Thursday, November 7, 2019

28 Backyard Birds to Know | New Mexico

[2022 Rewrite]

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


This article lists and discusses the identification of the most common birds in your backyard. The birds chosen in this article are compiled from actual data from the citizen science program eBird. Thus, it is more accurate than some other similar articles you may find on the web. I provide pictures of each bird species mentioned. I tell how to attract them to your backyard.


These are the most common backyard birds in New Mexico:

  1. House Finch
  2. Dark-eyed Junco
  3. American Robin
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. White-winged Dove
  6. Northern Flicker
  7. Spotted Towhee
  8. White-crowned Sparrow
  9. House Sparrow
  10. Lesser Goldfinch
  11. American Crow
  12. Say's Phoebe
  13. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  14. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  15. White-breasted Nuthatch
  16. Red-winged Blackbird
  17. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  18. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
  19. Rock Pigeon
  20. Pine Siskin
  21. European Starling
  22. Song Sparrow
  23. Western Kingbird
  24. Barn Swallow
  25. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  26. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  27. Black-headed Grosbeak
  28. Northern Mockingbird



What's in this article?

  • State overview of birds and bird watching in New Mexico
  • Photos and identification of common backyard birds
  • Most common birds by season
  • Common birds of Albuquerque and Santa Fe




New Mexico Birds and Birding in New Mexico State


eBird lists over 560 types of birds as occurring in the state of New Mexico.

The most common bird in New Mexico: the most frequently seen bird in the state is House Finch. It is reported on 47% of bird watching lists.

The official State Bird of New Mexico is Greater Roadrunner.


If you are serious about knowing the birds native to New Mexico, then check out eBird for New Mexico. It has recent sightings and photos, illustrated checklists with weekly abundance bar charts for state, counties, and individual hotspots of the best birding locations.

If you want to know about other people interested in birds in your area, join a local bird group. The American Birding Association maintains a list of bird watching clubs for each state.



My other pages for birds in New Mexico:

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of New Mexico





New Mexico Bird Identification (Pictures of backyard birds of New Mexico)



This section is the species accounts. These are designed to help you to recognize birds you see in your backyard. I have used eBird to select the birds that are most common. “Common” means the birds seen most often throughout the year, not necessarily the most numerous.

Each species account starts with an image. I have tried to use my own personal photographs of each species, if I have them. But I've done my bird photography mostly in the West. Thus, I've had to rely on others for pictures of some common Eastern birds. I always make sure the bird images (mine and others) are correctly identified.

In the identification section I am using size and shape and bill type before considering the color or patterns on the birds. I find these more reliable when trying to identify an unknown bird. Pay attention to body and tail shape and especially bill shape of birds you see, not just plumage color.

I have written an article on how to identify birds, it is slightly different from other popular identification methods. Check it out if you wish: 7 Steps to Identify Birds.

In the section on bird feeders and foods I tell how to attract each species. Not all types of backyard birds will come to feeders. But all backyard birds can be attracted with water. So don't forget to add a birdbath to your bird feeding station.

Do you live in northern New Mexico? Southern New Mexico? To appear in this article, most birds are widely distributed throughout the state and are often year-round residents. However, for those birds that are more localized in place or time, I list the general region and seasonality. Please see the section following these species accounts for the lists of common species by season.

Even if a species is found in a general area, they occur only in the habitat they prefer. So, the exact habitat of your neighborhood is important for the presence of absence of certain kinds of birds.



1. House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

These are one of the most common backyard birds in the United States. There are other red finches, but these are the ones most likely in residential areas.


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


Range in New Mexico: House Finches are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

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: House Finches love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

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


2. Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

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


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on a railing
Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Dark-eyed Juncos are winter visitors throughout New Mexico and year-round residents in northwestern New Mexico.

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 (those breeding in California and pictured above) have jet black hood over head, brown back, white belly and pink sides. Females paler.

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: Dark-eyed Juncos eat 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.


3. American Robin

Turdus migratorius

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


Photo of American Robin
American Robin. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: American Robins are year-round residents throughout most of New Mexico, winter visitors only in southern New Mexico.

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: American Robins eat earthworms and other invertebrates in the lawn. May eat fruit from a tray feeder or the ground. Eat small berries from trees and bushes.


4. Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

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


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


Range in New Mexico: Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

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.


5. White-winged Dove

Zenaida asiatica

This desert dove can be locally common in desert towns.


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


Range in New Mexico: White-winged Doves are summer residents in southern New Mexico.

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.


6. Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

This ant-eating woodpecker spends a lot of time hopping and probing on the ground. This behavior confuses many beginners who don't know what to make of the long bill, red wing linings, and white rump. When the males drum loudly on their downspouts at dawn in spring, then they know it's a woodpecker!


Photo of Northern Flicker on stump
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout most of New Mexico, winter visitors only in southeastern New Mexico.

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.


7. Spotted Towhee

Pipilo maculatus

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


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


Range in New Mexico: Spotted Towhees are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

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. 

They scratch for food on the ground, turning over leaf litter under bushes.

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


8. White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

A common winter visitor to backyards throughout the United States.


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


Range in New Mexico: White-crowned Sparrows are winter visitors throughout New Mexico, year-round residents in north-central New Mexico.

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. 

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: White-crowned Sparrows eat weed seeds, grain, insects. Eat black oil sunflower seeds and other seeds on hopper and tray feeders.


9. House Sparrow

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.


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


Range in New Mexico: House Sparrows are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

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.


10. Lesser Goldfinch

Spinus psaltria

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


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


Range in New Mexico: Lesser Goldfinches are summer residents throughout New Mexico, year-round residents in southern New Mexico.

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: Lesser Goldfinches eat mostly thistle seeds, some insects. At your feeder they will eat black oil sunflower seeds at a tube feeder but prefer Niger seeds in a "thistle sock" feeder.


11. American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

This larger all-black bird is common in cities and country. Its cawing call is familiar to most people.


Photo of American Crow
American Crow. Greg Gillson


Range in New Mexico: American Crows are winter visitors in central and northern New Mexico, year-round residents in northwestern New Mexico.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 17-1/2 inches long from bill tip to tail tip, though there is much size variation throughout its range. Larger than blackbirds and grackles. Smaller than ravens. 

Shape: Thick neck, large head, rather short square-ended tail. Longer legs. In flight has rounded wing tips with each primary feather separated from others forming "fingers." 

Bill: As long as head, thick, black. 

Color: Glossy black throughout.

Habitat, range & behavior: They prefer open areas with trees, fields, farms, cities. 

They are common across most of the United States lower-48, except in the desert southwest. They move into southern Canada in summer. 

They gather in evening communal roosts in large flocks that may number into the thousands and then move out at dawn into the surrounding area.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous, they feed on large insects, grain, small mammals, carrion. You probably don't want these large entirely black birds in your backyard feeders. So don't feed table scraps to birds.


12. Say's Phoebe

Sayornis saya

This western flycatcher is often found around ranches and canyons.


Photo of Say's Phoebe on fence post
Say's Phoebe. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Say's Phoebes are summer residents throughout New Mexico, year-round residents in southern New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: About the size of a White-crowned Sparrow. Larger than a House Finch, smaller than a Red-winged Blackbird or European Starling.

Shape: Large partially crested head, upright posture, long full tail.

Bill: Rather small and flat. Black.

Color: Upper parts are gray-brown. Under parts are cinnamon. Tail dark.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Found in dry, open country, grasslands, deserts. 

Year-round resident in Mexico and the Southwest. Summers widely in the West and Great Plains to Alaska. Winters more widely in Southwest and Mexico.

Perch on roofs, fence lines, small trees, or ground and chases insects low to the ground.

Food and feeder preference: Eat insects. Do not come to feeders.


13. Eurasian Collared-Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

These large pale pigeons have only been in the United States since invading Florida in 1983. But they have taken over much of the continent.


Photo of Eurasian Collared-Dove on shepherds hook
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Eurasian Collared-Doves are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Large pigeon. Larger than Mourning Dove. Same size as domestic pigeon.

Shape: Full plump breast. Round head. Long square tail.

Bill: Small,.

Color: Cream-colored, may be slightly warmer brown on back or, conversely, may be nearly white. Black hind neck  mark. Broad white band at end of tail. From underneath when perched on wire, note the black base to the underside of the tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: These pigeons are found in residential areas and farmlands. Look for them perched on electric lines or in trees.

