Birding Southeastern New Mexico
Birding Southeastern New Mexico Home Page

Bitter Lake NWR

Collared Dove

Spring River Parkway

Spring River Zoo

South Park Cemetery


Living Desert S.P.

Rattle Snake Springs

Sitting Bull Falls

 Maddox Lake Bonito Lake

Mescalero Lake

Road 245 to Capitan


Our summers in southeastern New Mexico are hot and dry, with July and August as the hottest months. Always carry water with you, especially during the summer.

We normally have mild winters with cold spells, and occasional snow, which is usually gone within 24 hours, three days at the most. These events can be quite traumatic to us Roswellites, but those from the northern states might find it balmy here. See Chart for monthly temperature averages.

Most of our dirt roads are caliche, which can get incredibly slippery when wet and it is wisest, at those times, not to travel on them. Roads are usually dry enough by the following day. Rains seldom last long, and tend to be localized. I have heard many stories where rain fell into one person's yard, but not into their neighbor's. My favorite is when friends were enjoying their picnic while watching it rain on the other side of the road.

If you plan to do much traveling in New Mexico, especially off the main highways, the purchase of detailed road maps would be advisable. The Bureau of Land Management (1717 West Main, Roswell, 505-627-0272) sell some, but they tend to be old (like from around the 1970's) and out-dated. The most recent copy of "The Roads of New Mexico" might be handy. It is usually available in local bookstores in New Mexico, or from: Shearer Publishing, 406 Post Oak Road, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624, 512-997-6529. Remember, even with a most recent edition of any map the Ranchers and Oil & Gas Companies are forever changing roads about, adding new, closing off old.

Safety Tips: Always have water with you, also carry along some snacks, head gear, and a first aid kit. During warm periods watch out for snakes. Keep a watchful eye for rattlesnakes and avoid them. If bitten, hospitals are few and far apart. It should go without saying that it is just best to avoid anything with teeth, fangs or stingers. Do not drive off of established roads. If you roam down by the Pecos River remember - it is notorious for quicksand. During dry periods (if the grass is brown) smoke only inside your vehicles with windows rolled up and using your ash tray. If this sounds a bit extreme, talk to a few ranchers on their feelings about dry season grass fires. I have had more than one Rancher approach me during such times just to ask if I smoke.

A bird list for Southeastern New Mexico can be found at the Southeastern New Mexico Audubon (SENMAS) Web Page:

Birding Southeastern NM

along with the most recent Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge survey, and a history of their reports since May 1998. Also a page with our Field Trip reports and recent sightings, Common Wildflower List, The New Mexico Dragonfly Notebook, Odonata lists, and links helpful to those visiting New Mexico.

The following is a list of suggested birding spots in our area, which includes the Counties of Chaves, Eddy, Lea, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Where ever you go - be safe and happy birding!


Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (elevation 3573') is located about 12 miles east of Roswell. Pine Lodge Road is the first traffic light coming in to Roswell from the north on Main Street (Hwy US 285). On the southeast corner of this intersection is the Roswell Mall. At this intersection take Pine Lodge Road east, and follow the refuge signs. East Pine Lodge Road goes through areas consisting of flat plains and scattered buildings. Watch for Quail, Roadrunners, Sparrows, Ravens, Pyrrhuloxia, Pheasants, Blackbirds, Hawks, Falcons. Bill Radke is in charge of the refuge and has been doing an impressive job, not only with Salt Cedar elimination, but also returning the water flow through the park to more natural timing. Other improvements are in the planning stage including nature walks. There are usually on-going research projects as well. One never knows what might be seen out there. See Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Weekly Bird Survey at Birding Southeastern NM.   (A side trip: Go 2 miles east from North Main to Calumet Road, take this south for .5 mile, turn left (east) onto Lone Cedar. Go slowly and as you descend into the ravine look to the right (south), there may be ducks, and during the summer, swallows. While ascending out of the ravine look left (north), this can be quite a good size pond depending upon the quantity of water in it. There are times when the area is completely dry, due to the weather and irrigation. A variety of ducks (Shovelers, Buffleheads, Pintails, Wigeons among others), and black birds, along with Coots, and wading birds. Chukars have been seen in this area from Pine Lodge to Lone Cedar. Continue east approximately .9 mile on Lone Cedar to Railroad Lane and head left (north) back to Pine Lodge Road, there continue east (right) following the Refuge signs.)

