New Mexico: Winter 2016-2017

The Winter 2016-2017, December 1-February 28

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

Recommended citation:

Williams, S. 2020. The Winter 2016-2017: New Mexico. <> North American Birds.

Weather conditions during the winter 2016-2017 season were considered typical, with the relatively generous moisture conditions of the fall months continuing into the early winter across parts of the south, before giving way to drier and milder conditions, with scant mountain snow, by season’s end. A number of noteworthy bird records were obtained, including three Red-necked Grebes, Neotropic Cormorants nesting north to Albuquerque, a Boreal Owl in Los Alamos, the continuing Great Kiskadee joined by a Purple Finch at Percha State Park, and the state’s fourth Snow Bunting record.


Jonathan P. Batkin, Matthew J. Baumann, Grant M. Beauprez, Karen Beckenbach, Dan A. Belcher, Charles L. Black, Roger Clark, David J. Cleary, Patrick D. Collins, Brian R. Dolton, Wyatt T. Egelhoff, Bernard R. Foy, Tony B. Godfrey, Coleman J. Goin, Kathy A. Granillo, Cheryl Grindle, Robin Gurule, Laurens Halsey, David L. Hawksworth, Nancy E. Hetrick, Michale O. Hilchey, Lonnie Howard, Andrew B. Johnson, David J. Krueper, William E. Maley, David W. Mehlman, Sonja E. Mendoza, Bernard L. Morris, Pauline Morris, Robert Nieman, Jerry R. Oldenettel, John E. Parmeter, James N. Paton, Nicholas D. Pederson, Timothy Reeves, Christopher Rustay, Janet M. Ruth, Kim S. Score, Marcy T. Scott, Jarrod B. Swackhamer, Twila D. Watkins, Mark L. Watson, Douglas D. Weidemann, Marion Weidemann, Steve West, Jay Wilbur, Richard B. Williams, James E. Zabriskie, Barry R. Zimmer.


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); G.B.A. (Gila Bird Area, Grant); L.V.N.W.R. (Las Vegas N.W.R.); R.G.V. (Rio Grande Valley)

Waterfowl through Nightjars

Greater White-fronted Goose has increased its presence in the Albuquerque area in recent winters; noteworthy this season were eight at Corrales 7 Jan (JMR, ph. DJK). With but 15 records since the first in 1966, Brant is New Mexico’s rarest goose; this season, a “Black” Brant was feeding with Canadas and Cacklings in fields along the Texas border in Curry south of Texico 25 Dec (ph. J. Leifester). Tundra Swans were much in evidence this season, with up to 16 at five High Plains locales from Maxwell N.W.R. south to L.V.N.W.R. 8 Dec-17 Feb (m.ob.,, at least five in the Bosque N.W.R. area 9 Dec-28 Feb (m.ob.,, and one at Tularosa 27 Feb (M. Ostrander). Wood Ducks were reported from 14 counties from the R.G.V. eastward; the high count away from Albuquerque was 35 at Truth or Consequences 28 Jan (JEP). Among several mid-winter Cinnamon Teal was a male at Bosque N.W.R. 7 Jan (MJB) and two males at Caballo L. 13 Jan (ph. DJC). An aerial survey of E.B.L. 21 Dec tallied 11,375 American Wigeons, 10,350 Northern Pintails, and 12,625 Green-winged Teal (MLW). A female Long-tailed Duck at Stubblefield L., first reported 27 Nov (S. Brayshaw), continued to 11 Dec (ph. CMR, ph. NEH, ph. WTE, ph. RBW); another female at Bosque N.W.R., first reported 9 Dec (ph. N. Stocker), entertained many there to 23 Feb (m.ob., Small numbers of Barrow’s Goldeneyes overwintered in four general areas along the upper Rio Grande at Pilar, Taos, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and Española, Rio Arriba, and Buckman, Santa Fe 15 Dec-10 Feb (m.ob., An impressive 435 Red-breasted Mergansers were found during a Pecos R. kayak trip above Six Mile Dam 4 Jan (SW); noteworthy for Mora was one at Charette L. 10 Dec (CMR). Three Montezuma Quail were in the Organ Mts. at Aguirre Spring 25 Feb (WTE).

