Birding Oro Valley, Arizona’s Honeybee Canyon

Birding Oro Valley, Arizona’s Honeybee Canyon

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Birding Oro Valley, Arizona's Honeybee Canyon

Honeybee Park is located in Tucson, Arizona’s, suburban community of Oro Valley. Nestled in the heart of this beautiful desert residential area, Honeybee Canyon follows a near-level wash a mile through the Sonoran Desert. In spring, Great horned owls nest under a bridge at the beginning of the trail, and an owl Petroglyph can be found near the end.

Getting to Honeybee Park in Oro Valley

From downtown Tucson, drive north on Oracle Road (Highway 77) to Tangerine Road, at the first stoplight past the new Oro Valley Marketplace shopping center. Turn west (left) on Tangerine Road and follow it one mile to the intersection with Rancho Vistoso Boulevard (the intersecting road is Rancho Vistoso Boulevard to the right and First Avenue to the left). Turn right onto Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and drive about three miles to the Honeybee Park parking lot on the right.

From the parking lot, take the trail down to the wash and turn right, following the wash under the Rancho Vistoso bridge to the north.

The Great Horned Owls In Oro Valley’s Honeybee Park

In early April, a pair of Great horned owls nest in the eaves under the Rancho Vistoso Boulevard bridge. As you pass under the bridge on the wash, turn right (east) to check the eaves under the bridge. If owls are present, you are likely to see their nest as well as one or more of them sitting on the support beams. Observing the owls should be unobtrusive, and any photographs should be taken without flash.

The Trail Up Honeybee Canyon in Oro Valley

From the bridge, the wash continues north along a fairly level sandy stretch, passing through and among desert willow, Saguaro and Elk horn cholla. In spring, Brittlebush is blooming and numerous butterflies are present along with as many as fifty species of migratory and Sonoran desert birds.

Common birds in this area include Cactus wren, Curve-billed thrasher, Gila woodpecker, Lesser goldfinch, Gilded flicker, Northern mockingbird, Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal. Together with nearby Catalina State Park, Honeybee Canyon is also one of the few places where birders can find the Rufous-winged sparrow.

Hohokam Petroglyphs in Oro Valley’s Honeybee Canyon

The remnants of a dam are found one mile up the wash, and just past this area birders will find ancient carved petroglyphs on rocks along the left side of the trail. These include symbols commonly found in other Hohokam petroglyph sites around the Tucson area, such as spirals. One unique design, however, is clearly a Great horned owl, carved into the rock hundreds of years before the Rancho Vistoso bridge that currently attracts the same species.

Honeybee Canyon in Oro Valley is an Ideal Family Outing

With easy parking and a level two mile round trip distance, Honeybee Canyon is an excellent hike for children as well as adults. Many bird species are common to the area, and ancient Hohokam petroglyphs, including one of the very owl that nests under the trail’s bridge, are an added attraction.