Collared Dove Copyright (C) 1998 John Shipman(Roswell) Orginaly the collared dove was found only in the area from Main Street turn east onto 23rd Street, then turn north (left) onto N. Cole (second street on left). Watch the trees carefully as you go down the block. Just past 2408 N. Cole turn left into the alley, this alley will loop and take you back to 23rd Street. Again watch the trees carefully. You might also might see Mourning, White-wing and Inca Dove in this area, along with other town birds such as Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, sparrows and House Finches. Once while going through the alley I saw all four species of Dove together in the same small tree.
Now the collared dove area has expanded throughout all of north Roswell.   I do not know how far south they have traveled, they could be everywhere by now.   The debate continues on whether they are collared doves, turtle doves, or if we have both.    I am told you have to know what to look for under their tails to tell the difference.   That's getting a bit personal.     So in Roswell one can see rock, mourning, white-winged, collard/turtle, and Inca doves.

Spring River Parkway. Also known as the Spring River Recreational Trail. This is a bike/walking path. It starts west of the Golf Course at the west end of the Enchanted Lands Park and heads east 4.7 miles to Atkinson Avenue and College, ending in Spring River Park and Zoo. The Enchanted Lands park is located on the west side of Sycamore Avenue about a tenth of a mile north of West Second. This area is pretty sparse of plants and trees and has large open lawn areas. The terrain quickly changes as it follows the Spring River ( that little ditch on your left as you head east) to the Golf Course and Fourth Street. On the Golf Course watch for Burrowing Owls (1), Horned Larks, Blue Jays and Woodpeckers among others. The Spring River appearance will change in Cahoon Park, which is immediately east of the Golf Course. Watch for the sunken garden near the swimming pool area. In the park area watch for Inca, Mourning, and White-winged Doves, Sparrows, Grackles, Kestrels. In the summer Mississippi Kites nest in Roswell. In March and October Turkey Vultures gather in Roswell for migration. They roost in the larger trees.

The path winds eastward through neighborhoods rich with trees and plant growth, occasionally going down into the Spring River ditch (don't panic, unless it rains, our rivers seldom have much water in them.) The path comes up out of the river at the Roswell Adult Center on Missouri Avenue. Almost every species of Dragonfly in Chaves County can be found from the bridge at Lee Street to the Zoo. A few blocks later the trees once again get sparse as the path approaches the Civic Center and Roswell Museum and Art Center (a place worthwhile to visit and cool off), it drops back down into the Spring River and crosses under Main Street (Hwy US285/70). It stays in the Spring River until it passes Virginia Avenue. (The water in the Spring River is usually limited to the little groove in the center of the ditch - watch for minnows in that groove they are a full-grown native fish called Mosquito Eaters. There may also be the occasional bright red crayfish). After crossing Garden, the fenced-in area on the opposite side of the river is the city's tree farm (managed by the City's Tree Consultant - Tom Burleson). A little farther east the path passes through another park - Loveless Park, there it crosses Atkinson Avenue and enters the Spring River Park and Zoo, where it ends. [The Spring River originates just west of Roswell. Surface and subsurface springs flow into it all along its path. According to the Treasures of History II, in 1867 the North Spring River was forty to sixty feet wide and ten to twenty feet deep and flowed like this until the 1920's. In the 1890's C. W. Haynes developed "Haynes' Dream Park", a recreation facility, later in 1935 renamed Cahoon Park. On the west side of Union Street in the river valley and adjacent to the Picnic grounds, Haynes had a dam built to create a lake for swimming and boating. The Katie was a 20 passenger steamboat Haynes operated, charging ten cents for a two mile ride up the river. In 1920 the annual "Cotton Carnival" started with rides, swimming and a barbecue. (Treasures of History II, by Elvis E. Fleming and Ernestine Chesser Williams, available at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico - Museum, 200 N Lea Avenue)]

Spring River Parkway mileage, provided by the Roswell Parks and Recreation Department Office (P&R Office), located at 1101 West Fourth - the stone building in Cahoon Park near the sunken gardens.

