New Mexico: Summer 2017

The Summer 2017, June 1 – July 31

Sartor O. Williams III
1819 Meadow View Drive NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104

Recommended citation:

Williams, S. 2020. The Summer 2017: New Mexico. <> North American Birds.

The rains and late snows of the spring season were augmented by additional scattered rains over much of New Mexico in the summer of 2017, producing favorable habitat conditions in many areas and especially in the northeastern grasslands, where Cassin’s Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Dickcissels were much in evidence. Birding was relatively quiet but still managed to produce some surprises, including two Arctic Terns in the northwest at Morgan Lake, Red-shouldered Hawk and Eastern Wood-Pewee at Albuquerque, an active Buff-breasted Flycatcher nest north at the Burro Mountains, and a White-winged Crossbill in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The bird of the season was an adult White-tailed Hawk photographed during a B.B.S. route on Rowe Mesa, San Miguel County, which established the first verified record for the state.


Matthew J. Baumann, Grant M. Beauprez, Charles L. Black, Celestyn M. Brozek, David J. Cleary, Patrick D. Collins, Vicki R. Dern, Ian Dolly, Brian R. Dolton, Carly Foreback, Robert E. Friedrichs, Cheryl Grindle, David L. Hawksworth, Nancy E. Hetrick, Will Jaremko-Wright, Andrew B. Johnson, David J. Krueper, Laurel E. Ladwig, Judy B. Liddell, James McPhee, David W. Mehlman, Sonja E. Mendoza, Bernard L. Morris, Robert Nieman, Jerry R. Oldenettel, John E. Parmeter, Nicholas D. Pederson, Christopher M. Rustay, Marcy T. Scott, Jarrod B. Swackhamer, John A. Trochet, Raymond L. VanBuskirk, Richard E. Webster, Steve West, William F. West, Richard B. Williams, Sartor O. Williams III, Laura Wilson, Christopher C. Witt, Cole J. Wolf, James E. Zabriskie.

Abbreviations: B.L.N.W.R (Bitter Lake N.W.R.); Bosque N.W.R. (Bosque del Apache N.W.R.); E.B.L. (Elephant Butte Lake); N.R.T. (north Roosevelt migrant trap west of Melrose); R.G.N.C. (Rio Grande Nature Center, Albuquerque); R.G.V. (Rio Grande Valley).

Waterfowl through Sandpipers

Noteworthy for Harding, a Wood Duck was on the Ute Cr. arm of Ute L. 30 Jul (CMR, NEH); in Mora, where recently regular in summer; singles were at Wagon Mound 8 Jul (ph. LW) and near Watrous 9 Jul (CG). A female Gadwall with four young was at B.L.N.W.R. 15 Jul (CMR) and a female Common Merganser with seven young was on the Gila R. near Cliff 3 Jun (JAT). Remarkably far north, two Montezuma Quail were near the South Narrows picnic area of El Malpais N.M., Cibola 3 Jul, where one was hit by a car (ABJ, spec. to Museum Southwestern Biology). Eight active Pied-billed Grebe nests were at E.B.L.’s Monticello Point 13 Jun (ph. DJC). An impressive colony of Eared Grebes again occupied the Clovis W.T.P., where 102 ads. were counted, many on nests or building nests, 3 Jul (ph. GMB). Five pairs of Western Grebes, each with chicks, and 38 pairs of Clark’s Grebes, each with chicks, were at E.B.L. 7 Jul (ph. DJC).

