I first noticed it two to three years ago. I just wasn’t seeing as many birds at my feeders as I had in previous years. Sure, they were still there but just fewer. Then I started noticing it in other areas of New Mexico and Colorado I visit frequently. At home this year, there just wasn’t the cacophony of spring bird song that I was used to.  I love birds. I pay attention to birds. I couldn’t help but notice that something was up. There aren’t just as many birds in New Mexico as there used to be.

(check out Jim O’Donnell Photography)

Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

I’ve had a e-bird account for nearly twenty years. I haven’t used it much recently but at one time I kept daily bird counts in areas near Taos, New Mexico.  A few weeks ago I looked back at those bird counts and compared them with recent ones from other birders. The counts show very clearly that overall bird numbers in our area are in steep decline. Birds in New Mexico are in as much trouble as those throughout the continent.

And apparently this is true for all of North America:

New research published…in Science shows bird populations have continued to plummet in the past five decades, dropping by nearly three billion across North America—an overall decline of 29 percent from 1970. … Grassland-dwelling birds such as sparrows and meadowlarks have been hit especially hard.

birds of new mexico

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

A twenty-nine percent drop in populations is huge.  There are 3 billion fewer birds soaring through the sky now than there were 50 years ago. And the impacts are also huge. Birds are vital to ecosystems. They control pests. They pollinate flowers. They spread seeds and regenerate forests. When birds disappear, their former ecosystems are simply not the same. (Europe is experiencing a similar loss of birds.)

Declines in your common sparrow or other little brown bird may not receive the same attention as historic losses of bald eagles or sandhill cranes, but they are going to have much more of an impact,” said Hillary Young, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the new research.

birds of new mexico

Broadtailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

There are a number of reasons for the crash in American bird populations. Among them, habitat loss, climate change, outdoor cats and glass skyscrapers and the use of chemical pesticides that kill insects. Birds rely on those insects for food. Those beautiful singing, chatting creatures that humans love so much are under attack from all angles and humans are 100% to blame. Birds in New Mexico suffer from habitat loss brought on both by direct human activities such as road-building and urban expansion but also due to ecosystem shifts brought on by human-caused climate change.

birds of new mexico

Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

There are a few meager positive signs. Bald eagles are thriving and falcon populations are rising. Waterfowl are on the upswing. But the good news is sparse and it doesn’t offset the crash that is underway. I present to you twenty-one beautiful birds of New Mexico in the hopes that you will help to protect these magnificent creatures by changing your habits. All photographs are my own.

birds of new mexico

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

CALL OF THE PLAINS: Finding perspective in northeast New Mexico, home to some of the best bird-watching in the nation.

birds of new mexico

Stellar’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

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Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

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Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

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American Kestrel falcon (Falco sparverius)

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Yellow Rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

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Falco sparverius

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

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Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

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White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

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birds of new mexico

Meadowlark (Sturnella)

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Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava)

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birds of new mexico

Blue grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)

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birds of new mexico

Yellow-Brested Chat (Icteria virens)

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Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)

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Yellow-headed blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

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Quiscalus mexicanus

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

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birds of new mexico

Great-Tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

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See also:

21 Beautiful Birds of Costa Rica

21 Beautiful Birds of Panama

3 comments

  1. Comment by ann cabezas creed

    ann cabezas creed Reply September 30, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    Nice photos! I live part year in Costa Rica and love “bird watching”

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply October 1, 2019 at 8:39 am

      Amazing birds in Costa Rica, Ann! I’m glad you get that opportunity.

  2. Comment by Kathy Durand

    Kathy Durand Reply October 15, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Gorgeous birds! My heart breaks over what we have done and continue to do to the environment!!

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