Habitats and Birds of Southwest New Mexico: Birding the American Southwest

These descriptions accompany the trip outlined in Birding Southwest New Mexico. A brief description of habitat followed by birds likely to be seen accompanies each location in southwestern New Mexico included on the trip itinerary. The trip was designed for individuals on a budget, and includes suggestions for nice campgrounds along the way when possible, although many locations are within driving range of a city with amenities for those who prefer a hotel.

Cibola National Forest/Sandia Wilderness – Albuquerque

The crest trail runs along the higher elevations of the Sandias, averaging 10,000 feet, through a spruce fir forest. At this high elevation, birds one may encounter in summer include Band-tailed Pigeon, Grace’s Warbler, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, the red-backed race of the Dark-eyed Junco, and Green-tailed Towhee.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

This is New Mexico’s largest lake and is surrounded by desert scrub habitat. The best birding areas include Rock Canyon south and Paseo del Rio Park, a riparian canyon situated alongside the river. Birds include Gambel’s Quail, Curve-billed Thrasher, Lesser Goldfinch, Say’s Phoebe, Pyrrholuxia, Black-chinned Hummingbird and Bronzed Cowbird.

Percha Dam State Park

This small park includes grassy lawns around the campsites as well as riparian woodland along the Rio Grande and desert scrub. Bird the open central manicured lawn with cottonwoods for birds such as the Vermillion Flycatcher, then travel to the south end of the park and walk through the gap in the fence on the trail that parallels the river. Watch for birds such as Black Phoebe, Bullock’s Oriole, Summer Tanager and Spotted Sandpiper.

Caballo Lake State Park

This shallow reservoir is surrounded by desert scrub, mesquite, and riparian woodland. This is a good place to pick up Phainopepla, especially in the campgrounds along the river. Other common birds include White-winged Dove, Western Kingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat and Common Yellowthroat.


Dripping Springs Recreation Area

This lowland desert is located on the west side of the Organ Mountains. The Dripping Springs trail produces such species as Scott’s Oriole, Canyon Towhee, Canyon Wren and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Emory Pass in Gila National Forest

At an elevation of 8,500 feet, this cool hike provides nice views and higher elevation birds, such as the Cordilleran Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, Mountain Chickadee, Olive and Red-faced Warblers.

City of Rocks State Park

In these Chihuahuan desert grasslands nestled among unique rock formations, one may find birds like Loggerhead Shrikes, Greater Roadrunners, Great-horned Owls and Cactus Wrens.