Best Birding In New Mexico Locations, Destinations, and Bird Watching Clubs

December 17, 2021 // 22 minute read

Birding Locations » US » Birding In New Mexico

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Birdwatching enthusiasts are going to really love living in New Mexico because it’s truly a desert oasis and one of the areas in the United States with the highest list of bird species throughout the nation. There are woodland birds, desert scrub birds, birds that like high elevation coniferous forests, and a wide range of other habitats in this state as well.

So, whether you live in New Mexico where you just plan on visiting in the near future, you’ll definitely appreciate the immense bird watching experiences made available to you. There are mountains in the north, forests in the south, and just about every other fruitful habitat in between.

New Mexico is a wonderful destination to visit if you plan on going on free or paid bird watching excursions throughout the year. I am going to share some of my top birdwatching hotspots with you today and I’ll even tell you about a few of my favorite bird watching clubs and Audubon society groups.

To find further resources about other popular birding hotspots in states surrounding the New Mexico borders, please check out the following invaluable pages that include: Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona.

Birding in New Mexico: Free Destinations

It’s always great to check out many of the free birding destinations that New Mexico has to offer. I’m happy to be the one to tell you about some of the top places to go birdwatching and wildlife viewing with family and friends. The places that I’m about to share with you all reside within the Land of Enchantment and there are so many different bird species to enjoy and appreciate that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Consider visiting one or more of these top free bird watching locations the next time you’re in the state of New Mexico. Remember to bring your friends and family along to create a beautiful memory that you can hold in your heart for the rest of your life.

Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admission

You’ll love visiting Bosque Del Apache NWR in October because you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the greatest wildlife showcases in America at this refuge on the Rio Grande. Believe it or not, Sandhill cranes begin showing up by the thousands because they spend the winter here. It becomes a beautifully colorful and noisy scene that birdwatchers from around the world absolutely adore. Are you going to be one of the thrilled birdwatchers visiting this amazing destination next October?

Location:

1001 NM-1
San Antonio, NM 87832

Phone: 575-835-1828

GPS: 33.8045° N, 106.8911° W

Hours Of Operation:

The park itself is open every day from one hour prior to sunrise and one hour after the sun sets. Normally, the Visitor Center and Nature Store are typically open 7 days a week as well, but they remain closed for the moment due to the Covid-19 virus.

Visitor Center & Nature Store Hours

  • Open seven days a week from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Lucy’s Warbler
  • American Avocet
  • Virginia Rail
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Western Bluebird
  • Snow Goose
  • American Pipit
  • Chestnut-Collared Longspur
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Hiking Trails:

If you really like hiking and birdwatching at the same time, then you’ll definitely appreciate Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge because there are five wonderful hiking trails for everyone to enjoy including recreation trails that are easy, wilderness trails that are moderately difficult, and other easier trails to enjoy and appreciate as well.

The names of these hiking trails and other valuable information include:

  • Marsh Overlook Trail – this is an easy trail to navigate and it takes you right along the water, so you’ll really enjoy seeing many of the beautiful waterfowl if you visit during the migratory times. The trail is very easy to walk along and well-maintained and in this particular case it’s relatively short at 2.5 miles long. The average person walking at a moderate pace can complete the trail in just over an hour.
  • John P. Taylor Jr. Memorial Trail – this trail is also a fun one to navigate because it’s well maintained and it takes you right across a prairie, which is a lot of fun if you want to know my opinion. It’s an easy trail which is always good and it’s even a little bit shorter than the previous one mentioned because it’s only 1.1 miles long. Most people should have very little difficulty completing this trail in 25 minutes if they walk at an average pace.
  • Chupadera Wilderness Trail – this trail is by far the hardest of the bunch because it’s the longest out of every trail that I’m going to share with you today and it’s also moderately difficult because the terrain can get rough at certain points but it’s not outrageously hard to walk across. The total length of this moderately difficult trail is 9.3 miles long, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Most people can finish this trail in four hours and 55 minutes if they walk at a relatively reasonable pace.
  • Canyon National Recreation Trail – this trail is very similar to the first trail that we shared because just like the previous one, it’s easy to navigate and it’s also 2.5 miles long. And even though the terrain is well-kept and well-maintained, this trail will take you a tiny bit longer than the other 2 ½ mile trail because you should finish it in about an hour and 10 minutes, which isn’t too bad in my opinion.
  • Rio Viejo Trail – our last trail to mention is an easy to navigate and well-maintained trail that will take you through a portion of forest land with lots of birds along the way. It’s easy to navigate and even easier to walk across and the total length of the trail is 1.6 miles from one end to the other. The average person can complete this trail in 40 minutes or a little less.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Free to Enter

