Popular birding destinations in Northern New Mexico

Black rosy finch at Sandia Crest House. Courtesy Tom Taylor

Popular birding destinations in Northern New Mexico

While Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as one of the top birdwatching destinations in America, New Mexico is home to plenty of other choice locales to spot colorful and unique birds. Here are four in Northern New Mexico where birders can enjoy theit hobby:

Sandia Crest

The highest point in the Sandia Mountains provides a unique opportunity to soak in soaring views and spot birds with relative ease. Overlooking Albuquerque at more than 10,600 feet in elevation, Sandia Crest is a winter home to three varieties of rosy finches — gray-crowned, black and brown. They can be seen at feeders along the balcony of Sandia Crest House with no hike required.

For those seeking more adventure, multiple trails including La Luz, North Crest and Ellis have trailheads at or near the Sandia Crest and provide ample opportunity to view a wide variety of high-elevation bird species during breeding season.

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

This 8,672-acre refuge southeast of Las Vegas, N.M., contains mesas, canyons, prairies and wetlands, supporting a wide array of wildlife. With more than 40 small ponds, it’s one of the few sizable wetland areas in the state.

Sandhill cranes migrate through the refuge during the fall. According to the refuge’s website, Canada geese and avocets nest on the refuge, along with a variety of duck species (gadwall, ruddy, cinnamon teal, blue-winged and northern pintails).

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

About 30 miles south of Raton and just off Interstate 25 is another rare wetland area with year-round bird viewing opportunities. The 3,699-acre refuge has an elevation of 6,000 feet. It contains three lakes, short-grass prairie and woodlots.

Bald eagles spend winter in the refuge, generally peaking in February. The refuge’s website lists sandhill cranes, turkeys, northern flickers, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers and golden eagles as some of the other species that can be commonly found during winter.

Bandelier National Monument

More known for its ancestral puebloan dwellings, Bandelier is also a collecting place for a colorful array of birds. With elevations ranging from 5,600 at the Rio Grande to more than 10,000 feet at Cerro Grande in the Jemez Mountains, there is a diverse assortment of habitats within the monument’s 33,677 acres.

Western bluebirds and mountain bluebirds can be commonly found on the mesa tops of Frijoles Canyon, while the blue and black Steller’s jay can be seen in higher elevations. The broad-tailed hummingbird is common in the spring and summer, and Canada geese, mountain chickadees and the ruby-crowned kinglet are among the species that can be spotted in winter, according to the monument’s website.

Matt Dahlseid

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