They are year-round residents in residential areas throughout almost all of the United States, except rare in the Northeast.

A pair of birds nest in one area nearly year-round, then build in numbers over a couple of  years. Then several birds from the group fly up to 500 miles and set up a new colony. In this way this species took over much of Europe in the last century, and most of North America, starting from Florida in 1983 (from birds escaped from or vagrant in Bahamas).

Food and feeder preference: Eat grain. Will eat all seeds at bird feeders. Large, hungry, and often visit feeders in groups.


14. Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata

An abundant winter visitor in southern United States to treetops and weedy areas.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Yellow-rumped Warblers are summer residents in north-central and western New Mexico, year-round residents in south-central and southwestern New Mexico, winter visitors only in southeastern New Mexico, and spring and fall migrants only in northeastern New Mexico.

Identification: 

Size: Small, they are a bit larger than chickadees and goldfinches. They are smaller than House Finches and juncos. 

Shape: Plump and neckless with a shorter tail. 

Bill: Short, slender, straight, pointed. 

Color: Breeding plumage in spring is blue-gray on the upper parts, black sides and chest, yellow rump, yellow on sides. Two forms: western form with yellow throat and large white wing patch; eastern and northern form with white throat and two white wing bars. In winter plumage both forms are gray brown above, pale cream below. Yellow rump and white tail corners in flight.

Habitat, range & behavior: In breeding season mostly in coniferous or mixed forests, in mountains in west. In winter open areas with fruiting shrubs and scattered trees. 

Breed across Canada and Alaska and in conifer forests in the west. Winter along both coasts and the southern states through Middle America. There are also non-migratory forms in Mexico and Guatemala. 

They tend to forage in outer branches about half way up the tree.

Food and feeder preference: Yellow-rumped Warblers eat mainly insects in the summer. They switch to waxy berries and fruit in winter. They are thus able to winter farther north than other warblers. They are attracted to suet feeders.


15. White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis

A favorite feeder bird for many for its active antics and fearlessness. Though a small bird it is the largest nuthatch in North America.


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch head-first down the tree
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson


Range in New Mexico: White-breasted Nuthatches are year-round residents throughout New Mexico, except absent in the extreme southeastern corner of New Mexico.

Identification: 

Size: About chickadee-sized in length. Smaller than a junco or House Finch. 

Shape: Appears large-headed, neckless, very short tailed. Short legs. 

Bill: Nearly as long as head, straight, thin. 

Color: Blue-gray above, white below. Black cap, wing tips, tail. Rusty feathers under tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Common in oak and oak-pine woodlands, wooded towns. 

Found across the United States, southern Canada, mountains of central Mexico. Absent from treeless grasslands, deserts in the west. 

Crawls over tree branches and head-first down tree trunks searching for insects.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, seeds, acorns and other nuts. Love black oil sunflower seeds feeding on hopper and tray feeders. Suet blocks.


16. Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

These noisy flocking birds are most often found in marshes. But in winter they are found in backyards.


Photo of singing Red-winged Blackbird
Male Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Photo of female Red-winged Blackbird in tree
Female Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Red-winged Blackbirds are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird.

Size: About 8-3/4 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Northern Cardinal. Smaller than an American Robin.

Shape: Pot-bellied with a longer bill and flat forehead. Tail average.

Bill: Long and sharp pointed.

Color: Males are black with red and yellow shoulder patch. Females are streaked brown and rusty (sparrow-like but pointed bill and flat forehead).

Habitat, range, and behavior: Cattail marshes and wetlands are their summer habitat. In winter they feed in grain fields.

They breed across most of the North American continent. In winter they withdraw from most of Alaska and Canada.

They are found in colonies in summer and large flocks in winter.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects in summer. In winter they eat grain and seeds. They visit feeders, more often in large winter flocks, and eat most seeds and suet.


17. Black-chinned Hummingbird

Archilochus alexandri

The throat feathers of all male hummingbirds are black. Only when light is refracted at just the right angle do those brilliant gemstone colors appear. For this species, however, the throat appears black all the time, except for some deep purple feathers at the bottom of the gorget.


Photo of Black-chinned Hummingbird on twigs
Black-chinned Hummingbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Black-chinned Hummingbirds are summer residents throughout most of New Mexico, but absent in far eastern New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Tiny. 