Inca Dove continued scarce throughout its New Mexico range; only one was seen at Carlsbad 16 Jun & 6 Jul (ph. RN), where the species was fairly common 15 years ago (RN, SW). Two Common Ground Doves (one singing) at Rodeo 29 (REW) provided the only report. One to two Lesser Nighthawks were reported north to Sevilleta N.W.R. in Jul (C. Nemes, DLH), Jake Spring north of Oscuro, Lincoln 20 Jun (WFW),  and B.L.N.W.R. & Jun (PDC). Maintaining a Sandia Mts. presence, single Mexican Whip-poor-wills were vocal along the Bill Spring trail 9 Jun (RLV) and at Capulin Spring 29 Jun (J. Minor). At least six Black Swifts were at Jemez Falls 29 Jul (JEP). In the Sacramento Mts., two Rivoli’s Hummingbirds were at two Ruidoso sites 25 Jun (J. Hardey) and 10 Jul (D. Rizos). Noteworthy far north at Grant, an adult male Lucifer Hummingbird was at a feeder along the Chloride Flats Road northwest of Silver City 23 Jul (E. Halbedel). Earliest fall migrant Rufous Hummingbirds were singles at Los Alamos 23 Jun (C. Martin) and Albuquerque 25 Jun (B. Hussey); 13 more were reported from Terrero and Mora south to Silver City 27-30 Jun (m.ob.). The earliest Calliope Hummingbird was one at Hopewell L. 5 Jul (CCW); noteworthy far east at Harding was one in Mosquero Canyon 30 Jul (CMR).

A Sandhill Crane lingered at Valle de Oro N.W.R. 1-5 Jun (JEP, J. Mosley, C. Jensen). Noteworthy west to McKinley, 54 American Avocets were near Ivanbito at the Western Refining ponds 19 Jul (DLH). High count for Snowy Plover at B.L.N.W.R. was only 106 on 21 Jun (PDC), a considerable decrease from past years. Far from the northeastern prairies, a significant population of Mountain Plovers summers along U.S. 285 in Taos and Rio Arriba, where this season one was nicely photographed 24 Jun (ph. NEH). Upland Sandpipers arrived in late July, with three at Mills Canyon, Harding/Mora 29 Jul (CMR) and one at Lakewood, Eddy 30 Jul (D. Kelly). Presumably early fall migrants, two Marbled Godwits were at Springer L. 18 Jun (ph. CMR) and three were at Stubblefield L. 24 Jun (MJB, NDP). Among the last of the spring migrant White-rumped Sandpipers was one at the Bandelier N.M. “county line lagoons,” Los Alamos/Sandoval 8-9 Jun (m.ob., ph. RBW, ph. NEH).

Terns through Owls

A Least Tern strayed northwest to Morgan L. 7 Jun (CLB); meanwhile, the summering population at B.L.N.W.R. was down to only five birds on 9 Jun (J. Beauchamp et al.), considerably reduced from the early 2000s, when 10-11 pairs summered annually, and excellent productivity was achieved. A late Caspian Tern at Morgan L. 7-9 Jun (ph. CLB, ph. CF) was joined by a second one 11 Jun (ph. JM). Common Tern is a scarce but probably regular fall transient in the state, but its status is complicated by observer confusion with Forster’s Tern; this season, four carefully described at Ute L. 30 Jul (CMR, NEH) provided the lone report. Two Arctic Terns were at Morgan L. 7 Jun (ph. CLB) and at least one lingered there to 9 Jun (ph. CF); this represents the third Jun record for that site since 2010.

Unusual for mid-summer, a Common Loon was at L. Roberts 11-18 Jul (ph. T.B. Godfrey, ph. JBS). High count for Neotropic Cormorants at Albuquerque’s Tingley ponds was 26 on 17 Jul (DLH). Unusual for the date and locale, 24 American White Pelicans were in the Sangre de Cristo Mts. at 2400 m on Graham L. north of Ocate 27 Jun (ph. DJK). Two Brown Pelicans at Brantley L. 16 Jun (ph. RN) furnished the only report. Continuing from May, up to three Least Bitterns were suspected of breeding at E.B.L.s Indian Springs12 Jun-20 Jul (ph., v.r. DJC); in the Pecos Valley, two recently fledged juveniles were following an adult at B.L.N.W.R. 15 Jun (CMR) and one individual was at Six Mile Dam 8 Jul (RN). An adult Black-crowned Night-Heron was at 2440 m on Sawmill L., Colfax 27 Jun (DJK). An immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was at Bosque N.W.R. 22 Jul (ph. S. Fischer).

