New Mexico: Spring 2021

Spring 2021: 1 Mar–31 May

Matthew J. Baumann

Raymond L. VanBuskirk

Jodhan Fine

Recommended citation: 

Baumann, M. J., R. L. VanBuskirk, and J. Fine. 2021. Spring 2021: New Mexico. <> North American Birds.

Spring 2021 was characterized by continued widespread severe drought across the state, above normal temperatures, and low water levels in rivers and reservoirs as a result of below normal snowpack from the previous winter. Birders continued to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while out birding across the state. This spring was notable for the large list of eastern Parulids found across the state highlighted by a Cerulean Warbler in Albuquerque. In addition to the long warbler list, Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, suspected to be breeding in the state but not fully documented, were found and appeared to be defending territories along the Gila River at the end of the season. Other notable rarities included Common Crane, Royal and Elegant terns, White Ibis, Crested Caracara, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

BLNWR (Bitter Lake N.W.R., Chaves); BdA (Bosque del Apache N.W.R., Socorro), NRT (north Roosevelt Co migrant trap west of Melrose), WTP (wastewater treatment plant). 

Waterfowl through Cranes

Four Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were at the Clovis WTP, Curry Co 18 May (ph. B. West, R. Gurule). This has become one of the more reliable spots in the state to find this species in recent years. A couple weeks prior, a male Eurasian Wigeon was reported from the same location amongst the massive wigeon flock present 4 May (N. Pieplow, ph. m. ob.). A Long-tailed Duck continued from the previous season at the West Mesa WTP, Dona Ana Co 12 Apr (ph. J. Gilb, m. ob.). Another Long-tailed Duck was seen at a private ranch north of Las Vegas, San Miguel Co 19 Mar (B. West). Rare away from the southwest corner of the State, a Common Ground Dove was at Rattlesnake Springs, Eddy Co 2–3 May (ph. B. Nieman). Two Ruddy Ground Doves were at a private Residence near San Simon, Hidalgo Co 24–29 Apr (ph. E. Thomas, D. Sutherland). Another private residence hosted a Ruddy Ground Dove for a day in Santa Teresa, Dona Ana Co 28 Apr (ph. P. Russell). Single Chimney Swifts were reported at the Sanchez Farms Open Space, Bernalillo Co 12 May (D. Hawksworth), and in the Bosque west of Valle de Oro, Bernalillo Co 18 May (H. Taliaferro). Another Chimney Swift was reported with a Vaux’s Swift, but the record remains under review, Bernalillo Co 27 Apr (ph. H. Taliaferro). A male Lucifer Hummingbird was coming to a feeder in Post Office Canyon, Hidalgo Co 10 Apr (ph. J. Gorey). A Common Crane made a brief appearance at BdA, 1 May (ph. A. Walker, m. ob.). This is the second record for the refuge and the second in consecutive years at this location. 

Shorebirds through Raptors

Two Whimbrel were at BLNWR, 13 May (ph. K. Score, P. Collins). There was an additional report of two Whimbrel from Ute Lake, Quay 4 May (N. Pieplow). A gorgeous male Hudsonian Godwit was at BdA, 23–24 Apr (ph. N. Hetrick, m. ob.). A Ruddy Turnstone was yet another addition to the plethora of rare birds found at the Clovis WTP, Curry Co 21–26 May (J. Parmeter, ph. G. Beauprez, m. ob.). An impressive 33 Sanderlings were at Bluewater Lake SP, Cibola Co 15 May (ph. T. Brown). Three White-rumped Sandpipers were the first reported for the season at the Clovis WTP, Curry Co 14 May (J. Parmeter). A Red Phalarope, just beginning its transition into breeding plumage, was at Elephant Butte, Sierra Co 19 May (ph. J. Gilb). An impressive three Laughing Gulls were found this spring including a first for Luna Co in Deming, 17 May (ph. N. Hetrick, J. Gilb) and singles at the Clovis WTP, Curry Co 11 May (ph. C. Rustay, G. Beauprez) and Avalon Lake, Eddy Co 27–28 May (P. Chaon, ph. B. Nieman). Notable almost anywhere outside of the Southeast part of the state, a Least Tern was found at La Mancha Wetlands, Dona Ana Co 10 May (ph. G. Heaton). Caspian Terns were abundant this spring with three individuals in Sierra Co, seven individuals in Socorro Co, and singles in Chaves Co, San Miguel Co, and Sandoval Co. New Mexico’s second Royal Tern––unsurprisingly a Rio Arriba Co first––was briefly at Heron Lake, 30 May (ph. T. Adams, J. Adams). During the influx of Elegant Terns into the Southwest, one was seen in New Mexico at BLNWR, 25 May (ph. A. Ohanyan). The season’s only Little Blue Heron was also at BLNWR, 22–29 May (ph. J. Fine, A. Theus, m. ob.). Also the sole sighting of this season, a Tricolored Heron was at BdA, 11–12 May (ph. S. Mendoza, m. ob.). A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was in Clovis, Curry Co 3–10 May (ph. M. Goldthwait, D. Kibbe, J. Dawson, m. ob.) and another was later in Hobbs, Lea Co 29 May (C. Levine). A White Ibis at Mims Oxbow was one of the rarest birds of the spring, Sierra Co 12 May (ph. D. Cleary, m. ob.). Several potential hybrid birds were seen, but at least one phenotypically pure looking Glossy Ibis was at BdA, 24 Apr (ph. G. Froehlich, C. Sandell, J. Parmeter). Noteworthy for the county was a Broad-winged Hawk at River Ranch, Luna Co 12 May (ph. J. Gilb). A Crested Caracara was at BdA where it was seen walking along the roadside near the visitors center; it was later discovered to be injured and may have died, 21–28 Mar (ph. G. Froehlich, m. ob.). In Roswell, J Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary hosted a Northern Goshawk, a very rare bird for the county, Chaves Co 9 Mar (ph. P. Collins).

