Thursday, November 7, 2019

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

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


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%)
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.

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.

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.



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)


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