Important Bird Areas

Huachuca Mountains, Coronado National Forest

Arizona

Four major peaks dominate the 20-mile long mountain range. Situated on a diagonal axis, these peaks from the southeast are: Miller Peak (9,466 ft), Carr (9,220 ft), Ramsey (8,725 ft), and Huachuca Peak (8,410 ft). Rainfall along the the crest of the range averages 30 inches per year, and temperatures are 20-25 degrees cooler that the San Pedro valley floor. The Huachua Mountains have the most perennial streams (6) than any of the other Madrean mountains in Arizona. A substantial portion of Fort Huachuca is within this IBA. The southern portion of the IBA is the Coronado National Monument, and the mountains slope southward into Mexico. On the western flanks are a few ranches and private dwellings.

Ornithological Summary

The Huachuca Mountains support an incredible number of populations of avian "species of conservation concern" (26), some of which are found only in the United States in the border "Sky Island" mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona (Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Whiskered Screech-Owl, and Elegant Trogon). Also found in the Huachuca range are rare neo-tropical species found only in the most southern Sky Island Mountains of Arizona (e.g., the Berryline Hummingbird, Blue-throated, Violet-crowned, and White-eared Hummingbirds, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, and Buff-collared Nightjar). Some species of conservation concern in the Sky Island ranges of Arizona are similarly of conservation concern in Mexico (e.g. Mexican Spotted Owl and Eared Quetzal-an occasional breeder in the Huachuca Mountains), because of the unprotected status of the great majority of the Sierra Madre Occidental ecological community and more extensive timber harvesting in Mexico. The range supports avian communities of possibly greater taxa diversity, in a single connected habitat gradient, than anywhere in the United States, e.g., hummingbirds (15 species) and owls (9 species). This range supports the largest number of breeding pairs of Elegant Trogon in the United States (~46 pairs) and likely the largest population of Whiskered Screech-Owl in the United States. A particularly unique feature of this range is the convergence of Rocky Mountain and Sierra Madrean bird populations, for example Virginia's and Black-throated Gray Warblers of the interior Rocky Mountains and Red-faced and Olive Warblers of the Sierra Madres, occurring in different habitats of this same mountain range. Wintering Lewis's Woodpecker and Pinyon Jay and Arizona Woodpecker and Mexican Jay, are another example of this convergence. Perhaps most surprising, is the co-occurrence of nesting Eastern and the Western Bluebird, and sometimes the Mountain Bluebird (wintering) all within this range, the Eastern Bluebird is a sub-species (Sialias sialis fulva) from the Sierra Madre. The Huachuca Mountains along with the Chiricuaha Mountains, host the greatest diversity of Sierra Madrean neo-tropical birds in the United States.

Conservation Issues

Minor threat exists from spread on invasive non-native plants. Major threat exist from past fire suppression, and a build up of dense fuels, particularly in the pine-oak, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir habitat zones. A localized major threat is heavy grazing by cattle on the western slopes and northern slopes of the range, particularly grazing in riparian habitat within canyons. Light to moderate grazing outside of riparian habitats is of minor influence within the oak-grassland habitat type.

Ownership

US Forest Service Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista Ranger District
US Park Service, Coronado National Monument
US Army Fort Huachuca
Private properties within the US Forest boundaries are not included unless permission has been given by theowners.

Habitat

Biotic communities are primarily Madrean montane coniferous forest and Madrean evergreen forest and woodland (Brown et al. 1979). Streambeds have perennial, seasonal, or intermittent water. These streams/washes are lined by deciduous trees such as sycamore (Plantanus wrightii), ash (Fraxinus velutina), walnut (Juglans major), and willow (Salix spp.). Trees in canyon bottoms include Chihuahua pine (Pinus leiophyllus), apache pine (Pinus englemannii), alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeanna), and oak (Quercus spp.). Higher on canyon sides in the Huachuca Mountains are oaks, junipers, and Mexican pinion pines (Pinus cembroides).
The northern exposure of the mountains and shaded reaches of surrounding canyons support Douglas fir and quaking aspen. Below this zone is a habitat zone comprised of ponderosa pine and winter deciduous Gambel's oak. Much of this higher elevation range is protected by the Miller Peak Wilderness Area managed by the Coronado National Forest. Below 7,000 ft is the a habitat zone of Madrean pine-oak woodland. Two types of pines, i.e., Apache and Chihuahua dominate, and a number of oak species (early spring deciduous) are present. The lower limit of the Madrean pine-oak habitat is around 5,000 feet; the 5200 feet elevation contour is the IBA lower boundary. Chihuahuan desert grassland and thorn scrub are the native habitats that extend from around 5000 feet down to the San Pedro River at 1000 feet elevation.

Other Flora and Fauna:
The Huachuca Mountains have the most rare plant species (19) that any of the other Madrean mountain ranges in southeast Arizona. Particularly, notable is the diversity of Oak species (11 Quercus sp.: arizonica, dunnii or chrysolepis var., palmeri, emoryi, gambelii, grisea, hypoleucoides, oblongifolia, rugosa or reticulata, toumeyi, turbinella, undulata), which again is believed to be higher than anywhere north of Mexico.

Land Use

A destination for birdwatchers, primarily the major riparian canyons that are world-renowned for hummingbird diversity. Cochise County and surrounding communities are beginning to promote ecotourisim.

Research/Conservation Projects:
Researcher Susan Wethington has been conducting hummingbird research since 2002 in Miller and Ramsey Canyons. Results are not available yet.

Protected Areas:
Miller Peak is a protected Wilderness area of 20,190 acres.

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