“As bird diversity is equivalent with habitat diversity, it is not surprising that Albuquerque, New Mexico ranks number four in bird diversity in the United States. From the Rio Grande River Valley at 5,000 feet elevation to the Sandia Mountains at 10,678 feet elevation, both amateur and more experienced avian enthusiasts, will discover a fascinating range of bird species,” offers David Mehlman, of The Nature Conservancy and a 15-year resident of Albuquerque. It is clear that accessibility and the diversity of migrating and native New Mexico birds are the primary reasons to experience birding in Albuquerque.
Rio Grande Valley New Mexico Birds of Spring and Summer (5,000 feet)
The Rio Grande Nature Center, (RGNC) located west of Rio Grande Boulevard is the gateway for people looking to see birds in the wooded area of the valley along the Rio Grande. Starting a birding tour at the RGNC is something to consider as it provides both accessibility and resources in the heart of Albuquerque’s cottonwood gallery, the Bosque. While there are over 200 species of birds in this area, some spring and summer breeding birds likely to catch any birders eye are the Black Headed Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, and Bullock’s Oriole. There are likely to be four different hummingbird species present: Black Chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird and The Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Of course the Roadrunner, the New Mexico state bird is a predictable resident in the valley.
Sandia Crest and The Rosy Finch Phenomenon (10,678 feet)
Ken and Mary Lou Schneider, who served as coordinators of the Rosy Finch project at Sandia Crest have aptly named this remarkable phenomenon, Rosy Tourism. Ken writes in Birder’s World Magazine, “Many birders’ life lists have no marks in the checkboxes next to the three rosy finch species. These New Mexico birds' breeding ranges are largely non-contiguous and often in hard-to-reach places. Finding all three species on their nesting grounds generally requires three separate journeys, some arduous mountain hiking, and a bit of luck.” To see the Rosy Finches in Albuquerque between December and March, visitors need only drive 13 miles on a well-tended road to Sandia Crest. For more detailed information on rosy tourism, go to www.rosyfinch.com.
Nighttime Owl Sightings at Capulin Spring (8,500 feet)
Shortly after passing the Sandia Ski area, visitors to the Sandia Mountain range in search of birds to check off life-time lists, can expect nighttime predictability for spotting the Northern Saw-Whet Owl after dark. This particular moon-eyed bird is a resident from May to August, with high rates of visibility in early May. While rare, the Northern Pygmy Owl is another possible sight for avid birders interested in a little night-life. According to the New Mexico Ornithological Society, dusk is best for this species.
Milnesand and the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in April
This festival offers a unique eco-tourist opportunity to see the courtship dance of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, where the male prairie chickens will dance for the females of the species. The Bureau of Land Management and private landowners allow escorted trips to some of these areas. www.nature.org/newmexico
Bosque Del Apache Festival of The Cranes in November
The Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge celebrates the arrival of many thousands of cranes, geese, ducks and other migratory birds. www.friendsofthebosque.org/crane/