A strong Red-necked Grebe season produced one at Ute L. 30 Nov-1 Jan (ph. DEW, MW, ph. JRO, ph. RBW, CMR, DLH), another at E.B.L. Dam 7 Jan-17 Feb (ph. NDP, MJB, JEP, ph. JRO, ph. BLM, ph. NEH), and a third at Conchas L. 29 Jan (MJB, NDP). The peak mid-winter count for Aechmophorus grebes, obtained by aerial survey, was 4,200 at E.B.L. 9 Jan (MLW). Surprising were eight Band-tailed Pigeons apparently wintering in Water Canyon 8 Jan (ph. BRZ); presumably early were one at Silver City 1 Feb and three there 2 Feb (KB). The three Inca Doves at Carlsbad 29 Jan (SW) provided the only report for the Pecos Valley and eastern New Mexico; farther west were seven at Tularosa 2 Jan (ph. S. Barham) and 14 at Deming 31 Jan (ph. TBG), while scattered reports in the lower R.G.V. included up to 30 at La Union 4 Dec-26 Feb (DAB). Greater Roadrunners at the northern fringes of their distribution were one near the community of Continental Divide, McKinley 18 Dec (A. Palmieri), one racing through downtown traffic at Taos 2 Dec (T. Jackman), and one at Clayton L. 28 Dec (CMR). The earliest Common Poorwills were two in Slaughter Canyon 22 Feb (SW).

Swifts through Falcons

Surprising for the season were 29 White-throated Swifts north of their usual range at Tucumcari 29 Jan (MJB); another was at Diablo Canyon, Santa Fe by 10 Feb (BRF). Three Rivoli’s Hummingbirds were in the Pinos Altos area 25 Dec (M. Johnson, KB) where one continued to 29 Jan (fide KB). A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird near Radium Springs 1 Nov-28 Feb (MTS, JEZ) was believed to be the same that wintered there last year; farther north, an immature male Broad-tailed endured subfreezing weather at Los Alamos until 3 Jan (ph. R. Wright) and another immature did the same at Albuquerque 25 Dec-15 Jan (ph. D. Doughty). Broad-billed Hummingbirds tend to wander far and wide, and this season continued that tradition, with a young male at Santa Fe in Oct last seen 2 Dec (LH, ph. RBW), a young male at Silver City 29 Dec (ph. KB), an adult male at Las Cruces 24-27 Feb (ph. MEW), and a female at Carlsbad in Oct last seen 15 Dec (ph. E. Pierce). A Sora overwintered north to the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, with multiple detections in all months 11 Dec-28 Feb (ph. JPB). Rare in winter in the north, a Common Gallinule was at Bosque N.W.R. 14 Dec-11 Jan (JEP, m.ob.). Some 11 Black-necked Stilts were along the Rio Grande near Sunland Park 1 Jan (MTS, JEZ), where winter occurrence is a recent phenomenon. Late for so far north, 85 American Avocets were on a sandbar at Albuquerque 7 Dec (ph. K. Grassel); avocets also wintered at Caballo L., where present 5 Dec-17 Feb, including 24 there 2-13 Jan (DJC). Two Dunlins were at E.B.L. 1 Dec (DJC) but the species was not seen there again until one was observed 19 Feb followed by two on 21 Feb (ph. DJC). Late at Harding were two Least Sandpipers at Ute L. 4 Dec (CMR, ph. RBW); unusual in the north at Albuquerque in mid-winter were five Leasts on 30 Dec (BLM). Unexpected anywhere in New Mexico in winter, a Solitary Sandpiper was at Las Cruces 8 Jan (ph. JW). Exceptionally early for a spring migrant, a Wilson’s Phalarope was at Bosque N.W.R. 17-25 Feb (MOH, NDP, ph. C. Herr, ph. PDC).

