Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Sonoita Creek SNA and Patagonia Lake COA

This COA includes Patagonia Lake and the adjacent Sonoita Creek State Natural Area (SNA). The uplands of the SNA are covered with high desert vegetation including mesquite, acacia, ocotillo, barrel and other smaller cactus, and yucca. Patagonia Lake is bordered by wetland and riparian habitat comprised of cattails, bulrush, and willow. This COA hosts many riparian obligate avian species, including regionally-significant breeding populations of gray hawk, yellow-billed cuckoo, Bell’s vireo, Lucy’s warbler, Abert’s towhee, and broad-billed hummingbird. This riparian oasis is also a migration hot-spot for foraging riparian dependent species, notably, summer tanager, yellow warbler, and others.

Conservation Goals

  • Identify and conserve areas known as stopover and breeding habitats for migratory birds and support their full life-cycle conservation through international collaborations that address threats to their migration and wintering habitats in Mexico, Central America, and beyond.
  • Restore and maintain native stands of cottonwood and willows to improve habitat quality and reduce wildfire potential.
  • Conduct monitoring and targeted removal efforts to limit establishment and spread of invasive species such salt cedar, crayfish, and bullfrogs.
  • Maintain and increase surface water quality and quantity to improve rare riparian habitats for wildlife, both common and SGCN.
  • Improve management of livestock to restrict from the riparian area.


Primary Threats

1. Agriculture

1.3: Livestock farming and ranching

3. Climate Change and Severe Weather

3.2: Droughts

8. Invasive and Other Problematic Species

8.1: Invasive non-native species

Potential Conservation Actions

2. Land and Water Management

2.1: Site/area management
  • Conserve or improve areas for migratory birds identified as important habitats during any part of their annual life cycle (breeding, stopover, or wintering).
2.2: Invasive/problematic species control
  • Improve management of trespass livestock that can damage the sensitive riparian habitats.
  • Remove invasive salt cedar and restore habitats with native trees.
2.3: Habitat and natural process restoration
  • Work with partners and private landowners to maintain/improve surface water for wildlife.

3. Species Management

3.1: Management of specific species of concern
  • Restore and improve riparian habitats to support populations of western yellow-billed cuckoos, native fish, Chiricahua leopard frogs, and other SGCN.

5. Law and Policy

5.4: Compliance and enforcement
  • Improve enforcement of laws and regulations to reduce irresponsible recreational use (e.g. OHV and dumping) that can impair riparian habitats.

7. External Capacity Building

7.2: Alliance and partnership development
  • Facilitate and fund collaborative organizations to improve coordinated management of the watershed.

Habitats Present

Strategy Species


Lowland Leopard Frog


Bald Eagle, Arizona Bell's Vireo, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Common Black Hawk, Eared Grebe, Gray Hawk, Lucy's Warbler, Pied-billed Grebe, Rose-throated Becard, Sora, Thick-billed Kingbird, Virginia Rail, Yellow Warbler, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Gallinule


Lesser Long-nosed Bat


Gila Spotted Whiptail


See Associated Aquatic COAs for fish species.

Protected Areas and Other Areas of Conservation Value

  • Sonoita Creek State Wildlife Area
  • Patagonia Lake State Park
  • Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (TNC)

Potential Partners

  • Arizona State Parks
  • Tucson Audubon Society
  • Desert Fishes Council
  • Sonoran Joint Venture
  • Arizona Land and Water Trust
  • Friends of Sonoita Creek

Relevant Conservation Plans

Associated Aquatic COAs