Thursday, November 7, 2019

Common backyard birds in New Mexico (lists, photos, ID)

I've put this resource together for you to answer the question: What birds are in my backyard in New Mexico? 

This article tells you what birds you can expect in your backyard and when they are most common. I also provide a photo and description section to help you with New Mexico bird identification of the most common birds native to New Mexico backyards.

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of New Mexico are these:

  1. House Finch (44% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (29%)
  3. American Robin (28%)
  4. Dark-eyed Junco (25%)
  5. White-winged Dove (25%)
  6. Northern Flicker (24%)
  7. Spotted Towhee (23%)
  8. House Sparrow (21%)
  9. Lesser Goldfinch (20%)
  10. White-crowned Sparrow (20%)

These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.

In this article
Lists of the most common backyard birds in New Mexico
Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in New Mexico
Other birds you might see from your backyard in New Mexico
Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Beyond your backyard

This page lists the most common backyard birds as determined by actual bird sightings reported to the citizen science birding program, eBird. These birds are ranked according to frequency--the percentage of all bird checklists on which a species occurs. Below I list common backyard birds in winter and summer.

Photos and identification are next. I tell a little bit about each species and how you might attract them to your yard.

Farther below I've also added a list of other common birds not typically found in backyards.

I conclude with a list comparing the birds of Albuquerque with the birds of the state as a whole.

List of the most common feeder birds and backyard birds in New Mexico

The top list on this page is the frequency of birds throughout the year. Many birds are migratory or otherwise vary in abundance between seasons. So the next two lists are the common birds ranked in winter and then in summer.

The most common backyard birds in New Mexico in winter (December to February) are these:
Dark-eyed Junco (48% frequency)
House Finch (46%)
White-crowned Sparrow (31%)
Northern Flicker (31%)
American Robin (28%)
American Crow (27%)
White-winged Dove (25%)
House Sparrow (22%)
Spotted Towhee (21%)

The most common backyard birds in New Mexico in summer (June to July) are these:
House Finch (39% frequency)
Mourning Dove (37%)
Black-chinned Hummingbird (30%)
American Robin (29%)
Spotted Towhee (27%)
Lesser Goldfinch (27%)
Barn Swallow (21%)
White-winged Dove (21%)
Western Kingbird (21%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Northern Flickers are more common in winter.

Mourning Doves, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Barn Swallows, Western Kingbirds are more common in summer.

Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in New Mexico

Photo of a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch in bird bath
Photo by Greg Gillson

1. House Finch (44% frequency)

Haemorhous mexicanus

Originally a bird of the West, now found across most of the US. There are other red finches, but these are the ones most likely in residential areas.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 6 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Larger than goldfinches and chickadees. Smaller than a White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. Shape: Medium build with a medium-long notched tail. Round head. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Brown and gray above with streaks on the sides of the pale underparts. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

Habitat, range & behavior: You'll find small flocks on wires, in short tree tops and in bushes. Originally deserts and grasslands. Rural areas and towns are where they're now most common. Formerly found in the western United States and Mexico. Then introduced into the northeastern United States, but now found in nearly all of the lower-48 states and extreme southern Canada. Rare in plains states (Dakotas to Texas) and southern Florida. House Finches are not territorial, but males sing throughout the year--a lively, wiry song ending in a couple of buzzy notes.

Food and feeder preference: They love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting House Finches.

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson

2. Mourning Dove (29%)

Zenaida macroura

Mourning Doves are the most widespread and most frequent backyard bird in the Lower 48 states of the United States.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 12 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About same size as Northern Flicker. Larger than American Robin. Slightly smaller than domestic city pigeon. Shape: Very plump with a small round head. Tail is long and pointed. Legs are short. Bill: Small and rather slender. Color: Pale brown-pink body, darker wings and tail. White edges on side of tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Semi-open areas such as urban areas, farmlands, woods. Often seen perched on wires, fences. It is a resident across the lower-48 states and Mexico, with some movement out of northern areas in winter. Their mournful cooing is a familiar spring birdsong.

Food and feeder preference: Mourning Doves eat seeds almost exclusively. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds on a large sturdy tray feeder or on the ground.

Photo of American Robin
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson

3. American Robin (28%)

Turdus migratorius

This familiar bird is a resident in the northern half of the United States and a winter visitor in the southern half.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: 10 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the same size as a Blue Jay or one of the Scrub-Jays. Larger than Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. Shape: Very plump with a fairly long tail. Bill: Straight and fairly slender, curved at the tip. Color: Gray-brown upperparts, rusty orange breast.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands, farmlands, urban parks and lawns. Migratory, breeds north across Alaska and Canada. Resident in most of the United States (lower 48). Winters in the United States, Mexico, to central America. Hops on your lawn turning head this way and that looking for food. Their caroling song is one of the early signs of spring in the north.

