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.