Master the Art of New Mexico Bird Identification with Expert Tips

new mexico bird identification

Bird watching and identification can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, especially in the diverse and rich ecosystems of New Mexico. The state is home to a wide variety of bird species, including birds of prey, waterbirds, and songbirds. Understanding the common birds found in New Mexico is the first step towards becoming skilled at bird identification.

In New Mexico, you can come across beautiful birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, soaring through the skies. Waterbird species, including herons, ducks, and shorebirds, can be found in New Mexico’s lakes, rivers, and wetlands. And the forests and gardens are filled with the melodious sounds and vibrant colors of songbirds like warblers, finches, and sparrows.

Identifying birds requires paying attention to their various features and characteristics. This includes observing their physical appearance, such as size, shape, coloration, and markings. Understanding their habitat preferences and distribution patterns can also provide valuable clues for identification. paying attention to their behaviors and calls can help differentiate between similar-looking species.

To aid in bird identification, there are several tools and resources available. Field guides and books specific to the birds of New Mexico provide detailed information and illustrations. Online bird identification websites and apps offer instant access to vast databases and can assist with real-time bird sightings and recordings.

For a successful bird watching experience, it is essential to develop tips and techniques for observation. This includes being patient, using binoculars or a spotting scope for a closer look, and learning to distinguish between common bird behaviors such as feeding, nesting, or migration. Being familiar with popular birding locations in New Mexico, such as the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and The Gila Wilderness, can greatly enhance your chances of spotting a diverse range of bird species.

By exploring the common birds of New Mexico, understanding bird identification features, utilizing helpful tools and resources, and following effective bird watching techniques, you can embark on a fulfilling birding journey in this captivating state.

Key takeaway:

  • Identifying birds in New Mexico: Understanding the common birds in New Mexico, including birds of prey, waterbirds, and songbirds, is essential for bird identification.
  • Resources for bird identification: Field guides, books, online bird ID websites, and apps are valuable tools for identifying the features and characteristics of different bird species.
  • Tips for bird watching and identification: Learning techniques and tips for bird watching and identification can enhance the experience and improve accuracy in recognizing bird species.

Common Birds in New Mexico

When it comes to birdwatching in New Mexico, there are some iconic species that you shouldn’t miss. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the common birds you’ll encounter in this diverse region. From the majestic birds of prey soaring through the skies to the graceful waterbirds and enchanting songbirds, each sub-section focuses on a different group of these fascinating creatures. Get ready to explore the vibrant world of New Mexico’s avian residents!

Birds of Prey


| Birds of Prey | Wingspan (feet) | Speed (mph) | Prey |
| Eagle | 6-7 | 40-60 | Fish |
| Hawk | 3-4 | 20-40 | Small mammals, birds |
| Falcon | 1-3 | 200+ | Birds, bats |
| Owl | 3-6 | 10-40 | Small mammals, birds, insects |

Birds of Prey, including eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls, are renowned for their impressive hunting abilities and distinctive features. Eagles have a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet, while hawks have a wingspan of 3 to 4 feet. Falcons, on the other hand, have a smaller wingspan ranging from 1 to 3 feet, but they are incredibly fast, reaching speeds of over 200 mph during dives. Owls have a wingspan of 3 to 6 feet and are known for their ability to fly silently.

These majestic Birds of Prey primarily prey on different types of animals. Eagles are skilled at catching fish, while hawks target small mammals and birds. Falcons specialize in hunting birds and bats, using their incredible speed to chase down their prey. Owls have a varied diet and feed on small mammals, birds, insects, and even fish in some cases.

Birds of Prey play a significant role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. By controlling populations of small animals and birds, they help regulate the overall health of their habitats. Their presence also serves as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

Birds of Prey have fascinated humans throughout history. Ancient civilizations revered them for their strength and agility, often considering them symbols of power and wisdom. In medieval times, falconry, a sport involving the use of trained Birds of Prey, was popular among royalty and nobility. Today, Birds of Prey continue to captivate our imagination and are a source of inspiration in art, literature, and conservation efforts. Their remarkable hunting abilities and unique characteristics make them a captivating and crucial part of the natural world.


