Bird Guide

Initially this guide displays common birds of all types that are flying right now in our area. Use the selectors below to view rare birds, view birds flying any time, restrict the output to a certain shape of bird, or search by name.

New Mexico is on the western edge of the Central Flyway which is one of the major migration pathways between north and south for birds traveling between breeding and wintering grounds along the Rocky Mountains. This has resulted in the state having an incredible diversity of birds with over 550 different species reported. A little more than half of this number are sighted annually on the Pajarito Plateau. Some of these birds are full-time residents, some migrate here for a few weeks or months, and other are only seen briefly as they pass through the region.

This guide features many of the birds known to frequent Los Alamos county by when they are likely to be seen in the area. You can get additional information on local birds by joining PEEC Birders or going to the eBird website. eBird also includes lists of rare bird sightings and birding hot spots.

Bird References

Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Institute for Bird Populations
National Audubon Society
New Mexico Ornithology Society
What Bird

Subject Area Experts (all guides)

Steve Cary (butterflies)
Beth Cortright (insects)
Terry Foxx (invasive plants)
Leslie Hansen (mammals)
Richard Hansen (fish, mammals)
Dorothy Hoard (butterflies, trees)
Chick Keller (flowers, herbarium)
Shari Kelley (geology)
Kirt Kempter (geology)
Garth Tietjen (reptiles)
David Yeamans (birds)

Web Development and Content Management

Pat Bacha
Jennifer Macke
Graham Mark
Akkana Peck


Please contact us for local nature questions and sightings. We welcome comments, corrections, and additions to our guides.

For more information about local nature, please visit our Nature Blog or subscribe to PEEC This Week.

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Showing 9 of 176 birds.

Photo: male by oldbilluk


Photo: female by David Blanke


Photo: pair by Matt Goff

Green-winged Teal

GWTE (Anas carolinensis, Anas crecca, Anas crecca carolinensis, Anas carolinensis carolinensis)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 12 - 16 in (30 - 41 cm)
Flies: Jan 01 - May 15 and Aug 07 - Nov 01
Morphology: breeding males are gray with a cinnamon head and green line through the eye; females and non-breeding males are shades of brown; both sexes have green patches on the upper wing

Status: native; uncommon
Food source: plant material, especially seeds; will feed on insects, crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, and fish eggs

Habitat: marshes, ponds and lakes
Typical location: Bandelier Sewage Lagoons

Though officially classified as the Common Teal (Anas crecca) by some authorities, the Green-winged Teal is considered a separate species (Anas carolinensis) by many others. It is the smallest dabbling duck in North America and winters in the local area in large flocks. These teals prefer to forage on mud flats. At the slightest sign of danger they will take off, rising almost vertically from the water. They migrate north early in spring for breeding. Nests are made in shallow depressions. Eggs hatch in 3 weeks with the young leaving the nest almost immediately and flying at 6 weeks.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   

breeding male

Photo: breeding male by Greg Lasley

nonbreeding male

Photo: nonbreeding male by Jerry Oldenettel


Photo: female by Greg Lasley

Northern Shoveler

NSHO (Anas clypeata)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 17 - 20 in (43 - 51 cm)
Flies: Apr 15 - May 15 and Sep 01 - Sep 21
Morphology: flat-billed birds with a rear that sits a bit high out of the water; breeding males are bright white, blue, green, and rust with flashes of blue and green showing during flight; nonbreeding males have subdued coloring of black and brown with brown markings; both breeding and nonbreeding males have black bills; females and immatures are mottled brown with an orange bill and light blue on the wings

Status: native; rare
Food source: diet varies with the season; mostly seeds and aquatic plants in winter; primarily mollusks, insects, crustaceans, and sometimes small fish in summer

Habitat: favors water edges with dense vegetation
Typical location: Bandelier Sewage Lagoons

