Hover over a series of photos with your mouse to control the images. If you find an ID or link error, please contact me!
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. They 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 is slightly fuzzy but 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.
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.
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
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 March 2023 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 (a bug, 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.
Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus)
An aptly named bird, rock wrens prefer hunting insects in crevices in rocky terrain. In most of New Mexico, a year-round resident, moving into and out of highland areas according to the seasons. One of my photos shows a rock wren with a misshapen beak—apparently not enough of a handicap to keep it from surviving.
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.
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.
Hammond's Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii)
If you can't see obvious differences among the Empidonax flycatchers, you have my sympathies.
Dusky Flycatcher (Empidonax oberholseri)
All three pictures are of the same bird. I think this is a dusky rather than a Hammond's because of the slight color difference between the head and the back, and because how long the tail looks.
Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii)
This bird was silent but based on species distributions, I think it's a willow flycatcher. If not actively migrating, it's a Southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus), which is endangered.
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.
Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
It's a bit odd to see a vermilion flycatcher in the Albuquerque area, in November no less. More commonly, some vermilion flycatchers use the southern third of New Mexico as a breeding area, before heading back south in the fall. Both of my photos are of a male transitioning from immature to adult plumage.
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
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 and back, 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.) Juveniles have buff-colored wing bars.
I saw my first Say's phoebe in a neighborhood park. Now I seem to see it everywhere in Albuquerque. They do prefer being in or at the edges of open areas, where they can sit and spot insects on the fly. 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. To see one perched inches above the surface of the Rio Grande, check out this blog.
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
My IDs of this bird rely on the pale gray head and breast, the yellow belly, and the narrow white edges to the tail. Western kingbirds are common in Albuquerque, at the edges of open places where they can hunt. On many occasions I've seen them waiting on an overhead powerline. Once they spot a flying insect, they fly out, snag the insect, and return to their perch.
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 chin patch extends under the eyes.
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.