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State of the Birds Report

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Mexican Pine-Oak Forests

Mexican Pine-oak by Chris

The roughly 3 million acres of pine-oak forests in the mountains of southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are an extension of the vast Sierra Madre forests of Mexico. Twenty-one bird species are restricted to this forest type within the U.S. portions of their ranges. Privately owned lands constitute 23% of U.S. Mexican pine-oak forests, including more than 82,000 acres of private protected lands that, in conjunction with adjacent public lands, preserve unique forest ecosystems in mountain canyons and other riparian areas.

Mexican Pine-Oak Birds on Private Lands

On average, 24% of Mexican pine-oak forest bird distribution is on private lands. For many species, however, distribution on private protected lands is disproportionately high. For example, private protected lands constitute only 3% of the land area, but they hold one-fifth of the regional populations of Arizona Woodpeckers and Whiskered Screech-Owls. In general, birds of riparian canyons are more dependent on private lands than birds of upland pine-oak forests.

Conservation Successes

The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve in the Huachuca Mountains protects one of the most pristine examples of southeast Arizona’s mountain canyons and adjacent pine-oak slopes. The preserve boasts the highest hummingbird diversity in the U.S. (15 species recorded) as well as important populations of obligate species such as Elegant Trogon and Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher.

Mexican Pine-Oak Forest Bird Distribution 

Within the Mexican pine-oak forests that extend into the United States, private lands host about a quarter or more of the distributions of Elegant Trogon and 11 other obligate species. Elegant Trogon by John Paul Cahill.

The 1,920-acre El Coronado Ranch on the west side of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona represents a remarkable demonstration of private land conservation. Owners and managers Valer and Josiah Austin have restored the natural hydrology of the mountain canyon, revitalizing both the aquatic habitat and the adjacent forests, while increasing the productivity of their ranch. The Austins have expanded their successful water conservation techniques to other ranches in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. 


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