A few New Mexico Passerine Birds, Families R-V

Passeriformes is an order with a variety of birds in many families. I had to split my Passeriformes page into four: Families A-FFamilies H-M, Families P, and Families R-V (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 to Albuquerque can be difficult to spot. In the summer, if you're lucky, you can see ruby-crowned kinglets in the nearby Sandia Mountains. I'm still trying to get good photos of these birds, which hop around a lot and like to put a few branches between themselves and a camera.


Look for the characteristic eye ring, which is wide fore and aft and narrow top and bottom. The February 2023 image shows the red crest sported by males. When the crest is folded down, you probably won't see it. The thumbnail to the left, of the same male, shows the crest fully raised.


Sittidae (Nuthatches)


Red-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

The breast of this nuthatch isn't bright red, but more of a pale rust. Like its white-breasted cousin, it hangs at odd angles as it searches for food.


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 patterned rufous-and-white rump.


Sturnidae (Starlings)


European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)


Troglodytidae (Wrens)


Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

To hear this bird's distinctive song (not unlike someone trying to start a car), check out this brief YouTube video.


Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)

All three photos are of the same bird. Before I saw it, I heard it give off the chip ... chip ... chip it was using to stay in touch with a nearby mate. Marsh wrens prefer to hide, and the one I saw was weaving in and out of the vegetation at the edge of an irrigation drain. As it spotted a tiny meal floating on the water (bugs, I assume), it hopped out to consume it, but was careful to keep as dry as possible. As soon as the meal was snapped up, it hopped back under the protective vegetation. More often than not, it held its tail at a jaunty angle.


Marsh wrens occur year-round in northern and northwestern New Mexico. Elsewhere in the state (including in Albuquerque), they disappear northwards during the summer.


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)




Hermit Thrush (Cathartus guttatus)

A robin-sized and robin-shaped bird, but instead of a red breast it has a strongly marked white breast. Also, look for a bit of cinnamon color on top of the tail.


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 only one I've seen—flitted away after two photos. Of the two, only this one is usable, and the bird is partly obscured by brush.


Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)

In January 2022 a bird observed me briefly before disappearing. I was immediately reminded of an American robin, thanks to its size and shape and obvious white eye ring. The overall gray coloration was all wrong for a robin, however. Note also the long tail with the thin white margin. I have seen them several times since, but they don't like to pose for cameras.


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 eastern bluebirds the chins are rust-colored, which is how I distinguish them from western bluebirds. Albuquerque is in the small area of overlap in the two species' ranges.


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.




Olive-Sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)

Look for a breast and belly with white 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 patches in the folded wings to clinch your ID. As one of my photos shows, when an ash-throated flycatcher raises its head feathers, the result isn't a crest so much as a pompadour.


Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, New Mexico


Look for the characteristic dark back, darker head, and contrasting white belly. In Albuquerque I often see them perched next to a flowing irrigation drain or ditch, or next to the Rio Grande. They fly out from their perch to snag tiny flying insects above the water, then fly back and wait for the next one.


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)

Western kingbirds are common in Albuquerque, provided there are open places where they can spot flying insects. My IDs of this bird rely 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. The kingbird 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.


Cassin's Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans)

Like the Western Kingbirds described above, a Cassin's Kingbird has a belly with a yellow wash. The Cassin's lacks the Western's narrow white tail edges. Also, the white on the Cassin's chin contrasts more clearly with the head and neck. That white patch extends under the eyes, forming an obvious "moustache."




Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)

A plain bird but one with a song worth listening to. Look for a faint yellow wash on the undersides and a washed-out eyeline.