Photo of an Elegant Trogan taken near Patagonia Lake

Photo of an Elegant Trogan taken near Patagonia Lake, copyright Dominic Sherony (Flickr)

Visitors to the Circle Z might notice a lot of binoculars in and around Patagonia. Although the skies are great for stargazing, most of these binoculars are usually draped around the necks of birders, who have come to the region in search of our feathered friends.


Southern Arizona is considered prime viewing grounds for bird lovers. The Sonoita Creek flowing year round creates a rich ecosystem that makes it an attractive spot for wildlife, especially birds. The Nature Conservancy lists over 250 (yes, 250!) species that can be sighted at its Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, which lies just north of the Circle Z.

Of all the birds to be found in this habitat, the most sought-after is the Elegant Trogon. Usually found in the mountains of Mexico and Central America, the only spot for viewing it in the US is Southern Arizona, right around the ranch. Even then, they are rare; it’s estimated that there are only 50 pairs in the region!

If Elegant Trogons are in the vicinity, feathers that are iridescent green on top and bright red on the chest make them easy to spot. They love to nest and roost on the sycamores that line the Sonoita Creek and its surrounding trails.

Elegant Trogons are most frequently seen from April through November, when they come to Patagonia and its environs for breeding. This overlaps with our ranch season by four to six weeks at either end.

The next time you’re riding on a trail on or near the Sonoita Creek, take an occasional peek up underneath the sycamores. You just might spy an Elegant Trogon, one of the “bucket list sightings” of the birding world!

NOTE: There are a wealth of other birds to be found at the Circle Z. Take a look at what our guest Steve Mlodinow saw during a recent visit!  That’s a lot of birds!

Click here to access Steve Mlodinow’s Bird List