A first-cycle Laughing Gull was at Springer L. 2 Jan (ph. D. Cuellar); the species is casual in the state in mid-winter. Mew Gull is a rare but regular cool season visitor to New Mexico; this season, a first-cycle one was at the San Juan County landfill near Flora Vista 4 Jan-11 Feb (ph. TR, ph. JRO, JEP), another first-cycle bird was at Albuquerque’s Alameda bridge 6 Dec (ph. D. Buckley) and an adult was there 3-11 Feb (ph. WEM, ph. NEH), JEP), and an adult was at Sunland Park 19 Dec (JNP) followed by a first-cycle bird was there 16-17 Jan (ph. JNP, WTE). Single Thayer’s-type Iceland Gulls were first-cycle individuals at the San Juan County landfill 4 Jan-11 Feb (ph. TR, ph. JRO, JEP), at E.B.L. 7-20 Jan (ph. NDP, MJB, WTE), and Caballo L. 9 Jan (ph. BLM). Another impressive Lesser Black-backed Gull season produced a minimum of ten  birds (all but three of them immatures) from four locales in four counties (San Juan, Bernalillo, Sierra, and Doña Ana); the species has now been annual in the state for 11 consecutive winters.

Single Pacific Loons were at Abiquiu L. 8 Jan (WTE), the Ohkay Owingeh ponds 2011 Dec (K. Miller, m.ob.,, Cochiti L. 3 Dec (ph. RBW), Conchas L. 29 Jan (MJB, NDP), and Ute L. 20 Dec (DEW, MW). Scarce in Grant, a Common Loon was at L. Roberts 14-28 Dec (ph. TBG, JBS). Two Neotropic Cormorants returned early to Albuquerque’s Tingley ponds 27 Jan (DLH); 31 were there by 19 Feb, including a pair nest-building (ph. DLH). An adult Brown Pelican was at Bosque N.W.R. 2 Dec (ph. J.W. Emerson, ph. F. Holmes) and likely the same adult was at E.B.L. 4 Dec-26 Feb (ph. DJC, m.ob., A late Green Heron was in Albuquerque’s North Valley 8 Dec (BLM, PM). Four mid-winter White-faced Ibises were at B.L.N.W.R. 4-18 Jan (PDC, DLH). Wintering Turkey Vultures away from Chaves included one soaring near Alma, Catron 6 Jan (ABJ), one at Columbus 9 Jan (R. Stoll), and one at Mesilla Park 12 Jan (ph. JW); up to seven were north of Carlsbad near Macho Draw 5 Dec-7 Jan, flying over snow-covered prairie on the latter date (CLB).

A Bald Eagle pair was nest building at Bosque N.W.R. 18-20 Feb (ph. NDP), but apparently abandoned the effort by Mar. Certainly unexpected for the season was an adult light morph Swainson’s Hawk at La Joya W.M.A. 16 Feb (KAG). Short-eared Owls were reported from two grassland valleys: singles in the Uvas Valley south of Nutt 14 Jan (JEP) and the middle Animas Valley 1 Jan (ph. WTE). The owl of the season was a Boreal Owl discovered at Los Alamos in a Gambel oak at 2200 m 20 Dec (ph. U. Sanchez, L. Petersen); it provided the third late fall/early winter, low-elevation New Mexico record. A Lewis’s Woodpecker was south at the San Mateo Mts. near Monica Cabin 11 Feb (ph. SEM). A female Golden-fronted Woodpecker x Red-bellied Woodpecker was at Portales 12 Dec (ph. TDW); it had been present there earlier in the fall as well as the previous winter. Noteworthy for the Santa Fe area, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was near Bishop’s Lodge 30 Dec-7 Jan (ph. BRF, ph. WTE, ph. JPB). A Crested Caracara near Animas 15 Jan (ph. S. Lerich) provided the state’s first report since 2009. An adult Aplomado Falcon was described from near Cotton City, Hidalgo 11 Jan (L. Johnson). Unusually far north for the season, an adult Peregrine Falcon was at Bishop’s Lodge near Santa Fe 1 Jan (ph. RC).