Shape: Round body with large head and not much neck. Tail fairly long for a hummingbird. Long wings don't quite extend to tail tip when perched. Long needle-like bill.

Bill: Long tubular, slightly down-curved.

Color: Green above and crown. White below with dusky green sides. White wraps up part way around neck like a collar, strongly contrasts with dark throat of male. Female has white throat, gray crown.

Habitat, range & behavior: River canyons, arid areas. Sycamores, oaks.

Summer residents in deserts of the West and Southwest from interior British Columbia south through California and Texas.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects and spiders, flower nectar. Readily come to hummingbird feeders.


18. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma woodhouseii

A scrub-jay of the Mountain West is a bit more shy than other jays. But it still visits backyards.


Photo of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay on ground
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. Veronika Andews. Pixabay.


Range in New Mexico: Woodhouse's Scruby-Jays are year-round residents in central and western New Mexico, rare in northeast and southeast New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: This bird is the size of an American Robin or Northern Mockingbird. They are larger than a European Starling or Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. 

Shape: Strong body, thick neck, big head. Long legs. Fairly long full tail. 

Bill: Medium-long, stout, rather straight. 

Color: Blue-gray upperparts, wings and tail. Gray back. Black bill and mask. Gray under parts.

Habitat, range & behavior: Pinyon pine and juniper, adjacent residential areas. 

Found in the Great Basin mountains south into Mexico. 

They forage on the ground, caching food in fall to save for later winter.

Food and feeder preference: Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays are omnivorous; they eat insects, berries, small animals, bird eggs. At hopper and tray feeders they may harass other birds, and gulp down large quantities of black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts to go bury. Thus, some people put wire mesh cages over their hopper and tube feeders to keep the jays out--smaller birds can get through the mesh.


19. Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

These pigeons are especially common in urban settings. They are also known as Rock Doves or domestic pigeons.


Photo of Rock Pigeon on roof
Rock Pigeon. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Rock Pigeons are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Larger than a Mourning Dove.

Shape: Large chest. Small round head. Pointed wings. Squared tail.

Bill: Short and fairly thin, with bump on nostril.

Color: Variable; may be white, rusty, or pied. "Wild" coloration has a blue-gray body with iridescent sheen on throat. Paler gray wings with two dark broad wing bars. Tail with dark band. White rump.

Habitat, range, & behavior: City streets, building ledges, and commercial parking lots; farms.

Resident across Canada, all of the United States, south into Mexico. Worldwide distribution.

Often seen perched on roofs and ledges in cities. Walk on sidewalks picking up scraps of food garbage dropped by humans.

Food and feeder preference: Eat grain and corn, and human food scraps, especially French fries and other fast food garbage. May eat just about any food at platform and larger hopper feeders.


20. Pine Siskin

Spinus pinus

These are streaky goldfinch-like birds. Often found in flocks. Irregularly, following a poor cone crop in the north, they move far south in winter, showing up well south of their usual winter range.


Photo of Pine Siskins in birdbath
Pine Siskin. Greg Gillson


Range in New Mexico: Pine Siskins are winter visitors throughout New Mexico, year-round residents in northern and western New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Tiny bird, the size of American Goldfinch. Smaller than other finches and sparrows.

Shape: Small round head. Short forked tail.

Bill: Short. Wide at the base, straight and sharply pointed.

Color: Heavily streaked with brown. Wing bars. Patches of yellow in wing and base of tail. Much individual variation from dull brown to brighter yellow.

Habitat, range, & behavior: Montane forests, conifer, birch, alder. Lowlands in winter.

Summers across Canada and the West into Mexico. Also breed from Midwest to Northeast states bordering Canada. Winters from southern Canada and throughout the United States, but varying in numbers from year-to-year in southern portions.

Feed in tree tops, often in large swirling flocks.

Food and feeder preference: Eat cone seeds. Love black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeder. Love Niger seed at thistle feeders.


21. European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Introduced to North America in the late 1800's, they crossed the continent, often to the detriment of native cavity-nesting birds. The prime example of an invasive species.


Photo of European Starling
European Starling. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: European Starlings are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. 

Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. 

Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. 

Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. 

Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. 

Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. 

In winter they can form into flocks of tens of thousands.

