Birding at Willcox Playa Wildlife Area is best from mid-Oct. through March. In January, Wings over Willcox Birding and Nature Festival takes place in nearby Willcox.
Located in southeastern Arizona, Willcox Playa Wildlife Area is an Important Bird Area that supports thousands of birds of all different species. Besides Sandhill cranes, the playa attracts white-faced ibis, crested caracara, various raptors, and many songbird species. It is a great location for birding and other wildlife viewing with opportunities to see mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
From Willcox, go east on AZ 186 for six miles; turn south on Kansas Settlement Road for four miles to the wildlife area. Apache Station Wildlife Area – Take the I-10 exit 331 south for 8.5 miles. Lake Cochise – just south of Willcox on Hwy. 186, turn into Twin Lakes Golf Course and follow signs to the birding area.
From Tucson, take I-10 east to Hwy. 191, then south on Hwy. 191 to junction with Hwy. 181 (Sunizona). Continue south towards Elfrida and take Central Highway south to Double Adobe Road, then east back to Hwy. 191 and north to McNeal.
Willcox Playa is a sparsely-vegetated desert grassland, strongly dominated by alkali sacaton and saltgrass, with some cover of little bluestem and other grasses. Shrub cover increases towards the periphery, with saltbushes, mesquites and non-native tamarisk. Scattered Fremont cottonwood and Goodding’s willow grow in or along the network of ditches that have been built to drain sections of the playa over the past century.
Common birds in the area include white-faced ibis, crested caracara, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, Harris’s hawks, prairie falcons, bald and golden eagles, northern flickers, white-necked ravens, and many songbird species.
Common mammals in the area include mule deer, javelina, coatis, badgers, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, and raccoons.
Willcox Playa Wildlife Area ( approximately 600 acres) is managed by AZGFD.
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