A few New Mexico birds: Pelecaniformes


Images are organized alphabetically by family, genus, and species. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

Ardeidae: Great Egret (Ardea alba)

During their seasonal migrations, great egrets sometimes visit New Mexico. (Where they came from, and where they're headed, isn't clear to me; they winter south of here, but don't summer north of here.) At first glance great egrets resemble the snowy egrets that breed in New Mexico. However, great egrets are larger, have longer necks, and have yellow beaks and black feet. They move while hunting. In the better of my two photos, the great egret's beak holds not one but two minnows it caught with a lightning-fast jab.


Ardeidae: Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

If you keep visiting the Rio Grande Bosque in Albuquerque, after a while you'll notice a lot of these magnificent birds. To see my YouTube video of one of these herons, click here.


Ardeidae: Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

During breeding season, these birds develop patches of tan plumage.


Ardeidae: Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

My May 2021 photos of an adult green heron were taken in cloudy weather, from a distance, so are grainy, but they do a good job of showing the colors of the plumage.


My August 2022 photos of a juvenile green heron aren't great either, in part because I was shooting into the sun (and again, from a distance). However, one of them clearly shows the juvenile's raised crest.


Ardeidae: Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

When I see a possible snowy egret, the first thing I look for is orange-yellow to yellow feet. If the legs are black, that's an adult. If the legs are greenish yellow, that's an immature individual. The second thing I look for is wispy plumes at the rump and at the back of the neck. To refine my ID, I look for yellow lores (the spaces between the beak and eyes) and a mostly black bill. Also, snowy egrets move around as they hunt for fish, as opposed to staying frozen in place.


Ardeide: Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

In July 2020,while trolling the Bosque for wildflowers, I spotted a juvenile night heron standing motionless on a jetty jack. In September I caught it hunting in the same place, and watched it fly up to a cottonwood branch.  I called this immature bird a black-crowned night heron because of the large white markings on the wings, the broad streaks on the breast, and the yellow on the bill.


Almost two years later, I finally got my first good photo of an adult. You can see the long white plumes that sweep back from its head. I've captured a few good images since then.


Threskiornithidae: White-Faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

Not great pictures, I know, but it took me two years of local bird-watching to see my first white-faced ibis, let alone get photos. I found them wading through an alfalfa field that was being flood irrigated. To me, white-faced ibis look like they escaped from a zoo, not like they're in the Albuquerque area naturally. As it is, they only migrate through. 


A year and a half later, a white-faced ibis wading in the Rio Grande let me take pictures from about 30 meters away. The ibis was in non-breeding plumage, so lacked the white face you see in my photos from April 2022.