A few New Mexico passerine birds: Families P

Passeriformes is an order with a variety of birds in many families. In July 2021 I had to split the Passeriformes page into four: Families A-FFamilies H-M, Families P (this page), and Families R-T.


Hover over a series of photos with your mouse to control the images. If you find an ID or link error, please contact me!


Paridae (Chickadees and Titmice)


Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)


Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)

Except for a few grainy photos, so far this chickadee has also eluded my camera lens.


Parulidae (New World Warblers)


Orange-Crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata)

Orange-Crowned Warbler, Leiothlypis celata, New Mexico
Albuquerque, August 2020

According to the various guides, don't look for the orange crown to ID this one; usually that feature isn't visible. Instead, in the West, start by looking for a yellow bird with a fairly uniform back and a short, narrow beak.


Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)


Look for discontinuous patches of yellow, including at the throat and under each wing. The bright yellow rump is a great clue if you can see it—but as the image to the left shows, if the wings are clapped shut over the rump you're out of luck.



Here's an example of the yellow rump peeking through. By the way none of my photos of females shows yellow on the crown of the head, despite what's shown by some guides. 


American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)


Passerellidae (American Sparrows)


Black-Throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Oregon Subspecies

The Oregon variant of the Dark-Eyed Junco is found across much of the western U.S., including in Albuquerque. It has a hood, a brown back, and a buff patch on each side. The male's hood is dark gray while the female's is light gray. I found a pair ground-feeding in the Sandia foothills on New Year's Day 2018. For all of the juncos, look for white outer tail feathers while the bird is flying.


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Pink-Sided Subspecies

The Pink-Sided subspecies of junco resembles females of the Oregon subspecies, but has a prominent dark "mask" extending from the beak past the eyes. To me the sides look rufous rather than pink.


Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Gray-Headed Subspecies

The Gray-Headed subspecies of dark-eyed juncos includes gray sides, a rufous back, a mask extending from the beak back to the eyes, and an all-pink bill.


Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii)

At first I thought this backyard visitor was a Song Sparrow, but note how the streaky sides are buff rather than light gray. Lincoln's Sparrow was named after Thomas Lincoln, a friend of John James Audubon, not after the U.S. president.


Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)


Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca)

Look for a bird that's a little larger than a sparrow and has reddish areas on top of its head and at its butt.


Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

It's difficult to tell from these photos, but my species ID of this bird is based in part on the pale yellow band extending from the beak over and past the eyes.


Green-Tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus)

All of my August 2020 photos are of the same bird, in "first winter" plumage (called that even in August). The mottled juvenile body plumage has given way to an adult's mostly bland body colors, but the adult white throat is present and and the rusty crest is on its way in. The green-yellow plumage that gives this bird its name never dominate the plumage scheme. Once this bird flew into brush to escape my camera, it issued a characteristic catlike mew.


I had to wait until April 2021 to see my next Green-Tailed Towhee, this time a full adult. One morning its crest was up, the next time the crest was down.


Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

This bird was formerly classified as a rufous-sided towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), along with the bird now known as the eastern towhee. The second part of the former Latin means "red-eyed," an attribute that is obvious here. (Maculatus means "spotted.") When making an ID, be sure to compare this bird with black-headed grosbeaks (above).


American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)

My ID of this sparrow is based on the un-streaked breast, the eyeline being the same rusty color as the cap, and on the two-colored beak. I'd feel better if I could see a dark spot in the middle of the breast, but apparently not all American Tree Sparrows show that trait.


White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Western Taiga variant

Given their black and white head stripes, mature White-Crowned Sparrows are easy to identify. The immature ones are trickier, but my photos of immature birds should help. All of my photos are of birds with pale lores (the spaces between the upper beaks and the eyes), so these are the Western Taiga (Gambel's) variant. 


All three September 2020 photos from the Bosque are of same individual. At first I saw it at a distance and thought it had a solid brown head (as you'd find on the gray adult version of a Field Sparrow). A closer look showed the brown and gray head stripes of an immature White-Crowned Sparrow. In one of the three photos it appears as if the bird might have dark lores, but from other angles (including in images I didn't upload) it's clear that the lores are pale. An argument for taking multiple looks at (or photos of) a bird you're trying to identify.


Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)


House (or English) Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

These are the descendants of immigrants, but so am I. Along with House Finches, they're the most common birds in my neighborhood.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)


Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

Fuzzy photos of an elusive little bird, but they show the coloration and the prominent eyering.

To continue to the next set of Passerine birds, click here.