Flycatchers through Gnatcatchers

Wintering empidonax flycatchers included four Hammond’s Flycatchers with documentation: one in the lower Gila Valley at the G.B.A. 26 Feb (JBS), singles in the lower R.G.V. in Sierra at the Ladder Ranch 15 Dec (ph. RG) and at Percha S.P. 22 Jan (KSS), and one in the lower Pecos Valley at Rattlesnake Springs 11 Dec-26 Feb (ph. RN). Dusky Flycatcher showed the same general distribution as Hammond’s, with two at G.B.A. 26 Feb (JBS), singles at two Caballo L. sites 26 Dec (ph. DLH), one at Percha S.P. 21 Feb (ph. LH) another south of Radium Springs 29 Nov-23 Jan (MTS, ph. JEZ), and one near Carlsbad 8 Jan (ph., v.r. RN). A Gray Flycatcher described at Percha S.P. 29 Jan-17 Feb (WTE) furnished the lone report. The Great Kiskadee discovered in Nov at Percha S.P. continued through the season and into Mar (m.ob., Hutton’s Vireos wintering in the R.G.V. were singles at Ladder Ranch 15 Dec (RG), Percha S.P. 7 Jan (CG), and Leasburg S.P. 28 Dec-25 Feb (m.ob.). Other winter season vireos were a Plumbeous Vireo at Percha S.P. 3-11 Dec (JEP, ph. DEW) and a Cassin’s Vireo near Radium Springs 7 Feb (MTS, JEZ). A Blue Jay was far west at the Sangre de Cristo Mts. at Chacon, Mora 25 Dec-29 Jan (ph. S. Stewart). Barn Swallows attempting to winter in New Mexico are a new phenomenon; this season, one was at San Antonio 17 Dec (BLM, PM), three were below Caballo Dam 18-29 Dec (SEM, ph. DJC), and one was at Percha S.P. 19 Dec (DJC), where one was also reported 21-22 Jan (DWM, KSS).

Another interesting Pacific Wren season included well-documented individuals at Rattlesnake Springs 11 Dec-26 Feb (ph., v.r. RN, ph. v.r. S. Taylor) and below Brantley Dam 20 Jan (ph., v.r. RN) & 3 Feb (ph., v.r. MJB, ABJ); these represented the most easterly reports in all of North America for this season (fide eBird). Another Pacific Wren with verifiable documentation was in Frijoles Canyon, Bandelier N.M., Sandoval 5 Feb (ph. CMR, ph., v.r. NEH). Now regular in winter, one to two Winter Wrens were at four sites in the middle and lower R.G.V. and at four sites in the lower Pecos Valley during the season (m.ob.). Noteworthy Carolina Wrens were singles at Los Alamos 5 Feb (ph. T. Rahn), at Belen’s Whitfield Center 22 Jan (CMR, NEH) & 11 Feb (v.r. DLH), and one continuing from Nov at Percha S.P. 2 Dec-26 Feb (m.ob.,; at least two were singing at Bosque N.W.R. by 11 Feb (v.r. DLH). Continuing their colonization of Santa Fe, a Cactus Wren was at the La Bajada rest area 5 Jan (ph. JPB). Blue-gray Gnatcatchers lingering or wintering were singles at Ute L. 12 Dec (ph. DEW, MW), Albuquerque 18 Dec (DWM), near Hermosa, Sierra 24-28 Dec (DJC), below Caballo Dam 7 Jan (JEP, MJB, ph. NDP), Santa Teresa1 Jan (MTS, JEZ), and the middle Animas Valley 31 Dec (NDP).

Thrushes through Grosbeaks

Eastern Bluebirds in the west were five at Saliz Pass, Catron 8 Jan (J.C. Egbert), 13 at Mangas Springs 11 Feb (JBS, BRD), five at G.B.A. 25 Feb (JBS), and one in the middle Animas Valley 1 Jan (DLH); the species was recorded in all ten R.G.V. counties from Taos south to Doña Ana as well as in nine eastern counties, while the 139 counted on the Albuquerque C.B.C. 18 Dec (DWM) was a record high for that count. Noteworthy for mid-winter was a Hermit Thrush north to Farmington L. 14 Jan (CMR). Providing a first Grant record, a Rufous-backed Robin was at the G.B.A. 18-26 Feb (B.A. Rich, ph. JBS, BRD). It was another impressive winter season for Gray Catbird, with singles at the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve 23 Dec (BRF), near Madrid 18-24 Dec (S. Westbrook), Corrales bosque 18 Dec (ph. D. Lerwill) & 26-27 Jan (A. Rodgers), Percha S.P. 19-30 Dec (ph. NEH, ph. CMR, m.ob.), Las Vegas 18 Dec (ph. C. Ruge), Fort Sumner 5-19 Feb (ph. DLH, GMB), and Rattlesnake Springs 2-15 Jan (ph. RN). A Brown Thrasher was west to the Rio Puerco near San Luis, Sandoval 9 Dec (MJB, ABJ). A Bendire’s Thrasher was nicely documented at Rodeo 1 Jan (ph. NEH, ph. CMR, ph. WTE). North of tis typical range for the season was a Northern Mockingbird at the La Bajada rest area near Santa Fe 5 Jan (ph. JPB). Wintering Sprague’s Pipits were singles in the Uvas Valley south of Nutt 1 Jan (BRF) and the middle Animas Valley 1 Jan (WTE).