Woodpecker through Finches

A very early Red-headed Woodpecker was in Carlsbad, Eddy Co 17 Mar (ph. L. Koch). One of the spring’s best finds, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker south of Dora, was found on private property, Roosevelt Co 12–15 May (ph. G. Beauprez). Continuing from last season, a Great Kiskadee was at Leasburg Dam SP, Dona Ana Co 5–26 Mar (ph. J. Gilb, m. ob.). A Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was seen at a house near Apache Creek, Catron Co 23–25 May (ph. A. Robinson, S. Robinson, A. Meyer, m. ob.). Following a 2017 report, three probable breeding pairs of vocal Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers were found along the Gila river near Hell’s canyon, Grant Co 31 May (ph. R. VanBuskirk, S. Drukker) which represents the first solid evidence of breeding in the state. Quite rare for the county, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was on Commedor road, Hidalgo Co 29 May (ph. M. Harvey). Two White-eyed Vireos were in Roswell, one from J Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary, Chaves Co 4 May (ph. R. Turner), and a couple days later one from BLNWR, 6 May (ph. T. Adams). Yellow-throated Vireos were seen at Sitting Bull Falls, Eddy Co 26 Apr (ph. E. Etheridge, J. Fidorra), Rattlesnake Springs, Eddy Co 4 May (ph. B. West, M. Henry), the NRT, 5 May (ph. D. Buckley, C. Brozek, S. Robinson, A. Meyer), and in Corrales, Sandoval Co 18 May (ph. O. Sinkus, I. Roger, P. Rogers, B. Morris). Three Red-eyed Vireos were seen across Bernalillo Co, and singles were in Torrance Co, Eddy Co, and Lea Co.  A Carolina Wren continued from the winter in Santa Teresa, Dona Ana Co 7 Mar–11 May (rec. J. Gilb, ph. m. ob.). Another Carolina Wren was at Monastery Lake, San Miguel Co 13 May (ph. B. West, M. Henry, K. Halling). Wood Thrush were seen at Rattlesnake Springs, Eddy Co 25–26 Apr (ph. B. Nieman, m. ob.) and the UNM Campus, Bernalillo Co 12 May (ph. E. Gyllenhaal, m. ob.). Lincoln Co’s first Varied Thrush was in the Gallinas Mountains, 17–18 Apr (ph. A. Johnson). A group of the expected Type 4 Evening Grosbeaks included at least one type 1 (ssp. brooksi of the Pacific Northwest) individual, with likely more mixed in near Fort Wingate, McKinley Co 20 Apr (rec. S. Laan). Presumably continuing from earlier in the year, a male and female Purple Finch were at Percha Dam, Sierra Co 27 Mar (J. Parmeter). A group of up to 26 Lawrence’s Goldfinch continued from the winter in Santa Teresa, Dona Ana Co 1–21 Mar (ph. J. Groves, m. ob.). Very rare in central New Mexico, two female Lawrence’s Goldfinch were in the Corrales Bosque, Sandoval Co 16–30 Mar (W. Kuehn, ph. m. ob.), and one male and two females were in a Luis Lopez yard, Socorro Co 17 Mar–4 Apr (ph. S. Fullingim, m. ob.). 

