New Mexico is known locally and nationally as the Land of Enchantment, a befitting name for a region so incredibly gorgeous and enthralling. With mountains, valleys, mesas, rivers, forests, desert lands, and magical white sands, New Mexico is a nature lover’s and bird watcher’s paradise.
- Common Birds — Scaled Quail, Gambel’s Quail, Montezuma Quail, Elf Owl, Inca Dove, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Pheasant, Dusky Grouse, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Wild Turkey, Canada Goose
- Rare Birds — Lawrence’s Goldfinch, Red-necked Grebe, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Redpoll, Philadelphia Vireo, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Goldeneye, Mottled Duck, Black Scoter, Lucifer Hummingbird, American Woodcock
- Environment of New Mexico — High desert, mountains, rivers, lakes, mesas, forests
- Best Time for Birdwatching Travel –The best birding is during the migration seasons, but New Mexico does offer an amazing amount of resident flyers for good year-round birding
Top 5 New Mexico Birding Trails
If you’d like to visit the Land of Enchantment and catch sight of the many fantastic flyers that rest or roost here, definitely take a gander at the top 5 bird watching trails in New Mexico that are listed below!
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most famous wildlife refuges in the whole United States, let alone New Mexico, is the Bosque Del Apache NWR, located in San Antonio, a small town south of Albuquerque (but not the one with the Alamo!).
Known as The Bosque, this NWR features better than 57,000 acres of avifauna havens along the Rio Grande. Wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forests help compose the Bosque Del Apache (translated as “Woods of the Apache”), but the real heart of the refuge is made up of about 13,000 acres of “moist bottomlands.”
Especially for Sandhill Cranes–of which well over 10,000 visit every single year–The Bosque is an important stop along the migratory lines during the winter. Other species The Bosque hosts include: Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, avocets, pelicans, and a great array of other water fowl varieties.
Visit the official site of Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Gila National Forest
Traveling to western New Mexico, you’ll find yourself in the least of likely places, especially if your idea of the state’s geography and topography was dictated by spaghetti westerns. Here is the Gila National Forest, a mountainous region that rivals the greenery and beauty of lands in the Pacific Northwest.
There are several wilderness areas in Gila NF, and each of them has countless trails for hiking and birding adventures. The Aldo Leopold Wilderness consists of just over 200,000 acres on the east side of the forest, the Blue Range Wilderness hold nearly 30,000 acres, and the Gila Wilderness boasts well over half a million acres and stands as the world’s very first designated Wilderness.
There’s plenty of wildlife to peek at in the Gila National Forest. Some of the great many bird species on hand include: Spotted Owls, Flammulated Owls, Hepatic Tanagers, Painted Redstarts, and Common Black-Hawks, among many others.
Visit the official site of Gila National Forest.
Percha Dam State Park
Just a little over 20 miles south from Truth and Consequences, NM, Percha Dam State Park sits on a little lap of land–about 80 acres small. The park is situated on and around the Percha Dam, which works to raise the elevation level of the Rio Grande so that irrigation of southern chile farms can be possible.
It also works to provide a first rate recreation spot for hikers, campers, boaters, fishers, and especially birders. The Percha Dam is two miles downstream from a much larger dam, which creates a sort of wide reservoir in and around which all of these activities are enjoyed. But the water fowl that visit Percha Dam State Park are tremendous, as are the resident flyers who call this area home, so birders in particular have a lovely time in store for them.
During the spring migration season, you’ll be treated with excellent views of tanagers, warblers, buntings, sparrows, and flycatchers, among so many more.
Visit the official site of Percha Dam State Park.
Elephant Butte Lake State Park
Another park surrounding another dam–and you thought New Mexico was all scorched earth and dust devils! Elephant Butte Lake State Park is about thirty miles or so north of Percha Dam, along the Rio Grande. But Elephant Butte Lake State Park is a big park and it surrounds a big reservoir–both of them are the biggest in the whole state.
The reservoir is about 40 miles long and features over 200 miles of coastline, making it a wonderful fishing and general beach-bumming location. But like Percha Dam, the real stars of the show here are the beautiful birds that visit.
Miles of trails around the park’s 40,000 acres allow birders to get a good look at a whole lot of avifauna, from warblers to hawks and water fowl to waders.
Paseo Del Bosque Trail
Located in the city of Albuquerque, the Paseo Del Bosque Trail is a popular trek on any sunny afternoon. For 16 miles this trail runs alongside the Rio Grande and for 16 miles the only glimpse of cars and traffic that you’ll get are from the very occasional overpasses that cruise above the path. This is a quiet, beautiful, and surprisingly peaceful trail in a very urban environment. Even when the path is crowded, it’s never really crowded–the people who use it all seem to understand how important it is to have a refuge from the city and tend to unanimously respect each other’s desire for tranquility.
Maybe one of the most beautiful urban trails in the whole of the southwest, the Paseo Del Bosque takes you past the Rio Grande Bio Park (a complex of zoo, aquarium, and botanical gardens), near a man-made lake, and through the high desert wilderness found just beyond the city’s peripheral vision. Catch sight of waders and water fowl in the river and song birds in the trees.
Visit the official site of Paseo Del Bosque Trail.
Gila River Bird Habitat Area
Special thanks to Jim and JAckie Blurton of CampSilverCity.com for contributing to this section.
Birders would really be interested to know about some of our special birding locations such as the Gila River Bird Habitat Area. This is a special management riparian area in the Gila National Forest that is protected migratory bird habitat. We also have Lake Roberts as well as fir and aspen forests. What makes birding great here is that the habitats range from riparian to high desert to forest, all within the Silver City area. A birder can find a wide variety of species within a short drive from Silver City.
About the State of New Mexico
You may be surprised to learn that New Mexico isn’t the dusty, hot, string of border-towns that Hollywood Westerns would have you believe it is. New Mexico’s geography and climate is classified as the high desert, which means that it doesn’t get too terribly hot in the summer and gets downright cold in the winter–snow and all. At over a mile in altitude Albuquerque is just as high in the sky as Denver. And New Mexico’s capital, Santa Fe, is another 1,500 feet higher than that!
With expansive blue skies, orange-red mesas, pink sun-lit mountains, and some surprisingly green forests, everywhere you turn in this corner of the high desert is another perfect photo op.
The state reveres the native peoples that inhabited this region long before it was admitted to the union, who in turn revered the land above all else. To honor the peoples, and thusly the gorgeous land they’ve worshipped for centuries, they decided to place a red Zia symbol on the state’s yellow flag, which is the symbol of a native tribe of New Mexico. Reverence is an important word in the Land of Enchantment, and how could it not be, with such a gorgeous landscape to wake up to every morning?