Active Osprey nests in peripheral locales were below Navajo Dam 10 Jun (eBird), at Fenton L. 7 Jul (BLM), and Cochiti L. 16 Jul (JBL). Northern Harrier breeds widely but irregularly in New Mexico; this season, summering birds were found in the east in Colfax, Guadalupe, Chaves, and Eddy, and farther west in Socorro and Luna (m.ob.). Mississippi Kite is now well established in the Santa Rosa area, where 14 were noted 16 Jul (CMR), and in Harding, with two in Mosquero Canyon and three at Gallegos 30 Jul (CMR); at Roswell, 12 were feeding together over a vacant lot south of the Super 8 motel 1 Jun (SOW). Unexpected was an adult Common Black Hawk at the small Slone-Simpson Park in Corona, Lincoln 17 Jun (ph. DLH). Small numbers of Harris’s Hawks were reported in all counties across the south from Hidalgo eastward (m.ob.), but the southeastern population in Eddy and Lea was considered critically reduced from former years (SW).

An adult White-tailed Hawk photographed on Rowe Mesa, San Miguel 9 Jun (ph. WJ-W) provided a long-overdue first confirmed state record; there have been several sight records of widely varying quality dating back to at least 1969, but to date none of them has proved acceptable. Surprising for mid-summer, an adult Red-shouldered Hawk, probably of the west coast subspecies elegans, was in the bosque south of Albuquerque’s Alameda bridge 4 Jul (ph. BLM); it provided only the second mid-summer record for New Mexico. Noteworthy Zone-tailed Hawks were singles in Water Canyon, Magdalena Mts. 4 Jun (K. Gahm) and on the east slope of the Sacramento Mts. along Mule Canyon Road, w. Chaves 2 Jun (ph. RN, PDC). Among several Elf Owl territories being monitored along the east slope of the Black Range in western Sierra were a pair tending nestlings in a cavity on Tierra Blanca Cr. 28 Jun (ph. DJC).

Woodpeckers through Jays

East of its expected range, an Acorn Woodpecker was on the rim of Mills Canyon, Harding 29 Jul (ph. CMR). An apparent hybrid juvenile Golden-fronted Woodpecker x Red-bellied Woodpecker was at Portales 12 Jul (ph. T.D. Watkins); adult hybrids had been documented there during the fall-winter 2015-16 and fall-winter 2006-17 seasons. Noteworthy for the Manzano Mts. was a Williamson’s Sapsucker in aspens in Red Canyon, Torrance 2 Jul (CMR). American Three-toed Woodpeckers where seldom reported were in Hay Canyon, Datil Mts., Catron 2 Jul (M. Dorriesfield) and near Cloudcroft, Sacramento Mts., 8 Jul (N. Webber).

Continuing from spring, a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet was singing along the Gila R. in the Nichols Canyon area 17 Jun (JBS, BRD), marking the second consecutive breeding season for the species there. An Eastern Wood-Pewee was singing in the bosque adjacent to the R.G.N.C. 7-9 Jun (ph., v.r. ID, JEP, ph. JRO, ph. v.r. CJW) and apparently the same individual was found singing across the river from the R.G.N.C. in the west side bosque 2-19 Jul (ph., v.r. BLM, m.ob., m.v.r.); this represented only the third report for the R.G.V. and the first for Albuquerque and Bernalillo. A pair of Gray Flycatchers was nesting at the southern edge of their breeding range in the Burro Mts. 10 Jun (JBS). Three Dusky Flycatchers on the Gallinas B.B.S. 3 Jun (CMR) established a high count for that route. Buff-breasted Flycatcher was first found in Deadman Canyon, Burro Mts. only in 2016, and this year a pair was feeding nestlings there 8-10 Jun (ph. JBS, BRD); prior to these recent records, the species had last been documented summering in the Burro Mts. in 1876.

