Bluebird, the striking Steller’s Jay and the curious Clark’s Nutcracker. From our base at Flagstaff, we will make trips further north to both the Grand Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs. Besides some of the most stunning views on the planet, these areas are excellent for birding with the true highlight and target being the Critically Endangered California Condor.
This exciting six-day tour can be combined with our Comprehensive Southeast Arizona — The Desert and Sky Islands tour which precedes our northern Arizona tour.
Duration: 6 days
Group Size Limit: 4 – 8
Date: 23 – 28 August 2023
Start: Tucson, AZ
End: Tucson, AZ
Price: US$2,220 per person sharing assuming 4 – 8 participants
Single supplement: US$405
We can run the same trip at a price similar to the larger group price for 2 tour participants, if they rent their own vehicle and pay for fuel – please e-mail [email protected] for details.
- Guiding fees
- Entrance fees
- All transport while on tour
- Domestic and International flights
- Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
- Alcoholic drinks
- Personal insurance
- Laundry Service
Arrival in Phoenix and searching for lovebirds
If you are joining from our exciting southeast Arizona tour, which you certainly do not want to miss, you will be transferred to Phoenix from Tucson by your guide to begin day 1 of the tour. For other participants (not joining the southeast Arizona tour) will arrive at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport where they will be picked up to begin the tour. We will then have a small break at the hotel where we can settle in. In the afternoon, we will make a quick stop at one of several local recreation areas to get some birding in and score our first target, Rosy-faced Lovebird, which is now countable in the ABA region. After our first afternoon of Phoenix biridng, we will head off to dinner for a chance to get better acquainted and discuss the exciting prospects of the trip ahead.
Mount Ord to Flagstaff
Mount Ord, located in the Mazatzal Mountains northeast of Phoenix, offers us a great chance of finding several unique species, such as Grey Vireo and Black-chinned Sparrow. Covered in chaparral and juniper scrub, the lower slopes of this mountain, are often alive with bird song in the morning, and we will hopefully obtain views of some dry country specials such as Phainopepla and Scott’s Oriole. Our next targets are Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks which are two uncommon to rare raptors in the United States and we’ll be searching for them along the Old Beeline Highway. They both breed in a lovely riparian area along Sycamore Creek, which runs along the historic highway. While driving in this beautiful area, we will keep our eyes peeled for a potential Greater Roadrunner or even a covey of Gambel’s Quails scurrying by.
As the temperatures begin to warm up, we will say goodbye to the desert and start our journey towards the mountains further north. We will be based in Flagstaff for the next three nights which is a lovely city riddled with urban parks, weaved together with a system of forest corridors and an extensive urban trail system, providing us with excellent birding opportunities. The afternoon and evening will be spent exploring a few of these fantastic areas and hopefully tracking down some great western species, such as the bizarre Lewis’s Woodpecker.
Vermilion Cliffs and condor searching
The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument encompass a massive area of almost 300,000 acres and are found in the far northern reaches of Arizona. These cliffs are well-known amongst birders as the most reliable area in recent years for our top target and one of the world’s most-wanted birds, California Condor. We will perhaps spend the better part of the day, if needed, searching for this iconic raptor while enjoying the incredibly scenic views on offer. While scanning the cliffs and searching for the condor, we hope to encounter a few other smaller raptors such as Peregrine Falcon and Zone-tailed Hawk. After a hopefully successful Vermilion Cliffs trip, we will head back to Flagstaff for some evening birding to roundoff the day.
Grand Canyon National Park
Today will be an incredible day as we visit the world-famous Grand Canyon which is carved by the mighty Colorado River. The Grand Canyon is visually overwhelming for both its immense size and colorful rock walls. We will visit the South Rim to enjoy this remarkable geological feature while also looking for several Great Basin bird targets. With some luck, we will score another sighting of California Condor, soaring and roaming over the canyon. On our way to and from the great abyss, we will make a few stops in the surrounding pinyon-juniper woodland habitat for further specials such as Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, White-throated Swift and more.
San Francisco Peaks
This morning we will explore a mosaic of alpine meadows, groves of aspen and pine, and burnt fields of tree snags, which creates a habitat for an assortment of birds more typical of the Great Basin than the Sierra Madre of Mexico (and barely into the United States). We spend most of the day exploring this alpine habitat via several sites in the San Francisco Peaks for species such as Green-tailed Towhee, American Dusky Flycatcher, and Mountain Bluebird. We will also scan all tree snags in the area for woodpeckers such as the uncommon American Three-toed Woodpecker and the boldly patterned Williamson’s Sapsucker. In the late afternoon, once we have finished birding the above alpine habitat, we will make a visit to the Kachina Wetlands just south of town where we will target Yellow-headed Blackbird and Virginia Rail, before heading back to Phoenix for our final evening.
Our northern Arizona tour concludes this morning with a drop off at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Some tour participants may have joined from our southeast Arizona tour and thus transport to the Tucson airport can be arranged, if needed. We hope you enjoyed the spectacular birds and remarkable views on offer in this region of Arizona.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.
Will we do any birding the first day?
YES! – This tour will depart Tucson at noon. One of our first targets is only a few minutes from from the airport.
Most participants choose to arrive in Tucson one day prior to the beginning of the tour. This helps to eliminate any possible conflict with a delayed or cancelled flight. This night is not included in the tour fee. Please consult about the full details of this arrangement when you begin the tour registration process.
How should I dress for the tour?
Check the weather for the destination as close to your departure date as possible, and dress accordingly for your comfort level. You can also review our What to Bring page for more information.
Besides clothes, what do I need to bring?
There are many items the will be useful to you while on a Bird Treks tour. We have put together our list of recommendations on the What to Bring page.
What language are tours conducted in?
Our tours are all conducted in English, but we do have some experience working with client that don’t speak English well – Some English would be needed for safety reasons. In locations where another language is predominately spoken, a native guide may accompany the tour.
Can you help me book flights?
Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
Can you book accommodation for us the night before the tour starts or the night the tour ends?
While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour.
NOTE: Most often it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances, it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment where the guide is staying.
Do you provide trip insurance?
No, we do not. We find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Are meals included?
For most tours, meals are included in the tour price. This may include a hotel-provided breakfast, or guide-provided box lunches. For dinners, we strive to find interesting and delicious local restaurants – this allows us to give back to the local economy, and find exciting new place to eat.
Can I take the Extension Tour without doing the main tour?