1. Ducks – Mallard ducks are commonly found in wetland areas, lakes, and rivers.
2. Geese – Canada geese are often seen in open fields, parks, and bodies of water.
3. Swans – Trumpeter swans can be spotted in marshes, ponds, and lakes.
4. Herons – Great blue herons are frequently observed near bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes.
5. Egrets – Snowy egrets are commonly found in wetland areas and along the coast.
6. Pelicans – American white pelicans can be seen in large bodies of water, particularly lakes and reservoirs.

Waterbirds encompass a variety of species that thrive in aquatic habitats. Ducks, such as the Mallard duck, are frequently found in wetland areas, lakes, and rivers. Geese, particularly Canada geese, can be spotted in open fields, parks, and bodies of water. Swans, like the Trumpeter swan, are often seen in marshes, ponds, and lakes. Herons, such as the great blue heron, can be observed near bodies of water, including rivers and lakes. Egrets, like the snowy egret, are commonly found in wetland areas and along the coast. Pelicans, particularly the American white pelican, can be seen in large bodies of water, especially lakes and reservoirs. These waterbirds play important roles in their ecosystems and provide ample opportunities for birdwatching and appreciation of their beauty and unique behaviors.


Songbirds are a diverse group of birds known for their melodious and intricate songs. They can be found in various habitats across New Mexico. Here are some notable songbirds you might encounter in the state:

  1. Mountain Chickadee: These small birds are known for their distinctive black caps and white cheeks. Their songs are a series of high-pitched whistles.
  2. Red-winged Blackbird: The male of this species has a black body with red and yellow shoulder patches. Their song is a melodious mix of whistles and warbles.
  3. Downy Woodpecker: With their black and white plumage, downy woodpeckers are easily recognized. They have a distinct drumming sound that they produce by pecking on trees.
  4. Greater Roadrunner: These desert birds have a unique appearance with long legs and a crest on their head. They are known for their series of cooing and clucking vocalizations.

Pro-tip: To attract songbirds to your backyard, consider installing bird feeders filled with a variety of seeds and nuts. Providing fresh water in birdbaths or shallow dishes, especially during hot and dry periods, can also help attract songbirds.

Identifying Features and Characteristics of Birds

Become a pro at identifying birds in New Mexico! In this section, we’ll explore the key features and characteristics that can help you identify different bird species. Whether you prefer the traditional approach of field guides and books or the convenience of online bird ID websites and apps, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to unleash your inner birdwatcher and discover the fascinating world of New Mexico’s avian inhabitants!

Field Guides and Books

When it comes to bird identification, field guides and books are essential tools for birdwatchers. These resources provide valuable information to help identify different bird species. Here are some reasons why field guides and books are valuable:

  • Accurate Information: Field guides and books offer detailed and accurate descriptions of bird species, including their physical characteristics, habitat preferences, and distribution.
  • Visual Aid: Field guides and books usually include illustrations or photographs of birds, allowing birdwatchers to compare the birds they see with the images in the book. This visual aid can be extremely helpful in identifying unfamiliar species.
  • Behavioral Insights: Field guides and books often include information about bird behaviors, such as mating displays, feeding habits, or vocalizations. Understanding these behaviors can provide additional clues for identification.
  • Portable and Accessible: Field guides and books are compact and easy to carry, making them convenient for birdwatching outings. Unlike online resources, they don’t rely on internet connectivity, making them accessible even in remote locations.

When selecting a field guide or book, consider the expertise level required and the specific bird species found in your region. Some popular field guides in North America include “The Sibley Guide to Birds” by David Allen Sibley and “National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America” by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer. These guides provide comprehensive information and are suitable for both beginners and experienced birdwatchers.

Remember to choose a field guide or book that matches your specific birdwatching interests and needs. Happy birdwatching!

Online Bird ID Websites and Apps

When it comes to identifying birds, online bird ID websites and apps can be valuable tools. Here are some options to consider:

  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Merlin Bird ID” app: This app allows you to identify birds by answering a series of questions about their size, color, and behavior. It also provides photos, sounds, and detailed information about each species.
  • This website not only allows you to search for specific birds by location and date, but it also provides real-time information on bird sightings submitted by birders from around the world. You can explore maps, checklists, and even join citizen science projects.
  • Audubon Bird Guide app: With this app, you can search for birds by appearance, location, and behavior. It includes photos, range maps, and descriptions for over 800 species, making it a comprehensive resource for bird identification.

