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316. Manzano Mountains HawkWatch, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico

Annual counts at this hawk watch typically range from 5,000 to 7,000 migrants of up to 18 species.

After spending several years counting migrating raptors at hawk watches throughout the western United States, I can tell you that it doesn’t get much better than visiting a hawk watch during the fall migration season. And the Manzanos may just be one of the best of the bunch. The observation post sits at an elevation of 9,195 feet on a northeast-facing, postcard-perfect limestone outcrop. 

The site has great weather compared to others, and you’ll still get to see a large variety of migrating raptors flying right over your head — from Sharp-shinned Hawks to Golden Eagles. Annual counts typically range from 5,000 to 7,000 migrants of up to 18 species. You might even be lucky enough to see a late-season Rough-legged Hawk. My favorite part about the Manzanos is the resident Zone-tailed Hawks — a species we don’t see very often at hawk watches in the West. Because they’re local, when they’re around, you often get great looks as they fly back and forth through the mountains.

And be sure to chat with the crew! A group of five biologists lives on site each year, and they love having visitors and sharing their knowledge with others. 

Read our 2013 feature story from a Frontline Science volunteer about hawk watching at the Manzano Mountains site.

316. Manzano Mountains HawkWatch, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico

Directions

From Hwy. 55 in Manzano, take Cty. Rd. B066 for 9 miles up to the Capilla Peak Campground. The trailhead to reach the observation area is on the west side of the road at Capilla Peak.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
34°42’15.0″N 106°24’40.2″W

Habitat

Forest.

Terrain

Hike 0.7 miles along a moderate trail with a few rocky sections and a slight elevation gain. Site is not wheelchair-accessible, but migrants can still be seen by car if you park along the road up to the site.

Birds

Osprey, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Swainson’s, and Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, Turkey Vulture, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin. Non-raptors: Sandhill Crane, corvids, nuthatches, warblers, juncos, swallows, woodpeckers. Rarities: Variable Hawk, dark-morph Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-eyed Junco.

When to go

Hawk watch operates daily from 9-5, August 27 through November 5. Last week of September through first week of October for the most variety of birds and largest numbers. For eagles, come a bit later in the season.

Amenities

Daily counts can be found at www.hawkcount.org/siteinfo.php?rsite=596. The crew operates blinds for banding operations, but these are not open to the public. Nearby Forest Service campground has toilet facilities.

Access

Located on public land within Cibola National Forest. From Hwy. 55 in Manzano, take Cty. Rd. B066 for 9 miles up to the Capilla Peak Campground. The trailhead to reach the observation area is on the west side of the road at Capilla Peak. Hawk watch operates daily from 9-5, August 27 through November 5.

Tips

Dress in layers; the weather can vary greatly at this altitude. Bring sunscreen, binoculars, field guide, and a camera.

For more info

Manzano Mountains HawkWatch
Friends of Manzanos Facebook Group

 

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Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor is a field biologist with HawkWatch International and a student at Boise State University, where she is pursuing her master’s in raptor biology. Jessica has counted migrating raptors at hawk watches for seven seasons, two of which were at the Manzanos Mountains.

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