If you like to bird-watch, New Mexico should be on your list of places to visit. California and Texas are often called out as the best bird-watching spots in the Southwest, but New Mexico has over five hundred species of birds on its official bird list and it truly is a hidden gem. The diverse landscape of the state, ranging from sparse dry desert to lush mountain lakes, hosts an impressive array of species that vary greatly from the south to the north, so if you’ve got the time, make sure you take time to visit as many areas as you can.
The state bird of New Mexico is the Roadrunner. Many people outside of the Southwest only know of one Roadrunner: the Looney Toons character always hilariously evading Wile E. Coyote, but the Roadrunner is, in fact, a real bird. Roadrunners have the ability to fly, but it is very limited, and they spend most of their time on the ground running at speeds up to 26 mph. They are distinctive looking and can be spotted by their long tails and fast pace.
You’re more likely to spot a Roadrunner in Central and Southern New Mexico, but heading up to Northern New Mexico will bring you opportunities to see many other species. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Chama Valley, you can expect to see anything from a Blue Grosbeak to a Mountain Bluebird, to a Northern Flicker, to a Lewis Woodpecker, or even a Bald Eagle. Check out some of the pictures on the Chama Village page.
New Mexico has four Audubon chapters and many other resources for bird fans. The closest chapter to Chama is the Sangre de Cristo. There are plenty of guidebooks on birding in New Mexico, but try something specific to the north, such as Birding Hot Spots of Santa Fe, Taos, and Northern New Mexico, to get the most relevant information.
Another great resource is Step Outside, which lists some perfect bird-watching spots if you’re using Chama as a home base. One of our favorites on the list is Burford Lake. Just an hour drive from Chama, Burford is New Mexico’s largest natural lake. A few birds that breed at the lake are various Grebes, the American Coot and American Avocet, and black-crowned Night Herons. It’s also home to a variety of ducks and hosts an average of 5,000 Mallard and Gadwall ducks during molting season.
It would be hard to list all the birds you can see in Northern New Mexico and all the places in the area you can go to see them. And the truth is, you don’t have to go far at all. Right in the village of Chama at the Elkhorn Lodge you can wander the river out back or sit at a picnic table under the large trees up front and spot a number of unique visitors. Whatever your bird-watching style, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Chama Valley!