These online bird ID websites and apps are user-friendly and provide accurate information to help birders identify the birds they encounter. They are especially useful for beginners or those who are unfamiliar with the local bird species. By using these tools, you can enhance your birding experience and develop a deeper appreciation for the diverse avian wildlife around you.

Tips and Techniques for Bird Watching and Identification

If you’re interested in bird watching and identification in New Mexico, here are some tips and techniques to enhance your experience:

  1. Field Guide and Resources: Invest in a reliable field guide specific to birds in New Mexico. It will provide detailed information about bird species, their habitats, and distinct features. Utilize online resources and smartphone apps dedicated to bird identification.
  2. Observe Habitats: Explore diverse habitats in New Mexico, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, and mountains. Each habitat attracts different bird species. Learn about their preferences and visit the appropriate locations to increase your chances of spotting various birds.
  3. Binoculars and Optics: A good pair of binoculars is essential for bird watching. Opt for binoculars with appropriate magnification and a wide field of view. Consider using a spotting scope for long-distance viewing or for observing birds in specific locations.
  4. Learn Bird Calls and Songs: Familiarize yourself with the unique calls and songs of bird species in New Mexico. Bird vocalizations can provide valuable clues for identification, especially when birds are hidden from view. Use online resources, birding apps, or join local birding groups to enhance your knowledge of bird sounds.
  5. Focus on Field Marks: Pay attention to field marks, including color patterns, size, shape, beak characteristics, and wing patterns. These visual cues are crucial for distinguishing between similar bird species.
  6. Behavioral Observations: Take note of bird behavior, such as feeding techniques, flight patterns, mating displays, and interactions with other birds. Behavioral observations can help identify specific bird species and provide insights into their ecology.
  7. Photography and Documentation: Consider photographing the birds you observe to document your sightings and aid in identification. Capture images of different angles, plumage variations, and any unique features. Review the photos later or share them with experienced birders for assistance in identification.
  8. Join Birding Groups and Events: Participate in local birding groups, clubs, or organized birding events in New Mexico. These communities provide opportunities to learn from experienced birders, share knowledge, and discover new birding locations.
  9. Keep a Birding Journal: Maintain a journal to record your bird sightings, including date, location, weather conditions, and any notable observations. This will help you track your progress, note seasonal patterns, and create a personal birding history.
  10. Respect and Protect: Practice ethical birding by respecting the birds and their habitats. Observe from a distance, avoid disturbing nesting sites, and follow local regulations. Help conserve bird populations and their habitats by supporting conservation organizations.

By following these tips and techniques, you can enhance your bird watching and identification skills in New Mexico and enjoy the diverse avian species found in the region.

Popular Birding Locations in New Mexico

If you’re a bird enthusiast looking for the best spots to indulge in some birding delight, New Mexico has got you covered! From the stunning Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to the breathtaking Valles Caldera National Preserve and the untamed beauty of The Gila Wilderness, this section is your ticket to discovering the most popular birding locations in New Mexico. So grab your binoculars, it’s time for some exciting avian exploration!

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

is a renowned birding location in New Mexico. It attracts a diverse range of migratory birds throughout the year. The refuge covers approximately 57,331 acres, providing ample habitat for various bird species.

Birdwatchers visiting Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge can observe a multitude of waterbirds, including sandhill cranes and waterfowl. These birds are drawn to the wetlands and rivers found within the refuge. The area is home to a variety of woodland and desert birds, such as the downy woodpecker and crested birds.

The refuge offers visitors opportunities to witness unique behaviors of different bird species. Notably, the sandhill cranes engage in impressive courtship dances, while birds of prey, such as eagles and hawks, soar overhead in search of prey. Birdwatchers can witness these captivating moments firsthand.

To make the most of their visit, bird enthusiasts should bring field guides and binoculars to aid in bird identification. They can utilize online bird identification websites and apps for further assistance. By employing these tools and resources, visitors can enhance their experience and identify the various bird species encountered at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

So, whether you’re an avid birder or simply interested in observing the beauty of nature, a trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is a must. Explore the diverse bird species and immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings of this remarkable birding location.