Located just 10 miles away from the heart of Roswell, New Mexico, this stunning and national wildlife refuge is one of the best that New Mexico has to offer. It’s considered an underrated birding destination, which means there’s plenty of beautiful avian creatures to see and there isn’t too much competition to see them. If you are looking for a more secluded area to enjoy bird watching all alone with family and friends, you’ll definitely appreciate the beauty, splendor, peace, and quiet of this wonderful NWR.

Location:

4200 E. Pine Lodge Rd.
Roswell, NM 88201

Phone: 575-625-4011
Alt. Phone: 575-420-4304

GPS: 33.4560° N, 104.4017° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge trails remain open even during the coronavirus pandemic. You are allowed to visit seven days a week beginning one hour prior to sunrise and one hour after the sun sets. As of right now, the visitor center is currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the visitor center reopens, their normal hours include:

  • Monday through Saturday from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Sunday from 7 AM to 9 PM
  • Greater Yellow Legs
  • Snowy Plover
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • American White Pelican
  • Long-Billed Dowitcher
  • Least Tern
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Black-Necked Stilt
  • Blue-Winged Teal
  • Wilson’s Phalarope
  • Blue Grosbeak

Hiking Trails:

Were you hoping to hit the hiking trails the next time you visit Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge? I certainly hope so because the trails aren’t mine numbingly difficult or anything like that, but they do exist. They are perfect because they make it easy to view your favorite wildlife and avian friends out in the wild. And they are a great way to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise with family members and friends. Even bring your coworkers along for a fun filled afternoon of hiking and birdwatching.

The necessary details that you need to know about these hiking trails include:

  • Butterfly Trail – this trail is clearly marked by a large brown or Butterfly Trail signed so you will not miss it. It’s also incredibly easy, well-maintained, and really short so don’t worry about it if you aren’t big on walking because this one is a cinch. As a matter of fact, the trail is so short that it’s only 0.3 miles long, which is less than a half a mile if you’re keeping track. Most people can walk this distance in 10-15 minutes or less, because it isn’t a very long path to travel upon.
  • Oxbow Trail – this one is definitely easy as well as far as navigating the trail and walking along the path because it’s well maintained and they do a good job of taking care of this trail. The difference is that it’s 2 miles longer than the previous trail, so you’ll definitely have a chance to get some extra exercise and you’ll also have the opportunity to see so many more birds as you walk along this beautiful path. The trail is 2.3 miles long, which the average person can finish in about an hour and 10 minutes.

Sandia Crest – Free Admission, Paid Parking

This birding destination is located in the Sandia Mountains, which you can discover in the northeast of Albuquerque. It’s a 10,679-foot peak and one of the best places to go if you’re looking to see bird species that live in the higher elevations. To get to the top of the peak, you’ll have to travel along a winding road that is also home to numerous bird habitats including a coniferous forest, pinyon-juniper scrub, and other exciting birding areas. You have a great time visiting Sandia Crest with family members and friends the next time you intend to go on a fun filled bird watching excursion.

Location:

District & Mailing Address
11776 Highway 337
Tijeras, NM 87059

Phone: 505-281-3304
Fax: 505-281-1176

GPS: 35.2089° N, 106.4478° W

Hours Of Operation:

Like many outdoor hiking and bird watching areas, Sandia Crest is open to the public seven days a week and it opens an hour before sunrise and closes an hour after sunset. On the premises, you’ll also find Sandia Crest House and the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.

The hours vary at Sandia Crest House, so I cannot provide specifics. They suggest calling for their hours and can be reached at 505-243-0605.

Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway Hours

  • Labor Day to Memorial Day – Wednesday through Monday from 9 AM to 8 PM
  • Labor Day to Memorial Day – Tuesdays from 5 PM to 8 PM
  • Memorial Day to Labor Day – daily from 9 AM to 9 PM
  • Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
  • Steller’s Jay
  • Pine Siskin
  • Red Crossbill
  • Yellow-Rumped Warbler
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Brown Creeper
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Dark-Eyed Junco
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • Plumbeous Vireo
  • Cordilleran Flycatcher

Parking Fee:

Sandia Crest charges a minimal parking fee called an amenity fee that costs $3. This fee is required of all vehicles that park at Sandia Crest. This parking pass is also good for the dayat all of the other mountains in the area.

Hiking Trails:

Believe it or not, there are over 50 trails in the Sandia Crest/Sandia Mountain wilderness. These trails vary in their level of difficulty and length. It’s nice to have so many options available, so take your pick. I’ll share my top 10 favorites with you below to choose from.

Their names, degree of difficulty, and length of the trails are as follows:

  • Faulty Loop Via South Crest Trail – moderate difficulty, 5.3 miles, two hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Sandia Crest Via La Luz Number 137 and Crest House Spur Trail #8A – hard difficulty, 14 miles, eight hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • North Sandia Peak Trail – easy difficulty, 3.7 miles, one hour and 55 minutes to complete
  • Sandia Crest Trail – hard difficulty, 27 miles, multiple days of hiking to complete
  • South Sandia Peak via South Crest and CCC Trail Loop – hard difficulty, 11 ½ miles, six hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Hawkwatch Trail – hard difficulty, 9 miles, five hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Sandia Crest Scenic Byway: San Antonito to Sandia Crest – easy difficulty, 13.4 miles, six hours and 45 minutes to complete
  • Osha Spring and North Crest Loop – hard difficulty, 13.8 miles, seven hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Tightrope Trail Loop – moderate difficulty, 2 miles, one hour and 10 minutes to complete
  • Lorenzo Canyon Loop – moderate difficulty, 13 ½ miles, seven hours and 25 minutes to complete

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fees

Located 40 miles to the east of Santa Fe in New Mexico, the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge is located to the southeast of the town in the desert that bears his name. This location is a full 8672 acres of wetlands, wooded sandstone canyons, pinyon-juniper scrub, and grasslands.

You can see the wide majority of the habitats at the refuge if you decide to take their 8-mile auto tour loop. Or if you prefer, you can always enjoy hiking if you feel like getting out in nature and enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife in living color.

Location:

Route 1
Las Vegas, NM 87701

Phone: 505-425-3581

GPS: 35.5511° N, 105.1667° W

Hours Of Operation:

The refuge trails are open to the public all year around during daylight hours. You are allowed to enter the park just before sunrise and you are expected to exit the park just after sunset. They do not charge an entrance fee to enter this NWR.

The Visitor Center is currently closed for the year 2021 because it is under construction. But when the center reopens, the operating hours are as follows:

  • Open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4 PM
  • Closed Saturdays and Sundays
  • Snow Goose
  • Tundra Swan
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Prairie Falcon
  • White-Faced Ibis
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • Long-Eared Owl
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Black Tern
  • Black-Crowned Night-Heron

Hiking Trails:

All in all, after scouring the Internet and performing as much research as I could possibly muster – which is a lot – I was only capable of finding one hiking trail with a name and other detailed information. I’m sure there are plenty of trails to hike along in Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, but I’m only going to tell you about the one that I discovered. The good thing is that it should be easy enough for everyone to enjoy.

With that said, the name and other important details about the hiking trail include:

  • Gallinas Nature Trail – the wonderful thing about this trail is that it’s easy to navigate, it’s really well-maintained and well-kept, and there aren’t going to be unnecessary obstacles in your path, which is certainly good for brand-new hikers and birdwatchers. I also want to tell you that the trail isn’t too long since it’s only 2.2 miles from beginning to end. The average person walking at a regular pace should have no trouble completing the entire length of the trail in just over an hour.

Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge – No Entrance Fees

One of my favorite things about visiting Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge is the amount of documented birds discovered in this wonderful park. It is made up of 3699 acres of land in the northeastern part of New Mexico and it currently boasts more than 280 documented bird species found in this wonderful place. And it’s a great place to go if you’re looking to discover summer shorebirds, breeding waterbirds, and so much more.

Location:

CO Road A-2
Maxwell, NM 87728

Phone: 575-375-2331

GPS: 36.5715° N, 104.5830° W

Hours Of Operation:

According to information shared on their website, the trails and refuge roads are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they are even open on holidays. There is a visitor center as well, but it is currently closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, I do not know their normal hours when they are open so I cannot share that information with you today.

  • Prairie Falcon
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Mountain Bluebird
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Long-Billed Curlew
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Lark Bunting
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
  • Northern Shrike

Hiking Trails:

According to their webpage on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website, Maxwell national wildlife refuge is made up of a 6-mile network of hiking trails and gravel roads that are open 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that any of these hiking trails bear a name or details about how difficult they are or how long the trails are. So, if you do decide to visit, please know that there are opportunities to hike and you’ll have to learn more on-site when you visit in the near future.

Bird Watching Destinations in New Mexico: Paid Destinations

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (Rattlesnake Springs) – Paid Admission

Visitors are going to absolutely love spending time in the underground labyrinth known as Carlsbad Caverns. But what they fail to realize is that Rattlesnake Springs, a local national park, is only a few miles away to the south of the cave entrance.

In this park, you’ll discover seasonal wetlands, cottonwood trees, scrub brush, and believe it or not they have more than 300 documented bird species visiting the area throughout the years. It’s truly a sight to behold and you’ll see some of your favorite birds when you next visit this beautiful location.

Location:

727 Carlsbad Caverns Hwy. 
Carlsbad, NM 88220

Phone: 575-785-2232

GPS: 32.1291° N, 104.5539° W

Hours Of Operation:

Standard park hours include opening seven days a week from 8 AM to 2:30 PM. The park is closed on certain federal holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

  • Blue-Headed Vireo
  • Yellow-Breasted Chat
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbird
  • Ash-Throated Flycatcher
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker
  • Worm-Eating Warbler
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Wild Turkey
  • Painted Bunting
  • Summer Tanager
  • Gray Hawk

Entrance Fees:

Every visitor to Carlsbad Canyon must buy an entrance ticket to enter into the park. The ticket is good for three days. If you have a park pass, you can enter the park for free but you have to get a free ticket from the admissions counter.

Fees include:

  • Adults 16 years of age or older – $15 per person
  • Children 15 years of age or younger – free admission
  • Park Pass holders – free admission

Hiking Trails:

The one thing that everyone can appreciate about Carlsbad Caverns is there are plenty of great hiking trails for you to enjoy and experience with family members, friends, and anyone else willing to go along for the ride. In fact, I’d like to tell you about my top 10 favorite trails in the area. I’ll share the degree of difficulty, the length of the trail, and the estimated time that you should be able to complete the trail if you walk at an average to moderate pace.

The names of the hiking trails and other pertinent details in Carlsbad Caverns include:

  • Rattlesnake Canyon Upper Loop – moderate difficulty, 5.9 miles, two hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Juniper Ridge Trail – easy difficulty, 1.9 miles, one hour and five minutes to complete
  • Walnut Canyon Trail – easy difficulty, 0.3 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Yucca Canyon to Guadalupe Ridge Trail – hard difficulty, 14.6 miles, eight hours and five minutes to complete
  • Yucca Canyon Trail – moderate difficulty, 3.8 miles, two hours and 35 minutes to complete
  • Carlsbad Caverns Highway to Carlsbad Caverns National Park – easy difficulty, 14.7 miles, 7 ½ hours to complete
  • North Slaughter Canyon Trail – moderate difficulty, 11.1 miles, 5 ½ hours to complete
  • Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail – moderate difficulty, 1 mile, 45 minutes to complete
  • Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center and Chihuahua Desert National Trail – easy difficulty, 1.2 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Rattlesnake Canyon – moderate difficulty, 5.4 miles, two hours and 40 minutes to complete

New Mexico Birdwatching Clubs

It doesn’t matter if you plan to visit New Mexico in the near future or you already happen to live here, you’ll seriously appreciate the many bird watching clubs and chapters of the National Audubon Society that are a welcome part of this community.

