Birding in Arizona's White Mountains
By Tommy J. DeBardeleben
Welcome to Birding in Arizona's White Mountains, an online guide to the birding locations and birds of an under-birded region in east-central Arizona. The White Mountains have many rewards when they are birded, and there is a lot more in this region that needs to be discovered. Some of Arizona's highest elevations and some of the most beautiful areas in the state are found in the White Mountains. For high elevation birding in Arizona, the White Mountains are the best place to do such. A few of the many birds one may find here include Dusky Grouse, Northern Goshawk, American Dipper, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutracker, Gray Catbird, Red-faced Warbler, and Pine Grosbeak. The White Mountains are worth birding and exploring, and this guide's goal is to help birders find where to go birding and what birds to find in this special region in Arizona.
About Arizona's White Mountains: The White Mountains cover a large geographical area that is bigger than one usually realizes. This area is bordered on the east by New Mexico, is bordered on the southeast by New Mexico's San Francisco Mountains and the southern stretch of the Blue River in Greenlee County, is bordered on the north by the southern end of the Navajo Indian Reservation and Petrified Forest National Park, is bordered by the Mogollon Rim on the west near Forest Lakes, and is bordered by the Fort Apache Indian Reservation on the south and southwest. Portions of this area lie in five different Arizona Counties: Apache, Greenlee, Navajo, Gila, and Coconino County. The White Mountains are owned under three land types: State Land, National Forest Land, and Indian Reservation. While there are many areas in the region that are easy to access on State and National Forest Land, counterwise, there are many areas in the region that are hard to access on the Indian Reservation. At a minimum, one is required to purchase a Reservation Permit to bird, hike, or do any activity on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. There are many areas that can be accessed in the White Mountain region that are on Indian land with that permit, but there are also many areas that require a furthermore Special Use Permit or are completely closed off to the public to the point where no permits are payment for access are supported.
The northern half of the White Mountains are above the Mogollon Rim and are a part of the Colorado Plateau region, a region that covers the Four Corners Area within those four states in the southwest. The Colorado Plateau is made up mostly of high desert, but there are plenty of forested areas and high mountain peaks. The Plateau covers northern Arizona and extends south into east-central Arizona, western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and the eastern half of Utah. The southwestern stretch of the Rocky Mountains is mixed into the Colorado Plateau, and the high elevations in the White Mountains are considered to be an extension of the Rocky Mountains. Pine, spruce, fir, aspen, and high grasslands are prominent in Arizona's high-in-elevation White "Rocky" Mountains. The Mogollon Rim is the southwestern limit of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. It starts as far west as Arizona's Yavapai County and continues east near the New Mexico border. In the White Mountain Region below the rim, forested canyons and slopes make up a lot of the habitat.
About this Guide: As a little kid, my birding interest started when I watched Ospreys at the Greer Reservoirs. Since then, I have vacationed in this region specifically in the eastern half of the White Mountains in Apache County. I've birded in the area a lot since my birding interest has grown, and with the information, pictures, and experiences I have had in this wonderful area, I want to share it on my website. This will be the second guide on my website after my first guide, Birding in Maricopa County. Because I live further away from the White Mountains, this project will be a slower work in progress. As time goes on, I plan to explore as much of the region as I can and as a result of my explorations, I intend to take pictures and more of what I explore and write them up on this guide so others may enjoy it by visiting the location themselves or by enjoying the White Mountains through an interactive form of looking at pictures of locations and birds on this website. Right now, there are a handful of birding locations up (mainly in Apache County) that can be used in the meantime. The target birds folks go to the area for are currently mentioned in the areas and hotspots that are currently up.
Project Goal: As mentioned earlier, the White Mountain region is a large area. Over the next five years, I hope to cover as much of the area as I can, including the locations on the Indian Reservation that are available to bird on via permit. I haven't spent a lot of time in the western and southeastern parts of the White Mountain region in Coconino, Navajo, and Greenlee Counties. I hope to explore those sides of the area as well, because there is a lot of neat stuff out there! For now, much of the eastern half of the White Mountains in Apache County is covered.
White Mountain Birding Areas: To see the many birding areas the White Mountains has to offer and what birds to find in these areas, click on the link below.
White Mountain Birding Areas