From To Miles Actual
P&R Office Sycamore 1 ½ miles 1.4
P&R Office Enchanted Hills Park 2 miles 1.9
P&R Office Spring River Zoo 3 miles 2.8
Enchanted Hills Park Spring River zoo 5 miles 4.7

(1) Note: Robert Larsen reported that from the fields west of Enchanted Hills Park to (I believe he said) the area of Cahoon Park, in 1997 he counted over 300 Burring Owls. Robert had noticed a Peregrine Falcon swooping out of the sky and taking Burrowing Owls.

The Spring River Zoo (corner of Atkinson and College) is small, and the entrance is free. From Main Street (HWY 285) head East on College to Atkinson. There are entrances on both College and Atkinson. The Atkinson parking lot is next to the Duck Pond (children up to the age of 12 may fish). The College parking lot is larger and is located in the large park area with picnic tables, play ground, a Carousel and train (rides are 25¢ each). There is also a Children's Zoo. The Burrowing Owls in the Zoo moved in on their own accord. I can't remember right now, but I believe the Prairie Dogs were there, and they built the Zoo up around them, and they have remained. They do have some birds that have been rescued and could not be returned to the wild. I think the Bald Eagle is still there. It had been injured while an immature and we were able to observe it turn white as it matured. On the south side of the zoo (Atkinson parking lot) cross the bridge to the duck pond, follow the dirt path east out behind the Zoo. If you walk far enough you will find some ponds. You will be on their south side, on the north side overlooking them are a few houses. In this area the Spring River meets the Hondo River on their trip east to the Pecos. [The Zoo was originally in Cahoon Park, but in 1966 the city purchased the land and moved it to its present location.]

South Park Cemetery, (located at 2500 South Main Street with entrances on both South Main and US285). This is an excellent birding spot, there are many different types of trees and bushes to attract a wide variety of birds. They also water frequently which provides watering puddles for the birds. I enjoy walking around the cemetery, and have found that my vehicle provides a nice blind while parked near a puddle. Spring/Summer: Robins, Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Warblers, Hawks, Townsend Solitaire, Doves, Mississippi Kites. Fall/Winter: Robins, Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Warblers, Hermit Thrush, Chickadees, Hawks, Cedar Wax Wings, Doves, Bluebirds. In exceptionally cold winters Steller's Jays may come down from the mountains.


Carlsbad (Elevation 3111') is located 100 miles south of Roswell on US 285. Drive north on Canal Street across the Pecos River through a neighborhood of large and medium lots, trees and bushes plentiful and attracting birds all year round. Some you might see include Doves, Jays, Finches and Flickers.

Living Desert State Park, located on a cliff overlooking Carlsbad. It is located at the north end of town on the east side of Hwy 285. Watch for the sign. There is a nice short out-of-doors walk through a botanical and zoo area. It is out in the open so the wild birds come and share in the bounty provided to the zoo animals. The zoo consists of rescued animals.

A visit to the Carlsbad Caverns is always recommended. The road to the Caverns has nature trails that are fun to walk and bird. Bird also around the Cavern's Visitor Center and parking areas. All through the summer Cave Swallows can be seen at the cave's natural entrance. They nest in the cave.

Rattlesnake Springs: (HWY US62/180, 5 miles south from the turn off to the Caverns) I know this sounds a bit ominous, but I have never seen a rattler there (but it is always advise in warm weather throughout all of New Mexico to keep an eye out for them). This was once the source for the water used at Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center. There is usually a list of recently seen birds on the bulletin board at the parking area. Walk all around the area, being so far south and an oasis it attracts many different species. Walk through the gate, pass the little grove of trees on the right, there is a house on the right (usually occupied by one of the Rangers), then follow the path to the left to the pond. This is the natural spring. If you look closely you should be able to see spots where the water is bubbling up out of the grown. During the warmer months endangered fish species are kept in the pond. There are also frogs, crayfish and various aquatic life. This is a popular nesting area for many birds.

Watch for Painted Buntings at the spot on the drive in from the Highway, where the creek crosses the road,

Spring/Summer: Vermilion Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Orioles, Sparrows, Warblers, Cardinals, Wild Turkeys, owls, hawks.