Black Phoebe has expanded its breeding distribution both northward and higher in elevation; this season one was at 2230 m at Bonito L., Lincoln 15 Jul (CMR). Providing a new upper Pecos R. locale were 3 Eastern Phoebes at El Cerito below Villanueva S.P. 4 Jun (WJ-W); also noteworthy was an adult feeding a fledgling along the Mora R. at Watrous 11 Jun (CMR). Moving on up, a Say’s Phoebe was singing at 3250 m on Sandia Crest 17 Jun (JEP). The male Vermilion Flycatcher at Lamy, Santa Fe continued to 4 Jun (S. Crabtree); an impressive 36 Vermilions, including adults. and juveniles, were at the White Sands Missile Range golf course, Doña Ana 28 Jun (C.J. Goin). Pressing ever northward, a Dusky-capped Flycatcher was on the east slope of the Black Range along Circle Seven Cr., south of Chloride, 8 Jul (ph., v.r. DJC). Continuing from May, a Brown-crested Flycatcher was in the R.G.V. south of Radium Springs 10 Jun-5 Jul (MTS, JEZ). Scissor-tailed Flycatcher continued to push west across the High Plains, with two in De Baca on U.S. 60 west of Yeso 22 Jun (DLH), 2 in Guadalupe on U.S. 60 east of Vaughn 22 Jun (ph. DLH), and another in Guadalupe on U.S. 54 southwest of Pastura 16 Jul (CMR, NEH).

White-eyed Vireo is now expected in summer in New Mexico, and this season found one west to Cottonwood Gulch, McKinley 9-10 Jun (ph. N. Goldberg), another farther west singing at Pleasanton, Catron 21-27 Jun (P.A. Tallman), and one singing in the Academy area of northeast Albuquerque 24-30 Jun (J.P. Joseph, BLM, v.r. DLH, ph., v.r. NEH, JBL). Bell’s Vireo has become regular in the Pecos Valley north to Sumner Dam, where this season one was singing 9 Jun (v.r. MJB). A Warbling Vireo of the eastern subspecies was vocal at N.R.T. 9 Jun (v.r. MJB). Single Red-eyed Vireos found west to the R.G.V. and environs were in the R.G.N.C. bosque 7 Jun (ID), in Albuquerque’s south valley 8 Jun (v.r. VRD), and at Los Alamos 23 Jul (G. Reeves). Mexican Jays at the northern fringe of their range were five in the San Francisco Mts. north of Pueblo Park at Lost Spring, Catron 1 Jun (ABJ).

Swallows through Dickcissel

Purple Martins near the Texas border were ten at Clovis 23 Jul (T. McDaniel) and one at Hobbs 1 Jun (PDC); noteworthy for Harding was one on a wire near Gallegos 9 Jun (MJB). Cave Swallows maintaining a northern Las Cruces breeding presence were up to six each at the Embarcadero bridge 5 Jul (MTS) and the Lujan-Hill bridge 19 Jul (MTS); farther north some two dozen were at Leasburg S.P. in Jun (MTS). Verdins pushing north from the Tularosa Basin were four in Lincoln northeast of Oscuro at Jake Spring 20 Jun (WFW). A Carolina Wren singing at 2835 m in the Valle Vidal at the Shurre ponds, Colfax 18 Jun (DWM) furnished a new locale and apparently a new elevation record for the species in the state; down in the R.G.V., one was singing at Belen 16 Jul (DLH) and up to six were noted at Bosque N.W.R. Jun-Jul (MJB, VRD, SEM). Since its arrival in San Miguel in the 1990s, Cactus Wren has become firmly established there, with high counts this season including 17 on the Variadero B.B.S. 4 Jun (CMR) and 22 on the Sabinoso B.B.S 11 Jun (CMR); two in Mosquero Canyon 30 Jul (CMR) provided a new Harding locale.

