When we asked several birders within Audubon New Mexico and our local Chapters this question, we expected a strong response but we had no idea how eager folks would be to talk about their favorite birding hot spots across our state. With well over 500 different birds on New Mexico’s state bird list- one of the highest in the country- and with 63 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) it should come as no surprise that our passionate members responded with so many of their favorite places.
Birds are mysterious—each one tells its own story. They inspire us and have the ability to motivate us into action. Birds are a gateway to engage people in our natural world and culture— through festivals, birding trails, volunteer opportunities, classes, bird clubs, art, traditional celebrations, nature centers, parks, backyards, and Audubon Centers.
New Mexico has some of the most breath-taking locations for bird watching.
Favorite birding sites can be somewhat personal choices, but the staff at Audubon New Mexico and our local Chapters suggests that individuals and families are likely to enjoy these locations. We also recommend you flip through the pages of any of Audubon members: Judy Liddell and Barbara Hussey - Birding Hot Spots series of books to learn elaborate details on birds in locations around the state. To purchase these books online visit: https://birdinghotspotscentralnm.com/
Fall is a great time to get your family connected to birds, nature, and to conservation. Get out to one or more of these hot spots, and let yourself be inspired by the magic of birds and nature!
BOSQUE DEL APACHE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE near Socorro. No secret here – Bosque del Apache is the quintessential birding spot in New Mexico. Most people know about the cranes, geese, ducks and eagles who winter at the Bosque, especially during the Festival of the Cranes, which runs from November 14-17, but the refuge offers excellent birding year-round. Visit www.friendsofthebosque.org for a list of birds by season.
Any discussion of birding hotspots among Southwestern New Mexico Audubon (SWNMA) members will definitely include THE GILA RIVER, just a 30-45 minute drive northwest of Silver City off of Highway 180. There are several good birding locations along a 20-mile stretch of the Gila River which extends from where the river exits the Middle Gila Box at the Mogollon Day Use area, at the end of Box Canyon Road (Highway 293), to where it enters the Lower Gila Box in the Gila River Important Bird Area.
What makes this stretch of the river a great birding hotspot, like many other locations in the desert southwest, is the availability of water. This riparian corridor is one of the healthiest waterways left in the American West because the natural flow regime has been minimally altered. The Gila River is also the reason for the existence of SWNMA, founded 50 years ago to protect this part of the Gila River from a dam. To this day, there are threats to the river from diversions proposed as part of the Arizona Water Settlements Act. Audubon and many other local, state and national organizations continue the battle to protect this gem of a river. The needs of the avifauna for a naturally flowing river were detailed in the Gila Flow Needs Assessment report published by The Nature Conservancy in 2014.
A quick look at eBird reveals that eight of the top twenty hotspots in Grant County are located along or near this portion of the Gila River. Although most of the property along this reach of the river is private, there are several great birding spots open to the public. The endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and threatened Yellow-billed Cuckoo make this a premier destination. Other species of conservation concern that can be seen here are Common Black Hawk, Gila Woodpecker, Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s and Grace’s Warblers, Abert’s Towhee and the Hooded Oriole.
The Southwest New Mexico Birding Trail Map, available online or at many visitor’s centers, lists over 40 great birding spots along the Gila River and in the region. Additional information is also available on the SWNMA website, www.swnmaudubon.org.
The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society (MVAS), our chapter located in Las Cruces, boasts that at DRIPPING SPRINGS RECREATION AREA, owned by the Bureau of Land Management, trails are excellent year-round and show off many species of birds, including White-throated Swift, Black-chinned Sparrow and Scott’s Oriole. Additionally, at LEASBURG DAM STATE PARK, located on the Rio Grande about 20 miles north of Las Cruces, there are several types of habitat in the area, which means many different species of birds can be found at and near the park. During migration, different warbler and vireo species, along with towhees, grosbeaks, and orioles may be found in the brush along the sides of the irrigation canal as well as in the trees and brush along the river. Also many ducks, cormorants, swallows, sparrows and birds of prey visit the park. We’re lucky enough to have Mark Pendleton, MVAS Fieldtrip Coordinator provide us with even more year-round great bird spots, click here to find out more magical bird places down south.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the RANDALL DAVEY AUDUBON CENTER & SANCTUARY (1800 Upper Canyon Road) east of Santa Fe were a wide variety of birds reside and visit during migration. Nestled at the mouth of the Santa Fe Canyon, Santa Fe’s only nature center encompasses 135 acres and includes miles of hiking trails and award-winning gardens. The center will surely provide adequate opportunities to catch a glimpse of the more than 100 species of birds that have been observed in the area. The adjacent reservoir attracts migratory birds such as Osprey, Blue Heron, and waterfowl. Favorites on Audubon’s grounds include the Spotted and Canyon Towhee, Hairy Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Typical birds found are hummingbirds, nuthatches, juncos, warblers, woodpeckers, jays, and chickadees. The plant community along the Santa Fe River bottom provides a home to towhees, goldfinches, vireos, robins, and others. The center offers free guided bird walks every Saturday at 8:30am.
Of course there are many more places in every inch on the New Mexico map that have incredible birding spots. Audubon’s local chapters and many bird clubs around the state offer field trips throughout the year. Our website, http://nm.audubon.org, has links to additional birding spots in Farmington, Ruidoso, Roswell, Carlsbad, and be sure to visit local chapter websites.