Sitting Bull Falls: Located in the Guadalupe Mountains off of Hwy 285, 20 miles south of Artesia and 9 miles north of Carlsbad. Turn West on State 137 for 31 miles, turn right on 276. This Park has been built up with a picnic area and restrooms: there is a $5 fee per car. Here you will find an oasis consisting of numerous plants, Rock Cliffs, and a waterfall. While driving in you will undoubtably have doubts that any water exists in this area, but then a stream appears near the road. Look for Rock Wrens in the cliffs along the road. At the park will be Swallows. Hooded Orioles can be found here. (If you prefer not to picnic, try driving to Queen, New Mexico, for what many say, is the best Green Chili Hamburger in Southeastern New Mexico.)

Contributions of site information for Lea County would be greatly appreciated. Please e-mail them to:

MADDOX LAKE: From Hobbs, take the Carlsbad highway (US 62-180) west. After a few miles you will see two large gas-fired power plants on the right. The second one is Maddox Station. Turn onto the entrance road for this power plant and continue past the plant until the road turns left. A little ways down this road there is a barrier. Park and continue walking west on the road until you reach a state-maintained wildlife area around the pond that receives the warm water outflow from the power plant. In bitterly cold weather, this outflow keeps part of the pond unfrozen and attracts and concentrates wildlife, especially waterfowl. A good winter birding site for all the usual dabbling ducks and teal, as well as sparrows and raptors. Rarities I have personally observed there include Field Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and American Bittern.   (Contributor: John Shipman)


Bonito Lake   Take Highway 70 to Ruidoso. In Ruidoso take Sudderth to Mechem (Highway 48) and follow to the sign for Bonito Lake and Highway 37. Bonito Lake is best for birding during fall migration, but is a delightful, cool area in the summer enjoyed by hikers and fishermen. In fall, the trails and canyons leading from the main road are favored by Virginia's, Townsend's, Wilson's Warblers. The area along the Rio Bonito in the Bontio Campground (a fee area), is good for MacGillivray's Warlers, Yellow Warblers, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Belted Kingfishers. American Dippers normally resident along the river above the South Fork Campground run by the National Forest Service. Osprey can usually be seen during spring and fall migration. (Contributor: Anita Powell)

Mescalero Lake   Take Highway 70 to Ruidoso and proceed toward Tularosa to the sign for the Inn of the Mountain Gods. Follow Carrizo Canyon Road to the resort. There is no problem with parking and walking the path along the lake, but do not enter the golf course area. Mescalero Lake is best for wintering ducks. In the winter expect to see Common Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Canvasbacks, and Northern Shovelers among others. This is the prime winter location for Bald Eagles in southern Lincoln County and Ospreys are frequently seen during spring and fall migration. (Mescalero Lake really is in Otero County, but we [Lincoln County Bird Club] claim it because we are the closest and we bird it frequently.)   (Contributor: Anita Powell)

Roswell on 245 to Capitan. The traffic light on North Main (at the north end of the Roswell Mall, and the first light coming in from the north) is Pine Lodge Road, take this west to 246, which goes all the way to Capitan. This is a much prettier view than the main highway 70/380, but about 30 minutes longer, not including birding stops. Wild Turkeys and deer are seen in the foot hills. The Forest Roads heading south off of 246 are narrow and rough with large stones. It is advise that one does not travel alone up these roads. (Note: maps usually show 368 from Tinnie to Arabela to 246 as a through road, and the drive from Tinnie to Arabela is beautiful! Had some great birding on that road [See Field Trip notes on SENMAS web page]. However, from Arabela to 246 it is advised that a good, strong team of big Belgium Drafts horses is taken along to pull the 4-wheel drive through. Or ask the people of Arabela for road conditions.)

Contributions of site information for Roosevelt County would be greatly appreciated. Please e-mail them to:

Let us know about your visit to southeastern New Mexico, the places you visited, sights seen and birds spotted. Did you add any to your life list? Were you able to discover birding sites not listed here? We would love to hear from you. Do you include non-birds (a.k.a. feather free) creatures in your observation? If so what species did you see.

Birding Southeastern New Mexico Home Page

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Contributors: Sherry Bixler, Karen Jo Herman, Anita Powell (Lincoln County Bird Club), John Shipman.

This page was last updated August 20, 2005

Created and maintain by Webmaster Karen Jo Herman

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