Food and feeder preference: Worms and other invertebrates in the lawn. May eat fruit from a tray feeder or the ground. Eat small berries from trees and bushes.

Dark-eyed Junco on a wall
Dark-eyed Junco
Photo by Greg Gillson

4. Dark-eyed Junco (25%)

Junco hyemalis

Colloquially called "snow birds," they often arrive in backyards in winter from nearby mountain forests or more northern climes.

Identification: Size: Small birds about the size of a House Finch. Shape: Round body, short neck, round head, fairly long square-ended tail. Bill: Short, pointed, conical, pink. Color: Eastern birds are a darker all-gray with white belly. Western birds have jet black hood over head, brown back, and pink sides.

Habitat, range & behavior: Breed in coniferous forests. Winters widely. Avoids heavy brush, preferring widely spaced bushes. Breeds across most of Canada, Alaska, and the western half of the United States. Winters from southern Canada and all of the lower 48-states to extreme northern Mexico. Spend much of their time hopping and feeding on the ground.

Food and feeder preference: Eats mostly seeds, also insects in summer. Readily feed at backyard feeders on mixed seeds on hopper or tray feeders and ground.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Dark-eyed Juncos.

Photo of a White-winged Dove perched in a tree
White-winged Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson

5. White-winged Dove (25%)

Zenaida asiatica

This desert dove can be locally common in desert towns.

Identification: Size: A bit larger than a Mourning Dove. Shape: A more muscular neck than Mourning Dove. A square tail. Bill: Short and slender. Color: Brown with black under tail base and broad white tip. White wing patches in flight, also visible when perched.

Habitat, range & behavior: Desert thickets, saguaro cacti and towns. Found in the southwestern United States, Middle American, and West Indies. They often seek water in the morning and afternoon.

Food and feeder preference: They eat seeds, grain, and fruit of the saguaro cactus. They are more likely to feed on a raised platform feeder than on the ground. They will eat black oil sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

Photo of Northern Flicker on a branch
Northern Flicker
Photo by Greg Gillson

6. Northern Flicker (24%)

Colaptes auratus

Of all the bird identification questions I get asked, this common larger backyard bird is the bird most people ask about. It doesn't occur to those unfamiliar with it that this could be a woodpecker.

Identification: Size: About the size of a Mourning Dove. Larger than a robin. Shape: Stocky with short legs, short tail, big head. Bill: As long as head, thin, slightly curved. Color: Back is brown with black bars. Under parts pinkish with black spots. Undersides of black wing and tail feathers are bright salmon red (West) or yellow (East). Head gray (West) or brown (East) and males with red (West) or black (East) whisker marks and nape marks (East). Black crescent across chest. White rump seen in flight.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in woodland edges and forests. Year-round resident from extreme southern Canada, across all of the lower-48 states and in the mountains of Mexico and Middle America. In summer breeds northward well into Canada and Alaska. Frequently noted hopping on ground pecking in the ground for insects. In late spring, males proclaim their territory by rapid pounding on a hollow tree branch, though the ringing of metal downspouts at dawn is louder and carries much farther, to the exasperation of anyone trying to sleep inside!

Food and feeder preference: Ants and beetles are their primary foods. Will eat black oil sunflower seeds and are attracted to suet.

Photo of a Spotted Towhee on a rock
Spotted Towhee
Greg Gillson

7. Spotted Towhee (23%)

Pipilo maculatus

Look for this bird scratching in the leaf litter under bushes at the edge of your yard.

Identification: Size: A large sparrow, slightly larger than a White-crowned Sparrow. Larger than a House Finch. Smaller than a starling. Shape: A plump, large-headed sparrow with a full rounded tail. Bill: Short, pointed, conical. Color: Black above including hood. Variable number of white spots on back and wings depending upon location. White tail corners. White belly. Rusty orange sides. Red eye. Females paler, more brownish.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in brushy areas, chaparral, mountain forest understory. Found throughout the western half of the United States, mountains of Mexico. In summer to southwestern Canada. In winter to Texas.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, seeds, and berries. At your birdfeeder will eat seeds on ground or platform feeder.

Photo of House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

8. House Sparrow (21%)

Passer domesticus

Like the starling, this is another bird introduced from Europe in the 1800's. This sparrow is commonly found in cities and farmlands. It is considered a pest in most areas where it has been introduced.

