Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003
New Mexico State University Campus webpage
New Mexico State University Campus map
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Well landscaped and home to multiple ponds, the grounds of New Mexico State University (NMSU) can be a productive birding site, particularly during spring and fall migration. Few birds can be seen when the campus is busy with students, so it is best to limit visits to weekends or holiday breaks. When parking, be cautious of current regulations (see the parking section below for more details). The campus can be broken up into several major birding sites.
Alumni Pond (also called the “Duck Pond”) and its surroundings are a quick and easy stop to check for waterfowl and other birds. The pond is located on the east end of campus, immediately north of the Chamisa Village Apartments and west of the Pan American Center; parking is accessible from Stewart Street. The pond is often busy with anglers and offers little habitat for waterbirds, though small numbers of wild ducks may be present in the winter. Black-crowned Night-Heron and Neotropic Cormorant are common residents, particularly in the warmer months. While at the pond, check the memorial grove of pine trees just to the west for roosting raptors or small passerines. During irruption events, montane species such as Red Crossbill and Red-breasted Nuthatch may favor these pines.
On the east side of the parking lot for the Chamisa Apartments (the lot immediately southeast of Alumni Pond), there is a drainage area and median strip separating two parking lots that is planted with large sycamore trees. This can be an outstanding site for migrating passerines, particularly in August-September, as they seek out whiteflies and other insects in the sycamores. The median strip collects the runoff water and is often weedy and unkempt, which makes it particularly attractive for birds. This is one of the best places to find migrant Northern Waterthrush in Las Cruces, as well as a variety of other warblers.
The International Mall, which extends from Alumni Pond in the east to a green space known as the “Horseshoe” in the west, is the main walking route through campus. Large trees along the mall, particularly Afghan pines, may be worth searching for migrant and wintering passerines. The large pecan trees in the “Horseshoe” green space at the west end of the mall are also worth a check for migrants. Cattle Egrets, which nest in trees along University Avenue, are often seen flying overhead during the warmer months.
The Aggie Memorial Stadium is often worth a quick check for Burrowing Owls. Drive along Arrowhead Drive (on the far east side of campus) and look for them perched atop the hill of the football stadium.
Preciado Park, located adjacent to O’Donnel Hall along Gregg Street, Williams Avenue, and Sweet Avenue, hosts mature Siberian Elm trees and can be attractive to migrating passerines, sapsuckers, and other birds.
Knox Pond, adjacent to Knox and Gerald Thomas Halls along South Espina Street, is the smaller of the two ponds on campus and is generally of little birding interest, though occasionally Mexican Ducks or other waterfowl take up residence there.
The Agricultural Areas on the west side of campus (also covered by a separate hotspot, “NMSU Campus—E. Union Ave. Ag. Fields/Livestock Facilities”) can offer productive birding. Walk along Stewart Street west of South Espina Street and comb the livestock pens for mixed blackbird flocks, which often boast small numbers of Bronzed Cowbirds along with the more numerous Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Great-tailed Grackles. A large drainage pond at the corner of Stewart Street and East Union Avenue may attract waterfowl (when full) or passerine migrants such as warblers, buntings, and Dickcissel (when shallow or dry). The crop fields along East Union Avenue can be worth checking for birds, although they rarely offer anything beyond the typical Cattle Egrets, doves, and various blackbirds.
Parking: When classes are in session, public parking at NMSU is restricted to only a handful of sites between 7:00 am to 4:00 pm from Monday-Friday; those who park in any other space without a permit will be fined by NMSU’s parking authority. For more information see the parking guide. On weekends or during holiday breaks, parking passes are not required for most spaces.
From Joel Gilb
About New Mexico State University Campus
The main campus of New Mexico State University occupies a core of 900 acres in the city of Las Cruces. It is located adjacent to I-25, surrounded by desert landscapes and greenhouses. The main campus is also bordered by I-10, which is the main east-west interstate highway across the southern part of the United States. To the east of I-25, the campus facilities consist of the President’s residence, NMSU Golf Course, the “A” Mountain west slope, and the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. South of University Avenue is Pan American Plaza, 48 acres of a horse farm, and the Fabian Garcia Science center, which houses the Chile Pepper Institute’s research, teaching and demonstration garden, algal biofuels research equipment, grape vineyards and gazebos, and fields and greenhouses for plant research projects. About six miles south of campus, on 203 acres of land, is the Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center.
The Las Cruces campus is home to a nesting population of Swainson’s hawks, a raptor species currently protected by federal law. In defense of their nest, the hawks are often mistaken for attacking pedestrians. Pedestrians are advised to be careful when walking on Stewart Street, as signs have been posted all across. Umbrellas are also being provided to students for their convenience, as well as protection from the aggressive nesting hawks.
The first master plan of the university was to create a “Horseshoe”, a U-shaped drive, in an open large lawn. At the center was Old Main, the original campus building, originally known as McFie Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1910 (the remains are now a college landmark). The cornerstone and remains of Mcfie Hall stand near the flagpole in the middle of the Horseshoe. Today, the Horseshoe is the center of campus and is the location of the main administration building, Hadley Hall, which sits at the top of the Horseshoe, and other classroom buildings.