A few New Mexico Passerine Birds, Families R-T

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, and Families R-T (this page).

 

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


 

Regulidae (Kinglets)

 

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

This tiny cool-weather visitor can be difficult to spot. All three December 2020 images are of the same male. None is good; I included the blurriest image because it shows one of the characteristic markings of this species. Specifically, the pale eye ring is wide fore and aft and narrow top and bottom. The same image shows just a hint of the red crest sported by males. When the crest is folded down, you may not notice it at all.

 

In January 2021, I got my first photograph of a female.

 

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

 

White-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

You'll probably notice this one on the trunks or large branches of trees, where it looks for insects, often head-down. While the dominant themes of the plumage are black, white, and gray, look for a rufous tinge at the base of the back and a patterned rufous-and-white rump.

 

Sturnidae (Starlings)

 

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

 

Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)

You might mistake this sparrow-sized bird for a sparrow, until you notice the long barred tail held at a jaunty angle. The obvious white eyebrow will help with the ID.

 

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)

 

Turdidae

 

Hermit Thrush (Cathartus guttatus)

 

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)

Varied Thrush, Ixoreus naevius, Corrales, New Mexico
Rio Grande Bosque, Corrales, January 2021

For me, this photo sums up the vexing part of bird photography. This Varied Thrush—the first I'd ever seen—flitted away after just two photos. Of the two, only this one is usable, and the bird is partly obscured by brush.

 

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)

 

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana

In October 2020 I found a "bright" female Western Bluebird perched above Burton Park in Albuquerque. A couple of minutes later I found a second, "drab" female on a low branch in the same park, having interrupted her ground-sallying. Note the brownish patch that extends from her breast down the sides.

 

The males from December of that year shows the blue chins that distinguish Western Bluebirds from their Eastern Bluebird cousins. The pair was part of a larger party that flew to the river's edge to drink.

 

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

On these less common bluebirds in the Albuquerque area, the chins as well as the breasts are rust-colored.

 

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

I'm calling certain robins in my photographs females because as of April each year, the previous year's chicks should be mature. Earlier in the calendar year, immature robins resemble the females.

 

Tyrannidae

 

Olive-Sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)

Look for a breast and belly with a white streak down the middle, while the sides are a blotchy gray.

 

Western Wood Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)

In September 2020 I saw my first pewee, perched on a dead branch overlooking a still inlet along the Rio Grande. As I watched it repeatedly flew out to snag insects (which were too small for me to see) and returned to the same branch. One of my May 2021 photos is rather poor (the bird was in the shade) but I included it to show the back and wings.

 

Ash-Throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens)

As this bird observes you from its perch, use the pale lemon-colored belly and cinnamon-colored patch in the folded wings to clinch your ID.

 

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Look for the characteristic dark back, darker head, and contrasting white belly.

 

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)

Look for a gray head, a buff belly, and a black tail. (In two photos, what looks like a darker black stripe at the end of the tail is a shadow.) I first found it in my neighborhood. Once I started scouting open areas, I found it there as well. Now I seem to see it everywhere I go in Albuquerque. 

 

In town a Say's Phoebe perches above head height. In open areas it uses any perch just off the ground; one photo shows a Say's Phoebe on a dead tumbleweed and another shows one on a strand of a barbed-wire fence. To see one perched inches above the surface of the Rio Grande, check out this blog.

 

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

My ID is based in part on the pale gray head and breast, the yellow belly, and the narrow white edges to the tail. I'll juxtapose two pairs of photos—from June 2020 and July 2021—to show how a species' coloration can seem different depending on the individual and the light. 

 

In June 2020 the western kingbird I encountered was waiting on a utility cable, facing into the breeze, until an insect flew into view. It then flew out, captured the morsel, and returned to the cable to await its next snack. In July 2020 I encountered a pair in a sycamore tree. Once they moved a bit, I caught one flexing its wing. The bird shown from May 2021 was perched on a survey stake in an empty lot, flying away (including to the ground) to capture food. The July 2021 bird just sat there, its wings slightly out from its body, for as long as I watched it.