Identification: Size: The size of a House Finch or Dark-eyed Junco. Shape: Chunkier than native North American sparrows with large head, barrel chest, short neck, medium tail, short legs. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Males are brown and gray with a black mask. Females lack the black and are tan and brown with a pale line back from the eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cities and farms. Range in North American from southern Canada through Central America. In summer northward through Canada to southern Alaska. Originated in Middle East and spread to most of Europe and Asia. Introduced in South America, Africa, Australia--nearly anywhere there are people and cities. They tend to be messy... and have a good appetite, and may occur in large noisy chirping flocks. They are aggressive toward other feeder birds.

Food and feeder preference: They eat grain, seed, and insects. To discourage them from your hopper and tray feeders do not feed birds human food scraps. They have a bit of difficulty eating from tube feeders.

Photo of Lesser Goldfinch in willow
Lesser Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson

9. Lesser Goldfinch (20%)

Spinus psaltria

This bird replaces American Goldfinch in drier parts of the southwestern US.

Identification: Size: A small bird. Slightly smaller than American Goldfinch, but close. Shape: Big head, neckless, short forked tail. Bill: Short, small, conical. Color: Green back, yellow underparts including under tail coverts. Black wings and tail with white marks. Male with black cap on forecrown. Keeps the same bright yellow plumage year-round, unlike American Goldfinch.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open scrubby woodlands of oak or other trees, fields, grasslands. Found in the western and southwestern US, into the Great Basin in summer. Found southward to Middle America. They sometimes gather into flocks of hundreds to feed in weedy fields.

Food and feeder preference: They eat mostly thistle seeds, some insects. At your feeder they will eat black oil sunflower seeds at a tube feeder, but prefer Nyjer seeds in a "thistle sock" feeder.

Photo of White-crowned Sparrow in Douglas-fir
White-crowned Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

10. White-crowned Sparrow (20%)

Zonotrichia leucophrys

A common winter visitor in California and resident along the coast and in the higher mountains.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 7 inches. A large sparrow near size of Spotted/Eastern towhee. Larger than House Finch. Smaller than Starling or Red-winged Blackbird. Shape: Longer plump body, round head, long tail. Bill: Short and conical. Color: Brown back, wings, tail, gray under parts, black-and-white striped crown. For their first year immature birds have tan and reddish-brown striped crowns.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open and shrubby areas. Coastal form in California at edge of sand dunes. Common winter form in California breeds on Arctic tundra. Various forms breed across the Arctic Canada and Alaska and in mountains in western Canada and the United States. They sing in spring migration as they move northward. Different populations have slightly different songs.

Food and feeder preference: Weed seeds, grain, insects. Eat black oil sunflower seeds and other seeds on hopper and tray feeders.

Other common birds you might see from your backyard in New Mexico

The following lists contain additional common birds you might see flying over your yard or in a nearby neighborhood. There are also several less common backyard birds in these lists that don't appear in the lists above.

Watch for these additional common New Mexico birds in winter (December to February):
Common Raven (27% frequency)
Red-tailed Hawk (22%)

Watch for these additional common New Mexico birds in summer (June to July):
Common Raven (24% frequency)
Turkey Vulture (22%)

Watch for these additional common New Mexico birds in spring (April to May):
Common Raven (26% frequency)
Turkey Vulture (25%)
Say's Phoebe (23%)
Western Kingbird (22%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (22%)
Eurasian Collared-Dove (21%)
Red-winged Blackbird (21%)

Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Albuquerque, New Mexico

White-breasted Nuthatch is a common bird of Albuquerque
Photo by Greg Gillson

The following list uses eBird data to compare the birds of Albuquerque with the birds of the state as a whole. Albuquerque is in Bernalillo County. I will use the data for Bernalillo County to represent the birds in the Albuquerque area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Albuquerque.
House Finch (54% frequency)
Mourning Dove (37%)
White-winged Dove (34%)
American Robin (32%)
Lesser Goldfinch (29%)
Dark-eyed Junco (29%)
Rock Pigeon (28%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (28%)
American Crow (28%)
House Sparrow (28%)
Northern Flicker (27%)
Spotted Towhee (26%)
Black-chinned Hummingbird (23%)
Say's Phoebe (21%)
White-crowned Sparrow (21%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (21%)

House Finches, Rock Pigeons, White-breasted Nuthatches are more common in Albuquerque than in the rest of the state as a whole on average.

Beyond your backyard

To create this page on the backyard birds in New Mexico I used some of the advanced features of eBird.

You can learn more about what birds are in your own backyard using some easy and helpful features of eBird. Rare birds. Common birds. Winter birds, spring birds, summer birds, and fall birds. In fact, you can determine the abundance of all birds likely in your area for every week of the year! You can also see photos of the birds from your own area.

eBird also has numerous photos and voice recordings of the birds. Thus, you can see pictures of all the variation in each species. And you can listen to recordings of bird songs and calls.

Not all birds can be found in backyards. You may find that you wish to see birds in other places. If so, you'll want to check this out.

