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:

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  • Bob Ayre April 4, 2016, 20:39

    Be sure to check Ladd Gordon Refuge in Bernardo NM north of BDA.
    In the 2015-16 season cranes were feeding here in large numbers due to lack of grain at the Bosque del Apache.
    Festival of the Cranes is now sponsored (in part) by Canon. Many lenses available for loan in 2015-16.

    • Laura Kammermeier April 11, 2016, 13:58

      Hey Bob, that’s good to know. I think being able to borrow a lens would be superb for a lot of people.

  • Michael January 7, 2019, 13:01

    Hi! We hope to be coming to this refuge this October. Are there guides who are recommended (for one day)?

    Thanks so much! (PS We saw that wood rail in Honduras, and it never occurred to me I cd see one ever in the US!)

    Best, Michael (NJ birder)

    • Laura Kammermeier January 26, 2019, 16:24

      Hello, Michael
      Apologies for late reply! I know a few guides who would love to help you. Raymond Van Buskirk, Michael Hichey (both started BRANT nature tours). I’ve put the word out and if I hear of others I will return here to let you know. Cheers,

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