Valles Caldera National Preserve

is a stunning location for bird watching in New Mexico. The preserve boasts diverse habitats that attract a wide variety of bird species throughout the year.
Visitors can enjoy observing species such as the rare birds, Downy Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Red-winged Blackbird, and Sandhill Crane. The preserve is especially known for its desert birds, including those that lay blue eggs, and its birds of prey, such as the Greater Roadrunner.
To enhance your bird identification experience at Valles Caldera National Preserve, be sure to bring your binoculars and a field guide or use online bird ID websites and apps. These resources will help you identify the unique characteristics and behaviors of the birds you encounter.
Remember to respect the preserve’s regulations and maintain a safe distance from the birds so as not to disturb their natural habitat. With its breathtaking landscapes and abundant birdlife, Valles Caldera National Preserve is a must-visit destination for bird enthusiasts.

The Gila Wilderness

is an expansive and diverse area located in New Mexico. It is known for its stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife. The Gila Wilderness is home to a wide variety of birds, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

The Gila Wilderness offers a unique habitat for birds, with its rugged mountains, deep canyons, and flowing rivers. This diverse landscape attracts a range of bird species, including the rare and elusive birds that birdwatchers seek.

Birdwatchers visiting the Gila Wilderness can expect to spot a variety of birds, such as the Downy Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Red Winged Blackbird, and Sandhill Crane. The wilderness is also home to majestic Birds of Prey, including the Greater Roadrunner.

To enhance your birdwatching experience in the Gila Wilderness, it is recommended to bring binoculars and a field guide or use online bird identification resources. These tools will help you identify the birds you encounter and learn more about their behaviors and calls.

Exploring the Gila Wilderness is a rewarding experience for birdwatchers, as it offers a chance to observe birds in their natural habitat and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. So, if you are interested in birdwatching, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Gila Wilderness and discover its avian wonders.

Some Facts About New Mexico Bird Identification:

  • ✅ There are over 542 species of birds recorded in New Mexico. (Source: Birdwatching HQ)
  • ✅ The American Robin is a common bird in New Mexico, with a rusty red breast and a dark head and back. They are comfortable around people and can be found in backyards. (Source: Birdwatching HQ)
  • ✅ The Downy Woodpecker is another common bird in New Mexico, with a short bill and white bellies. They are attracted to suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts, and can be seen in most backyards. (Source: Birdwatching HQ)
  • ✅ The Hairy Woodpecker is similar to the Downy Woodpecker in appearance but can be identified by a red patch on the back of the male’s head. They can be found in mature forests, suburban backyards, and other areas with large trees. (Source: Birdwatching HQ)
  • ✅ The Greater Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico and can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. (Source:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are some identifying characteristics of birds commonly seen in New Mexico?

Some identifying characteristics of birds commonly seen in New Mexico include a rusty red breast and a dark head and back for the American Robin, and a short bill and white bellies for the Downy Woodpecker. The Hairy Woodpecker can be identified by a red patch on the back of the male’s head.

2. What types of food attract birds to backyard bird feeders in New Mexico?

Birds in New Mexico are attracted to suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and fruit. These foods can be used to attract species like the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, House Finch, American Robin, and Northern Flicker, among others.

3. How many bird species are recorded in New Mexico?

There are over 542 species of birds recorded in New Mexico, including the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden Eagle, Wild Turkey, and California Condor.

4. Where are some popular birding destinations in New Mexico?

New Mexico offers excellent bird watching opportunities with its national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and state parks. Some popular birding destinations in the state include the Rio Grande Valley, the Rocky Mountains, the Chihuahuan Desert, and the Great Basin Desert.

5. What are the fastest birds found in the United States?

The fastest birds found in the United States include falcons, such as the Peregrine Falcon and the Prairie Falcon. These birds can reach speeds over 200 miles per hour during their hunting dives.

6. Are there any birds in New Mexico that lay sky blue-colored eggs?

Yes, birds in New Mexico that lay sky blue-colored eggs include the Western Bluebird and the Mountain Bluebird. These colorful birds can be spotted in various habitats throughout the state.

Dale Garrett

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing his 15 years of my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at for assistance.