Sparrows through Passerina 

Expected, but restricted in the state to Guadalupe Canyon, a Rufous-winged Sparrow was found, Hidalgo 9 May (E. Buechley).  A first for Luna, a Yellow-eyed Junco was in the Florida Mountains, 21 May (ph. M. Harvey).  A Harris’s Sparrow was at Arroyo Hondo, Taos 31 Mar (ph. T. Jackman), and two Harris’s Sparrows continued from the winter: one was seen along the Rio Grande near Hatch, Dona Ana 5–9 Mar (J. Gilb, m. ob.), and another was in a private Albuquerque yard, Bernalillo was last reported on 27 Apr (ph. C. Ortega). Unusual for Socorro, two male Hooded Orioles were reported in the county: one in Luis Lopez, 11 Apr (S. Fullingim, ph. N. Pederson, A. Theus) and another at BdA, 28 Apr–1 May (ph. M. Andersen, N. Vinciguerra, ph. M. ob). A very early male Bullock’s Oriole was in Farmington, San Juan 13–14 Mar (ph. D. Schumacher). Especially rare outside of eastern NM, a male Baltimore Oriole was at Kirtland Airforce Base, Bernalillo 30 Apr (ph. M. Baumann, S. Young, A. West) and another male was in Hobbs, Lea 7 May (C. Levine). Louisiana Waterthrush were at Rattlesnake Springs Eddy 3–4 Apr (ph. B. Nieman, m. ob.) and Leasburg Dam, Dona Ana 21–24 Apr (ph. J. Lazarus Yellon, C. Goin, m. ob.). A Golden-winged Warbler was at Galisteo, Santa Fe 23 May (ph. R. Laubach). A Blue-winged Warbler was reported at BLNWR, 6 May (W. Egelhoff). Single Tennessee Warblers were found at Percha Dam, Sierra 1 May (E. Gyllenhaal, J. Williamson), below the Sumner Lake Dam, De Baca 1 May (M. Baumann, N. Pederson), in a private San Antonio yard, Socorro 8 May (ph. G. Bachert), and in a private Albuquerque yard, Bernalillo 16 May (ph. A. Theus, F. Ortega).  This spring, Lucy’s Warbler had an impressive season with at least five individuals in Torrance, two in Chaves, and singles in De Baca and Santa Fe. A male Mourning Warbler was found in the Bosque south of Montano, Bernalillo 11 May (ph. J. Parlapiano, m. ob.). A Kentucky Warbler was seen in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains along Embudito Canyon, Bernalillo Co 17–24 Apr (ph. I. Smith, m. ob.). Hooded Warblers were seen across the state this spring with singles in Luna Co, Eddy Co, Lea Co, Roosevelt Co, Socorro Co, Torrance Co, Bernalillo Co, and Santa Fe Co. To top Albuquerque’s impressive warbler spring, the most remarkable find of the spring was a male Cerulean Warbler at the Crick Ave Greenbelt, Bernalillo Co 15 May (E. Gyllenhaal, ph. m. ob.). This is one of the rarest eastern warblers in the state and only represents the fifth acceptable record, second photographed, and is the first since 2001 (see Williams 2020 for a synopsis of previous Cerulean Warbler records in New Mexico). Ten Northern Parulas were reported across the state this spring in Chaves Co, Colfax Co, De Baca Co, Lea Co, Roosevelt Co, Socorro Co, and Union Co. Magnolia Warblers were at: Ragland hill, Quay Co 17 May (ph. C. Rustay), NRT 22 May (ph. G. Beauprez, J. Parmeter, m. ob.), and Percha Dam, Sierra Co 22–23 May (ph. K. Floyd, m. ob.). Remarkable for Hidalgo Co, a Bay-breasted Warbler was found on Commodore Rd, 29 May (ph. M. Harvey). A Blackburnian Warbler was in a private yard in Portales, Roosevelt Co 17–18 May (ph. K. Martinez). Solo Chestnut-sided Warblers were at BLNWR, 6–8 May (ph. W. Egelhoff, m. ob.), River Ranch WMA, Luna Co 15 May (ph. C. Rustay, N. Hetrick), and a private yard in Portales, Roosevelt 9 May (ph. J. Lofton). A male Black-throated Blue Warbler was at Amistad, Union Co 3 May (ph. P. Chaon), another male was well described from Tingley Beach, Bernalillo Co 19 May (L. Kohrt), and a female was at NRT 26–29 May (ph. J. Gilb, P.Chaon, D. Tipton, J. Parmeter). A strong showing of Palm Warblers saw six reported across the region: two were at J Kenneth Bird Sanctuary in Roswell, Chaves Co 28 Mar–12 Apr (J. Seveyka, ph. m. ob.), singles were at BdA 11 Apr (ph. O. Sinkus, J. Parlapiano) and another was there 25 Apr (ph. M. Conway), NRT 3 May (ph. J. Dowell, T. Dowell, D. Tipton, P. Chaon) and a paler bird was there 6 May (ph. R. Laubach). Quite rare in the state, a Yellow-throated Warbler was below the dam at Sumner Lake, De Baca Co 1 May (ph. M. Baumann, N. Pederson, J. Parmeter, G. Beauprez). Another rare eastern warbler that is often not encountered every year, a Prairie Warbler was photographed at Rattlesnake Springs, Eddy Co 8 May (R. Koehler). An exciting discovery was an apparent small breeding population of Red-faced Warblers along Canon de Salas at the southern end of the Manzano Mountains that spanned Torrance Co and Valencia Co counties 25 May (ph. E. Buechley). Up to five singing males were found in the area of fir/oak woodland around 2130 meters elevation. Wayward migrant Painted Redstarts were in unusual locations in the Rio Grande Valley in Dona Ana Co, Sierra Co, and Socorro Co.  An impressive five Scarlet Tanagers were found this season, all males. Singles were at: NRT 3 May (ph. D. Tipton, P. Chaon), BdA 5 May (T.J. Caskie, J. Tholen, ph. m. ob.), a private residence in Albuquerque, Bernalillo Co 12 May (ph. C. Ortega), a private residence in Santa Fe, Santa Fe Co 16–18 May (ph. P. Wing, m. ob.), and one at the University of New Mexico North Golf Course in Albuquerque, Bernalillo Co 27 May (ph., rec. C. Rustay, M. Shoop). The first returning Painted Buntings were at Rattlesnake Springs 25 Apr (B. Nieman). 