A pair of Gray Catbirds was nesting east to Ute L. 9 Jun (MJB), the male singing while the female collected nest material. Among several mid-summer Cedar Waxwing reports was a pair gathering nest material in the Corrales bosque 1 Jul (BLM). Phainopeplas found north in the R.G.V. were singles at Placitas 5 Jun (V. Davis), Corrales bosque 7 Jun (R. Koehler), and Albuquerque’s south valley 30 May (VRD) & 4 Jun (DWM); in the west, one was in Catron east of Datil 16 Jul (C. Robbins) while in the east, seven were at San Patricio, Lincoln 22 Jun (WFW) and three were in Chaves northwest of Dunken 2 Jun (ph. RN, PDC). An adult male White-winged Crossbill was in the mountains north of Red River 15 Jul (ph. REF); the species is an irregular breeder in New Mexico, and most of the state’s records occur in the Jul-Oct period, primarily in Jul-Aug. Notably south for the season, two American Goldfinches were at Bosque N.W.R. 27 Jul (ph. V. Aikens).

Single Botteri’s Sparrows were seen at two Rodeo locales 2 & 29 Jul (REW). Cassin’s Sparrows were plentiful in the east, and especially so in the northeast, where several B.B.S. routes in Colfax, Union, Harding, San Miguel, and Guadalupe recorded from 80 to over 225 individuals; smaller numbers were found west to the R.G.V. and environs from Santa Fe south to Doña Ana, and fewer yet were found farther west (e.g., Datil) and southwest. Black-throated Sparrows on the northern frontiers of their distribution were up to 14 at Chaco Canyon 17 Jun-31 Jul (ph. Z. Adams), up to five in the Orilla Verde area, Taos 12 Jun-31 Jul (ph. REF), and one in Mosquero Canyon 30 Jul (CMR). Grasshopper Sparrows responded well to favorable habitat conditions in the northeast in Colfax, Union, Mora, and Harding, including 27 on the Farley B.B.S. 25 Jun (NDP), six on the Grenville B.B.S. 18 Jun (CMR), 20 near Clayton 20 Jun (E. Kistler) and seven at Rio Mora N.W.R. 8 Jun (WJ-W); farther west, two vocal ones were a surprise at Valle de Oro N.W.R. 30 Jun (LEL). Continuing from May, a singing Bobolink lingered at Valle de Oro N.W.R. to 5 Jun (ph. M. Shoop, ph. DLH, Y. Ranspot). An Eastern Meadowlark north to the Grenville area 24 Jun (MJB, NDP) was likely the lilianae race, based on spread-tail photos. Also in the northeast, a female Scott’s Oriole was feeding a fledgling in Mosquero Canyon 30 Jul (CMR).

Lingering Black-and-white Warblers were a female at N.R.T. 3 Jun (JRO), a male singing at Albuquerque 7 Jun (ph. CMB), and a male singing near Riverside, Grant 23 Jun (v.r. JBS). A singing male Hooded Warbler was in Deadman Canyon, Burro Mts. 7 Jun (ph. BLM), and a singing American Redstart was at Albuquerque 19 Jun (ID). An adult Painted Redstart was far east at Ruidoso 23 Jun (ph. S. Johnson). Four Northern Cardinals in Mosquero Canyon 30 Jul (ph. CMR) provided a new Harding locale; the species occurs in every county in eastern New Mexico west to the upper Canadian R. and the middle and lower Pecos Valley; noteworthy for Albuquerque was a male cardinal at a Kirtland A.F.B. feeder 12 Jul (ph. S. Field). An adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing along the Mora R. at Watrous 11 Jun (CMR) provided the only report. For the second consecutive year, Varied Bunting summered in the Nichols Canyon area of the lower Gila R., where a male was singing 17 Jun (ph. JBS, BRD). A male and female Painted Bunting were west to Sumner Dam 9 Jun (MJB). Dickcissels were conspicuous in the northeast, with reports of one to five from multiple sites in Colfax, Union, Mora, and San Miguel (m.ob.), and one was at Santa Rosa’s Power Dam Park 10 Jul (E. Hough); in the middle R.G.V., one was singing near Belen 16 Jul (DLH), where the species nested in 2016.

Photos–New Mexico, Summer 2017
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.