Brown-capped Rosy-Finches were unusually numerous this winter, and greatly outnumbered both Gray-crowneds and Blacks in mixed flocks at Sandia Crest and elsewhere; highest counts were up to 235 Brown-cappeds at Sandia Crest 18-20 Feb (A. West, CMR, RLV, DJK, m.ob.). A male Purple Finch was at Percha S.P. from 29 Dec (B.K. Percival) through the end of the season (m.ob.,; it provided the first state record in two years. Single Lapland Longspurs were found south to E.B.L. 3 Dec (JEP) and to grasslands west of Bingham, Socorro19 Dec (J. Drucker); very few were noted in their usual haunts in Colfax and Union, where the high count was seven in the Kiowa National Grasslands northeast of Clayton 1 Dec (DLH). A Snow Bunting was enjoyed by many at Stubblefield L. 8 Dec (ph. JRO) to 30 Dec (m.ob.,; all four New Mexico records have been from along the eastern base of the Sangre de Cristo Mts., with three of those from Stubblefield L.

Far south of expected was an American Tree Sparrow at Percha S.P. 22-26 Jan (WTE, H. Rodgers); another was at Albuquerque’s Valle de Oro N.W.R. 2-11 Jan (ph. WEM, m.ob.). Field Sparrows where seldom reported were singles at Oasis S.P. 16 Jan (GMB) and Milnesand 15 Dec (ph. TDW); a high count was three at Ute L. 12 Dec (DEW, MW). Noteworthy for mid-winter, two Lark Sparrows were at Columbus 13 Jan (BLM, PM). Scarce in western New Mexico, single Swamp Sparrows were at Glenwood 2 Jan (ph. DLH) and at Mangas Springs 2 Jan (CMR, NEH). Harris’s Sparrows made a good showing, including one to two at eight locales in the R.G.V. from Taos south to Percha S.P. Single Golden-crowned Sparrows were at Pueblito, Socorro 2 Jan (ph. JRO, JEP), Percha S.P. 7 Dec-21 Jan (m.ob., ph. NDP), and in the Organ Mts. at Dripping Springs 5-11 Feb (WTE). A Yellow-eyed Junco strayed to Clanton Canyon, Peloncillo Mts. 25 Jan (BLM, PM).

Unseasonal Bullock’s Orioles were single males at Las Cruces 10 Dec (R.A. Meyer) and Estancia 29Jan (ph. DLH). An active Rusty Blackbird season included one far west at the foothills of the San Mateo Mts. at the Monticello Box 29 Dec (ph. M.K. Ray); others were singles in the R.G.V. at Albuquerque 10-16 Dec (ph. P. Marshall, m.ob., and Bosque N.W.R. 15 Dec (DLH), while farther east two were at Maxwell N.W.R. 4 Dec (ph. RC) and four were near Clayton 3 Dec (DLH). Orange-crowned Warblers emphasized their new wintering status in southern New Mexico, with reports from 16 sites in the lower R.G.V. from Williamsburg south to La Union Dec-Feb (m.ob.) and at four sites in the lower Pecos Valley from Brantley L. southward Dec-Jan (m.ob.). An early adult male Common Yellowthroat reached Albuquerque by 19 Feb (DLH). A very late Yellow Warbler was a surprise at Ute L. 9 Dec (ph. JRO). A Pine Warbler discovered at Ute L. 30 Nov (ph. DEW, MW) continued there until 10 Dec (CMR, ph. NEH, ph. JRO, JEP). Another late lingering surprise was a Black-headed Grosbeak at Bosque N.W.R. 3 Dec (DJK).

Photos–New Mexico, Winter 2016-2017
Hover or click on each image to read the caption.