Literature Cited:

Williams III, S.O. 2020. The Cerulean Warbler in New Mexico. NMOS Bulletin 48:1. 

Report processed by José Ramírez-Garofalo, 20 Nov 2021.

Photos–New Mexico: Spring 2021

These Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were present for a day at the Clovis WTP, Curry Co on 18 May. Photo © Robin Gurule.

This Common Crane was a one day wonder at BdA and was only seen by a few lucky observers on 1 May. Photo © Joel Gilb.

A stunning male Hudsonian Godwit was at BdA for two days in May. Photographed here on the first day it was present 23 May. Photo © Phil Chaon.

This Laughing Gull in Deming was a first for Luna County and was seen on 17 May. Photo © Nancy Hetrick.

This Royal Tern made a brief stop at Heron Lake on 30 May which represents only the second record for New Mexico. Photo © T. Jay Adams.

This adult White Ibis was only present for a day at Mim’s Lake in Sierra County on 12 May. Photo © Joel Gilb.

This Crested Caracara was found walking along the roadside near the BdA visitors center on 21 Mar and was sporadically seen until 28 Mar. It appeared to be injured and likely had a broken wing. Photo © Gary Froehlich.

One of the best birds all spring, this Golden-fronted Woodpecker was visiting a private ranch in Roosevelt County on 12 May. It was apparently not seen after 15 May. Photo © Grant Beauprez.

An exciting find, up to six Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers were found along the Gila River east of the Turkey Creek confluence 31 May to 1 Jun. This species had been reported along this stretch in previous years but had not been thoroughly documented. This represents the best evidence of the species breeding in the state to date. Photo © Raymond VanBuskirk.

A great find, this male Mourning Warbler was only seen by a small handful of observers on 11 May in Albuquerque. Photo © Jack Parlapiano.

This cooperative Kentucky Warbler was present for several days in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque. It was photographed here on 18 May. Photo © Lee Wallace.

This male Cerulean in Albuquerque was arguably the highlight of the season. It is the rarest of the eastern warblers recorded in New Mexico and only represents the second photographed record for the state. Photo © Michael Andersen.

This Yellow-throated Warbler was seen below the dam at Sumner Lake on 1 May. Photo © Matthew Baumann.

This male Prairie Warbler was a nice find at Rattlesnake Springs on 8 May. Photo © Rick Koehler.

This male Scarlet Tanager at NRT on 3 May was one of five to be found across the state this season. Photo © Danny Tipton.