Food and feeder preference: European Starlings eat primarily insects when available, often feeding on the ground. Discourage them from your backyard hopper and tray feeders by never feeding birds table scraps (including bread or meat). They have weak feet and do not perch well on tube feeders. A cage mesh around smaller hopper feeders may keep them out.


22. Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.


Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Song Sparrows are winter visitors throughout New Mexico, year-round residents in north-central New Mexico.

Identification: 

Size: A smaller bird, similar in size to House Finch and juncos. Larger than chickadees and goldfinches. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Plump with round head, long rounded tail. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Highly variable in darkness and color saturation across its range (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range & behavior: Thickets, especially near water. Backyard shrubbery. 

Resident in western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, northeastern US. In summer also moves into mid-Canada and northern half of US. In the winter found in most of the US lower-48. Also, a population in central Mexico.

Forages on ground, never far from low cover to which they fly if startled.

Food and feeder preference: Song Sparrows feed on seeds and insects near the ground. Will visit hopper and tray feeders for mixed bird seed.


23. Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

You may note these birds aggressively and noisily chasing off other birds, such as crows and hawks, from their territories. And other interloping Western Kingbirds, of course.


Photo of Western Kingbird in tree branches
Western Kingbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Western Kingbirds are summer visitors throughout New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Larger than phoebes. Smaller than American Robins. The same size as Red-winged Blackbirds.

Shape: Long body with heavy chest. Large head with raised hind crown. Large bill. Long full tail. Upright posture.

Bill: Fairly long, but shorter than head, stout and wide at the base.

Color: Gray head, back, and chest. Yellow belly. Brown wings. Black tail with contrasting white outer tail feathers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open country.

Summers in the western half of the United States and adjacent southern Canada.

Perches on electric wires, fence lines. Chases flying insects and returns to perch.

Food and feeder preference: Feeds on flying insects. Does not come to feeders.


24. Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

These swallows are widely distributed throughout the world, primarily breeding in the northern hemisphere, and wintering in the mid-latitudes and southern hemisphere.


Photo of a Barn Swallow on a barbed wire fence
Barn Swallow. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Barn Swallows are summer residents throughout New Mexico.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a House Finch but with a much longer tail. 

Shape: Stocky, short necked but with long body and tail. Tail is forked, with very long outer tail feathers. Wings pointed. 

Bill: Short, wide. 

Color: Glossy dark purplish-blue above. Pinkish orange below. 

Habitat, range & behavior: Barn Swallows live in open country, frequently near humans. Farmlands. Nest in barns, under small bridges. 

In North America breed from Mexico to northern Canada and Alaska, wintering from southern Mexico throughout most of South America. 

Frequently seen swooping low over the ground hunting flying insects. Perch on wires, fences. Voice is twitters and chirps with grating sounds. 

Food and feeder preference: Eat flying insects on the wing and are not attracted to backyard feeders.


25. Ash-throated Flycatcher

Myiarchus cinerascens

These flycatchers of deserts and open dry forest canyons keep to the interior of trees where they are often difficult to find.


Photo of Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Ash-throated Flycatchers are summer residents throughout most of New Mexico, except absent in parts of north-central New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Larger than phoebes. Smaller than American Robins.

Shape: Typical flycatcher shape with large partially crested head and long tail. Upright posture.

Bill: Medium-small and flat. Black.

Color: Brown above and pale gray below. Gray face. Yellow belly. Cinnamon wing edges and under tail.

Habitat, range, & behavior: Mesquite, oak, junipers. Dry canyons. 

Summer residents from eastern Washington to southeastern Kansas, southward into Mexico. Winter mostly in coastal Mexico. Year-round residents in southwest Arizona and northwestern Mexico, including the Baja Peninsula. 

Often perch still on tree branch with only their head moving as they search for flying insects that they chase through foliage. Loud dry stuttering calls give them away.

Food and feeder preference: Feed on flying insects. Do not come to feeders but will use bird houses for nesting.


26. Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Selasphorus platycercus

These hummingbirds of the mountain West have rosy-red throats.


Photo of Broad-tailed Hummingbird on feeder
Broad-tailed Hummingbird.
Michelle Lynn Reynolds. CC BY-SA 3.0


Range in New Mexico: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are summer residents in isolated mountains in western, northern, and central New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Tiny. Hummingbirds are the smallest of birds. Much smaller than a goldfinch.