After performing my research online, I learned about a few important NAS chapters in New Mexico that I wanted to tell you about right now. These are important groups that regularly meet to take care of the natural habitat and promote environmental friendliness. They go on field trips and have regular group meetings and take bird walks on a regular basis. Becoming a member is a great way to connect with other like-minded individuals in your community.

Please think about joining one or more of these NAS chapters to get more involved in the birding community and make a few like-minded friends in the Land of Enchantment otherwise known as New Mexico.

Sangre de Cristo Audubon Society

This local chapter of the National Audubon Society represents Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. They are all about supporting bird conservation and as a recognized chapter of the NAS, they also join the mission of preserving and conserving natural ecosystems, while taking care of bird habitats, birds, and other forms of wildlife while helping to protect the biological diversity of the earth.

This group also focuses on providing education to its membership. These opportunities are available for children and adults alike. They take special field trips throughout the year and they even have a quarterly newsletter called the Mountain Chickadee.

Please consider joining to connect with other like-minded birdwatching enthusiasts just like you.

Contact Info:
Sangre de Cristo Audubon Society Q52
PO Box 22083
Santa Fe, NM 87502-2083

Phone: 505-988-1708

Email: [email protected]

Past and Future Events:

  • A Short History of Bird Photography – because of the coronavirus pandemic, this chapter of the NAS is only hosting events online at the moment, although that should change as the pandemic winds down. This particular event took place on November 10, 2021 at 7 PM and it was hosted by Tim Wallace. It was a Zoom presentation that shared some of the earliest bird photographs dating all the way back to the late 19th century.
  • Randall Davey Saturday Birdwalk – the good news is that Saturday bird walks are finally back! A naturalist from the group will lead the walk and they are going to take place on every Saturday throughout the year except in the month of January. Each bird walk begins at 8:30 AM and remember to dress appropriately.

Membership Fees:

It’s easier than ever to become a member of the Sangre de Cristo Audubon Society. You can click here to follow the on-screen prompts and join online. Or if you prefer, you can fill out this printable application form and mail it to the PO Box above.

Membership costs $20 per year.

Central New Mexico Audubon Society

This organization works very diligently to act as a leader in New Mexico is one of the top birdwatching communities. They also do everything in our power to preserve and protect the environment in the most productive ways possible.

Are you looking to join a birding community in Central New Mexico? You’ll definitely appreciate spending time with wildlife and nature lovers and avid birders like the wonderful people in this community.

Contact Info:
PO Box 30002
Albuquerque, NM 87190-0002

Past and Future Events:

  • Tingley Ponds and Bosque: Thursday Birders – the next event isn’t being held until January 6, 2022 because of the holidays. This bird walk is being led by Lefty Arnold and it begins at 9:03 AM and ends at 12 PM. The trails consist of flat ground but they are also sandy, so there is a minor degree of difficulty. The total length is 1 ½ miles long.
  • Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area: Thursday Birders – this event is being held on January 13, 2022 from 8:15 AM to 3 PM, so this is a much longer event and you should be prepared to spend the entire day with the group. The group is being led by Ken Zaslow and participants will meet at the South Valley Railrunner parking lot. Remember to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with the group.

Membership Fees:

Just like every other chapter of the National Audubon Society, it’s very easy to become a member of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society chapter. Visit the main website of the NAS and visit the membership page found here and follow the on-screen instructions.

It costs $20 per year to become a member of this local chapter. Remember to choose Q51 at check out to become a member of the specific chapter.

Birding In New Mexico Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of resources for some great birdwatching activities in New Mexico. If you know of some other fabulous birding locations or resources that you feel we should add to this article, please contact us. It is through our readers and contributors that we are able to keep relevant and helpful content on this website!

Birding In New Mexico - State Bird Greater Road Runner
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