The Northern Shoveler is sometimes referred to as “Spoonbill” or “Spoony” due to its unique spatulate-shaped bill. Like many dabbling ducks, Northern Shovelers use their flat bills to strain food from the water while slowly swimming forward with the head partly submerged. These ducks occasionally work in a group, swimming around in a wide circle to bring food to the water surface. Mating pairs form in winter or during spring migration. Several males may court one female. In this case, the female makes her choice by flying away with one of the males. Nests are usually close to water in a grassy area and consist shallow depressions filled with dried grasses and lined with down. Young are led to water within a few hours after hatching. They are able to fly at about 2 months of age.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   

breeding male

Photo: breeding male by Bob Walker

non-breeding male

Photo: non-breeding male by Steven Mlodinow


Photo: female by J.N. Stuart

Cinnamon Teal

CITE (Anas cyanoptera)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 15 - 16 in (38 - 41 cm)
Flies: Mar 01 - May 01 and Aug 01 - Oct 01
Morphology: breeding male has bright cinnamon head and body with dark rump and red eyes; non-breeding male is rusty, gray-brown overall with red eyes; female is gray-brown overall with dark eyes and mostly dark beak

Status: native; rare
Food source: mainly plants but may eat mollusks and aquatic insects

Habitat: ponds and marshes
Typical location: Ashley Pond

The Cinnamon Teal is a brightly colored duck closely related to the Blue-winged Teal and may hybridize with it. As a dabbler, this duck forages in shallow water, swimming with its head partially submerged while skimming food from the surface. These birds may be seen following one another, taking advantage of food that has been stirred up by the paddling of others. Nests are often camouflaged below matted vegetation. The female will then enter the nest via a tunnel through the vegetation. Incubation time is 21 to 25 days. The female will lead the young to water immediately after hatching. The young can fly at about 7 weeks.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   

breeding male

Photo: breeding male by Bob Walker

breeding male

Photo: breeding male by Dan Pancamo


Photo: female by C.M. Edmunds

Blue-winged Teal

BWTE (Anas discors)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 15 - 16 in (38 - 41 cm)
Flies: Apr 01 - May 15 and Aug 15 - Oct 15
Morphology: breeding males have a brown body with speckled breast, a slate-colored head, and white crescent behind the bill; females and non-breeding males are a patterned brown; all birds have a blue patch on their upper wing showing during flight

Status: native; uncommon
Food source: mostly plant material, in particular seeds; may occasionally eat mollusks and crustaceans

Habitat: fresh ponds and marshes
Typical location: Ashley Pond

The Blue-winged Teal is closely related to the Cinnamon Teal and may hybridize with it. These teals are fast fliers and flocks will twist and turn in unison. These birds are dabblers and thus forage in shallow water. They often move along with their heads partly submerged, in order to glean food from at or near the surface. They seldom feed away from water but small groups of these teals can be seen standing on stumps or rocks near the water’s edge. Pairs form in early winter and continue together through spring migration. Nests are well concealed and consist of a shallow depression with lined with grasses and down. The eggs hatch in a little over 3 weeks; the young leave the nest within 24 hours and are capable of flight in a little over a month.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   


Photo: male by Hari Viswanathan

female with duckling

Photo: female with duckling by Josip Loncaric

female and male

Photo: female and male by Kevin Arceneaux


MALL (Anas platyrhynchos)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 18 - 27 in (46 - 69 cm)
Flies: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Morphology: males have a brown breast, black back, iridescent green head, and yellow bill; females and immatures are mottled brown with brown to orange bills; both sexes have blue patch in the wing

Status: native; locally common
Food source: eats mainly plant material including seeds, stems, and roots along with insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish; ducklings mostly eat aquatic insects

Habitat: marshy areas
Typical location: Bandelier Sewage Lagoons, Rio Grande

The Mallard is the most well known of wild ducks and the ancestor of most strains of domesticated ducks. Mallards are dabbling ducks, meaning that they usually feed either on the surface of shallow water or tip headfirst into the water to find aquatic vegetation and insects. Pairs form in fall and winter and seek a nesting site together. The nest, consisting of plant material lined with down, may be some distance from water but is usually on the ground concealed by vegetation. Young leave the nest within day of hatching and are able swim and feed themselves immediately.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   


Photo: adult by Akkana Peck


Photo: adult by Bob Walker


Photo: gosling by J.N. Stuart

Canada Goose

CANG (Branta canadensis)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 35 - 45 in (89 - 114 cm)
Flies: Jan 01 - Dec 31

Morphology: both sexes have a black head with white cheeks and chinstrap, black neck, tan breast, and brown back

Status: native; uncommon
Food source: feeds on a wide variety of plants including aquatic plants; eats seeds and berries along with some insects and small fish

Habitat: lakes, bays, rivers, marshes, open grassy areas
Typical location: Rio Grande

