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, you'll notice a lot of these magnificent birds. And if you're like me, you'll keep taking pictures of them.


Ardeidae: Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

During breeding season, these birds develop patches of tan plumage. Western cattle egrets are a recent example of the natural spread of species (as opposed to introductions by humans). They reached South America from Africa in 1877, and by 1953 were nesting in the U.S.


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. And as it turns out, green herons aren't green.


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. In December 2023 I photographed a juvenile at a better lighting angle but yet again, distance was a factor. These birds don't like people getting close to them.


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. In January 2024 I encountered a juvenile who was surviving despite missing a foot, as I describe briefly in this blog.


Threskiornithidae: White-Faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

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. The "white face" (more of a white fringe around the beak and eyes) is apparent only on breeding adults.