The canyons and plateaus of this National Park Service-operated property north of Santa Fe are where to go for Grace’s and Virginia’s Warblers, Spotted Owl, Zone-tailed Hawk, and Hepatic Tanager.
By Steve Betchkal | Published: 6/24/2011
Once a stronghold of the Anasazi Indians, Bandelier is a gorgeous network of deep canyons linking the Rio Grande to the humped peaks and white firs of the Jemez Mountains. Because of its wide variation in elevation and habitat, the birding holds everything from Williamson’s Sapsucker and Cassin’s Finch to Clark’s Nutcracker, Dusky Grouse, American Dipper, and Vesper Sparrow.
The best of Bandelier is the grab bag of species found in the sheltered canyons. Frijoles Canyon is the main visitor access point to the sprawling park. I like to stroll the narrow paths through the giant ponderosas below the visitor center for Hammond’s Flycatcher, Canyon Wren, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Hepatic Tanager. The rolling Pajarito Plateau above is the place to find Townsend’s Solitaire, Grace’s and Virginia’s Warblers, and Lewis’s Woodpecker.
From the rim of the plateau, I’ve peered into the nest of a pair of Zone-tailed Hawks and watched Peregrine Falcons circling at eye level. I’ve rousted Spotted Owl from the monument’s Swiss-cheese-like tuff spires, and at night, I’ve been serenaded by phantom Flammulated Owls. When I’m ticking off America’s best birding parks, Bandelier is always right up near the top. — Steve Betchkal
Steve Betchkal is the author of All of This and Robins Too: A Guide to the 50 or So Best Places to Find Birds in Wisconsin. He also wrote about Governor Dodge State Park, Dodgeville, Wisconsin, Hotspot Near You No. 94, and Wisconsin Point, Superior, Wisconsin, No. 121.
At a Glance
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White fir and piñon-juniper forests, grasslands mixed with ponderosa savannah, thickly wooded canyons. Scrubbier near the Rio Grande.
Trails from parking lot at visitor center extend up and down Frijoles Canyon, hooking up to remote back-country. Easy hiking atop plateau.
Spring and summer: Broad-tailed and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, White-throated Swift, Lazuli Bunting, Cordilleran, Hammond’s, and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Violet-green Swallow, Bushtit, Western Bluebird, Cassin’s Vireo, Spotted Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak. Year-round: Acorn Woodpecker, Common Raven, Steller’s Jay, Pygmy Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, Rock Wren, American Dipper, Hermit Thrush, Cassin’s Finch, Lesser Goldfinch. Target species: Zone-tailed Hawk, Spotted and Flammulated Owls, Dusky Grouse, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Gray Flycatcher, Hepatic Tanager.
When to go
Year-round. June is best for diversity.
Restrooms and picnic facilities available near the main parking area. Visitor center offers guided walks, exhibits, programs, and a bookstore. Public camping available.
National monument. Entrance fee is $12 per carload, $6 on bike or foot. Visitor center open daily in the spring and fall from 9-5:30, with extended hours in summer.
Zone-tailed Hawks look like Turkey Vultures in flight. Be sure to check any soaring birds with wings held in a dihedral carefully. Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from the tuff canyon walls at dusk. Common Ravens often perch above exit holes to pick off the bats.
For more info
Bandelier National Monument, (505) 672-3861 ext. 517
Las Vegas NWR
East of Santa Fe on I-25 near Las Vegas, NM. A compact combination of wetlands and grasslands. Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle, Burrowing Owl.
Hyde Memorial State Park
740 Hyde Park Rd. in Santa Fe. Grosbeaks, warblers, Townsend’s Solitaire, woodpeckers, owls, and Calliope Hummingbird.