First, I'm sending you to eBird ( Please don't forget me! Bookmark this page to come back.

Explore Regions for birds in your own county

From the eBird home page, select the tab for Explore ( The Explore page offers several options. Please use the Explore Regions form for now. Start entering your county name into the form. Select your county and state from the drop-down list.

Now your County page pops up.

There are 33 counties in New Mexico. There are bird lists for each county. The county with the most birds recorded is Socorro County with 433 species. The county with the least birds recorded is Harding County with 267 species.

From this County page there are 3 selections that I want to share with you. They are Printable Checklist, Illustrated Checklist, and Hotspots.

1. Printable Checklist

The Printable Checklist is exactly what it sounds like. It is a basic bird checklist of all birds with eBird records in the county, state, or country you choose. It is a professional looking checklist, too. You can print it double-sided on card stock for a quite nice and durable bird checklist.

Bird checklists are useful to keep track of birds in your backyard as you identify them. Or, you may want to print a new list for each time you take a bird watching outing.

But this type of list doesn't help you figure out if a bird in your backyard is common or rare. For that, you need the next type of checklist.

2. Bar Charts

Bar charts combine the species list with abundance over time. The thickness of the line (bar) indicates how frequently a bird is seen. A thicker bar indicates a common bird. A thin line indicates a rare bird. No bars are shown when the birds are absent or not recorded.

In the case of the eBird bar charts, there is a space for every week of the year. There is room for 52 lines, or bars, in each chart. This way, you can tell, week by week, how common birds are in your state, even in each county.

One feature that I like on the county page is the Illustrated Checklist. It is a bar chart for the county. But it also includes photos of birds that have been taken in the county. That way, for unusual birds, I can see the plumage. 

Are most of the records for breeding males or perhaps dull-looking immatures? That will let me know exactly what I am looking for when I am out in the field. Of course, I always like to add photos to the Illustrated Checklist if any are missing. But that is easier to do with the following list.

3. Hotspots

Hotspots are public bird watching areas with their own species checklists and bar charts. Sometimes these are very famous birding sites with thousands of bird watchers visiting per year. Other hotspots are very rarely visited by birders. These will give you an idea of what other birds (not just backyard birds) may be found near you.

There are hundreds of hotspots for every state. Each county is likely to have numerous hotspots, too. There is a list of the top 100 hotspots in each state. To see all of them you can go to the map.

You may also like my eBird tutorial with illustrations.

Once you start viewing your backyard birds in New Mexico, you may find that you want to look for more types of birds than just backyard birds. Then you're on your way to exploring the wildlife in a larger world. There are birds everywhere you go. Different ones in every location. In fact, 10,000 of them. That's enough for several lifetimes of joy just to see them once!

All this because you were curious as to what birds were in your backyard!

Next: Backyard birds of New York

You may be interested: Bird books for each individual state in the US

Related: 34 of the most common birds in the United States (with photos)


  1. I'm new to New Mexico, from Cali.
    I'm intrigued to see a lot of different birds, once my 1st feeder went up, lots of birds all day! Great site to help me get there names, and properly identify some new ones for me. Thanks, this was very helpful!

    1. I'm so glad I was able to help.

      Thank you for visiting!

  2. I've just become interested in local birds and the post about NM birds is very helpful.

    1. So glad I could help, Sharon.... And welcome to the world of birding!

  3. I have been seeing an all red small bird in the south valley. Any ideas on what kind of bird?

    1. Perhaps Vermillion Flycatcher.

      Your bird will likely be on my page: What birds have red heads.

  4. I'm surprised that the great-tailed grackle and thecurved bill thrasher aren't on this list. I put out dried meal worms in a container and they visit along with robins and mocking birds.

    1. Only birds that occur on at least 20% of all eBird checklists in the whole state were included. Those species are a bit less frequent than that.

      Sounds like some wonderful yard birds!

      What a great bunch of bi

  5. Yes Good morning, I need HELP! There are these birds in my backyard I need to indentify. The are very very agressive towards my dogs and other birds of any size and myself. They have a curved/cross beak, yellowish/red eyes and are gray and brown coloring. I have looked for a nest there is not one in my yard.

    1. That's odd. I wonder if it is Curve-billed Thrasher? They are about a foot long, bill tip to tail tip. The have a long curved bill and are brownish-gray. The eye is red-orange.

      They must have a nest hidden in a dense bush nearby. If so, you may have to put up with your wild "nature encounter" for a couple more weeks.

      I don't think the birds will do more than threaten, they are so light weight they won't do any actual harm. A peck from their bill would be rare and startles more than hurts.

      But they are fearless defending their nest!


Thank you so much for visiting! Would you please leave a comment to let me know what you thought and how I can make this resource better for you?


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