Birding Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Each fall and winter, Bosque del Apache Refuge hosts visitors eager to see one of North America’s great migrations — ten of thousands of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese gathered in vast flocks, streaming from their night roosts or exploding into flight when frightened by a passing coyote. Even non-birders can’t help but stand in hushed admiration at the sight of so much life and motion. This spectacle is celebrated annually in the Festival of the Cranes, a six-day event featuring workshops, tours, and even a fine art show.

But savvy birders know that Bosque del Apache is a place of many other wonders, perhaps less showy, but no less remarkable. Like many southwestern refuges, Bosque del Apache is a place where the U.S. and Mexican avifuana blend and blur, creating opportunities to check off species like Chihuahuan Raven, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and Montezuma Quail. Vagrant visitors like Ruddy Ground-dove, Groove-billed Ani, and the remarkable first North American record of the Rufous-necked Wood-rail can occasionally make a lucky birder’s day, or even her year. Whether you prefer the rush of vast numbers or the quiet, solitary moments, birding Bosque del Apache is worth your time.

Snow Geese_Bosque del Apache NWR by Lee Karney

Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache NWR by Lee Karney

Thanks to the USFWA for providing data and images for this post.

 Have you birded this refuge? If so, tell us about it in the comments:

  • If you go...

    How to get there

    • From the north (Socorro, New Mexico), take I-25 south to San Antonio exit 139, then route 380 east .5 mile, then State Highway 1 south 8 miles to refuge.
    • From the south (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico), take I-25 north to San Marcial exit 124, then north on State Highway 1 for 9 miles to refuge.

    Best time to visit

    • Peak numbers of waterfowl occur during late fall and winter.
    • The 2013 Festival of the Cranes is scheduled for November 19-24, 2013.
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