Shape: Pudgy with a round head and long wings.

Bill: Long, thin and tubular.

Color: Metallic green above, white below. Males with metallic red throat.

Habitat, range & behavior: Mountain meadows.

Breed in mountains of the western United States, winter in Mexico.

The visit lowland hummingbird feeders in spring and early fall during migration.

Food and feeder preference: Feed on insects and flower nectar. Visit hummingbird feeders.


27. Black-headed Grosbeak

Pheucticus melanocephalus

This is the western counterpart of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak that is common in the East.


Photo of Black-headed Grosbeak in feeder
Black-headed Grosbeak. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Black-headed Grosbeaks are summer residents throughout most of New Mexico, spring and fall migrants only in eastern New Mexico.

Identification:

Size: Larger than Spotted Towhee. Smaller than American Robin. Similar in size to Red-winged Blackbird.

Shape: Kind of a chunky bird with pot belly. Large head. Somewhat short tail.

Bill: Very heavy and stout. Triangular.

Color: Males: black face. Black and orange striped back. Wings black with white patches and spots. Tail black with white corners. Underparts orange, yellow on the belly. Females and young for first year-and-a-half: face striped black and cream. Pale orange and yellow under parts. Striped brown and orange back. Wings brownish with white wing bars.

Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous woods and large shade trees in residential yards.

Breeds in western Canada and western United States. Winters in Mexico.

Males often sing a robin-like song from the top of a large shade tree, such as a big leaf maple.

Food and feeder preference: Beetles, spiders, fruit, seeds, and berries are favorite foods. At backyard hopper feeder they love black oil sunflower seeds.


28. Northern Mockingbird

Mimus polyglotos

This bird sings from exposed perches most of the year and often through the night. They have an unending supply of their own unique short phrases that they repeat about 3 times each, but frequently intersperse songs of other birds.


Photo of Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Mexico: Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents throughout New Mexico.

Identification: 

Size: The length of an American Robin. 

Shape: Slender and long tailed. Long legs. 

Bill: Medium length, slender, slightly curved. 

Color: Gray, darker above, with white patches in wing and tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: They prefer edge habitat with scattered trees and bushes, parks and residential areas. 

They are found in eastern and southern parts of the US, West Indies, and south into Mexico.

They boldly defend their nests from other birds, cats, and intruders.

Food and feeder preference: Northern Mockingbirds eat insects, berries, and fruit. You may attract mockingbirds to your feeder with grapes, raisins, apple slices. They will come to a suet block. They readily use a bird bath.





Common Birds in New Mexico (Lists of most common feeder birds and most common backyard birds by season)



To determine how common each species is I used the data from actual bird sightings from the citizen science program eBird. Birds are listed by frequency. That is, how often the species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird (a percentage).

When choosing the birds to include in this article I leaned strongly to birds that are present throughout the year in good numbers. Thus, many of the common birds are year-round residents. This means that they live in the same location all year. They raise their young in your neighborhood. They don't migrate. Or if the species does migrate, the ones living in your area don't. If this is the case, some migrants may move into your area during certain times of year, adding to the same species that are in your yard full time.

Some migrant birds visit your yard during the “summer.” Often they arrive in spring and remain until late fall. They nest and raise their young in your neighborhood. These are the summer residents.

Other migrant birds visit your backyard during the “winter.” Some of these winter visitors may arrive in July and remain into April. Others may only be found in the cold of December or January. They key here is that they nest and raise their young somewhere else. They only visit your yard in the non-breeding season.

Migration is an amazing spectacle. There will be birds that fly through your region in spring or fall (or both). They may visit your backyard only a few days or weeks a year. They aren't regular enough, or stay long enough, to be included in this article. But the number of briefly visiting migrant birds could double the number of species presented here. You may see them over time. Consult checklists in eBird for your county to see what is possible.

I have generally excluded common waterfowl, birds of prey, shorebirds, seabirds, and others that aren't usually found in residential areas. But they may certainly fly over, or be seen regularly if your home is on a shoreline, for instance.