Canada Geese are known for their V-shaped migrating flocks and can be seen flying overheard. There are several subspecies that vary in size and calls. They mostly forage in flocks, grazing while walking on land but will also feed in water, sometimes up-ending but usually only submerging head and neck. They have adapted well to being around man, favoring the areas around park ponds and golf courses. This had caused them to be a nuisance in some areas. Canada Geese may mate for life. The female choses the site, usually on slightly elevated dry ground near water, while the male defends the territory. The nest consists of a shallow bowl lined with sticks, etc. in a slight depression. Young are lead away from the nest a day or so after hatching. They feed themselves from then on but are tended by both parents until first flight, usually at 7 to 9 weeks of age.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   


Photo: male by J.N. Stuart


Photo: female by Mouser Williams


Photo: immature by Jakob Fahr

Common Goldeneye

COGO (Bucephala clangula)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 16 - 20 in (41 - 51 cm)
Flies: Nov 17 - Mar 07
Morphology: medium-sized duck that has a large head, small, narrow bill, and a large white patch in the wings that shows during flight; males are mostly black and white with a round spot near a black bill and bright yellow eyes; females have brown heads, gray backs and wings, and yellow eyes; immatures are similar to females except for dark eyes

Status: native; locally common
Food source: eats crustaceans, small fish, aquatic insects, and some plant material; diet varies with seasons

Habitat: wooded lakes,ponds
Typical location: Rio Grande

Common Goldeneyes are robust diving ducks that mostly forage underwater and are capable of diving to depths of 20 feet (6 meters). These birds are often seen in flocks and, when feeding, all of the birds in one area may dive at the same time. Pairs usually form in late winter. Females often return year-after-year to the site where they hatched. Nests are typically in tree cavities high above the ground. Young leave the nest a day or two after hatching and are led to water by the female. They can fed themselves immediately but are unable to fly until about 2 months old.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   

adult, snow variant

Photo: adult, snow variant by Josip Loncaric

immature, snow variant

Photo: immature, snow variant by Josip Loncaric

adult, intermediate form

Photo: adult, intermediate form by Greg Lasley

Snow Goose

SNGO (Chen caerulescens)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 25 - 31 in (64 - 79 cm)
Flies: May 07 - May 21 and Dec 01 - Dec 15
Morphology: snow variant - white-bodied birds with black wingtips that are more noticeable in flight and a pink bill with a dark line along it; white immatures have a dark bill and some gray on head, neck, and wings; dark variant also known as a “blue goose” - dark brown bodied bird with white face and white under tail; immatures are similar to adults but still smaller in the fall

Status: native; uncommon
Food source: almost entirely plant materials — seeds, leaves, roots, and some berries

Habitat: stop-over spots of open fields with water nearby

Snow Geese are commonly only seen together in large numbers. They pass through the local area during migration on their way to winter in Bosque del Apache. However, during migration they fly so high that they can hardly be seen. Their typical flight pattern consists of shifting curved lines and arcs. Snow Geese usually forage by walking in shallow water or on land, sometimes mixed in with other geese. These birds may mate for life and usually nest in colonies in the extreme North. The two color forms mate with each other and can produce young of either color or an intermediate form.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   


Photo: male by Jerry Oldenettel


Photo: female by Mouser Williams

males and female

Photo: males and female by Kevin Arceneaux

Common Merganser, Goosander

COME (Mergus merganser)

Family: Anatidae (Ducks and Geese)
Size: 22 - 27 in (56 - 69 cm)
Flies: Dec 07 - Mar 15
Morphology: both sexes are long-bodied with thin, pointed wings and straight, narrow bills; males have white bodies, iridescent green heads, black backs, and red bills; females have gray bodies with a white chest and rust-colored heads with a shaggy crest on the back of the head

Status: native; locally common
Food source: adults eat mostly fish but will eat mussels, shrimp, salamanders and rarely plant material; young eat aquatic insects

Habitat: along water ways
Typical location: Rio Grande

The Common Merganser is the largest of the three mergansers in North America. While these birds may swim on the water surface looking for food, they are “divers”, completely going underwater to obtain their prey. Their bills have serrated edges that helps them grip fish and other small animals. During courting, a male will swim very rapidly in circles near a female and then stretch its neck up and give a light call. Nests, made of wood chips or other debris, are located near water in a cavity or crevice. Young leave the nest a day or two after hatching by jumping from the nest to the ground. They can feed themselves right away but cannot fly for about two months.

Tracks   Info   Photos  Distribution   Frequency   

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