Most common backyard birds in New Mexico throughout the year


The following list is the backyard birds that are, on average, most common throughout the entire year. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


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

  1. House Finch (47% frequency)
  2. Dark-eyed Junco (37%)
  3. American Robin (29%)
  4. Mourning Dove (28%)
  5. White-winged Dove (26%)
  6. Northern Flicker (25%)
  7. Spotted Towhee (24%)
  8. White-crowned Sparrow (22%)
  9. House Sparrow (21 %)
  10. Lesser Goldfinch (21%)
  11. American Crow (19%)
  12. Say's Phoebe (18%)
  13. Eurasian Collared-Dove (18%)
  14. Yellow-rumped Warbler (17%)
  15. White-breasted Nuthatch (17%)
  16. Red-winged Blackbird (15%)
  17. Black-chinned Hummingbird (15%)
  18. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (14%)
  19. Rock Pigeon (13%)
  20. Pine Siskin (13%)
  21. European Starling (13%)



Most common backyard birds in New Mexico in winter


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in winter. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in New Mexico in winter (December through February) are these:

  1. Dark-eyed Junco (59% frequency)
  2. House Finch (47%)
  3. White-crowned Sparrow (32%)
  4. Northern Flicker (31%)
  5. American Robin (27%)
  6. American Crow (27%)
  7. White-winged Dove (26%)
  8. Spotted Towhee (22%)
  9. House Sparrow (22%)
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch (16%)
  11. Eurasian Collared-Dove (16%)
  12. Mourning Dove (15%)
  13. Song Sparrow (15%)
  14. Rock Pigeon (15%)
  15. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (15%)



Most common backyard birds in New Mexico in summer


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer (June and July). The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in New Mexico in summer (June and July) are these:

  1. House Finch (42% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (38%)
  3. Black-chinned Hummingbird (33%)
  4. American Robin (30%)
  5. Spotted Towhee (28%)
  6. Lesser Goldfinch (27%)
  7. White-winged Dove (23%)
  8. Western Kingbird (21%)
  9. Barn Swallow (20%)
  10. House Sparrow (20%)
  11. Ash-throated Flycatcher (19%)
  12. Broad-tailed Hummingbird (18%)
  13. Say's Phoebe (18%)
  14. Black-headed Grosbeak (17%)
  15. Northern Mockingbird (17%)





Common Backyard Birds of Santa Fe, New Mexico


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Santa Fe. The city of Santa Fe is in Santa Fe County. I will use the data for Santa Fe County to represent the birds of the Santa Fe area.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Santa Fe:

  1. House Finch (63% frequency)
  2. Dark-eyed Junco (51%)
  3. American Robin (43%)
  4. Spotted Towhee (38%)
  5. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (33%)
  6. Northern Flicker (32%)
  7. Canyon Towhee (31%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  8. Western Bluebird (27%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  9. American Crow (26%)
  10. Mountain Chickadee (22%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  11. Eurasian Collared-Dove (21%)
  12. Mourning Dove (20%)
  13. House Sparrow (20%)


House Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Robins, Spotted Towhees, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays, Canyon Towhees, Western Bluebirds are more common in Santa Fe than the average for New Mexico.





Common backyard birds of Albuquerque, New Mexico


White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson.


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Albuquerque. The city of Albuquerque is in Bernalillo County. I will use the data for Bernalillo County to represent the birds of the Albuquerque area.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Albuquerque:

  1. House Finch (54% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (37%)
  3. White-winged Dove (34%)
  4. American Robin (32%)
  5. Lesser Goldfinch (29%)
  6. Dark-eyed Junco (29%)
  7. Rock Pigeon (28%)
  8. White-breasted Nuthatch (28%)
  9. American Crow (28%)
  10. House Sparrow (28%)
  11. Northern Flicker (27%)
  12. Spotted Towhee (26%)
  13. Black-chinned Hummingbird (23%)
  14. Say's Phoebe (21%)
  15. White-crowned Sparrow (21%)
  16. 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.





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

Related: Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of New Mexico





12 comments:

  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!

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

      Thank you for visiting!

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

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

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps Vermillion Flycatcher.

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

      https://www.whatbirdsareinmybackyard.com/2019/10/what-birds-have-red-heads.html

      Delete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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

      Delete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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!

      Delete
  6. we have roadrunners all summer in Corrales, they even knock on our door!!

    ReplyDelete

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?

--Greg--

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