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Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

Birding in New Mexico

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge
Important Bird Area
Las Vegas, New Mexico 87701
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge webpage
Friends of Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge webpage
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge Important Bird Area webpage
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge map

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San Miguel County

Las Vegas NWR
Coordinates: 35.548848, -105.1583862
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Las Vegas NWR–Crane Lake
Coordinates: 35.5368764, -105.1623105
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Las Vegas NWR–Gallinas Canyon
Coordinates: 35.5144829, -105.2024603
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Las Vegas NWR–Goose Island Lake
Coordinates: 35.554246, -105.1522332
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Las Vegas NWR–Headquarters Hedgerow
Coordinates: 35.549374, -105.16795
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About Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge has been designated as an Important Bird Area.

Spanish for ‘the meadows,’ Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge’s history dates as far back as 8,000 BC when old-world Indians inhabited the high plains area.

Pueblo Indians also spent time living in this region, until the 1100s when drought and Apaches forced them out. In the mid-1500s, Spanish conquistadors and missionaries explored and settled the region, and the influence of Spanish culture is still felt today. Westward expansion continued in the late 1800s, and by the turn of the century, the Santa Fe Trail and the railroad made Las Vegas, New Mexico, the place to be.

In 1965, the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge was established by the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Action for the benefit of migratory birds. The 8,672-acre refuge represents one of the few sizeable wetland areas remaining in New Mexico. It is open to the public for wildlife-dependent recreation, including wildlife watching, hiking, hunting, educational and interpretive programs, and special events.

Here, the gently rolling prairies of the east abruptly meet the rugged terrain of the mountains, gravel-capped mesas and buttes, and deep, narrow river canyons. The high plains refuge is surrounded on three sides by steep, timbered canyons but within the habitat, there is short and tall-grass prairie, timbered sandstone canyons, piñon-juniper woodlands, wetlands, ponds, lakes, and riparian areas.

Above the timbered canyons, the refuge encircles more than 40 small ponds that provide tubers, seeds, and browse for waterfowl. In addition to the ponds, a number of springs discharge to the surface and support a variety of species, including several native fish like the Rio Grande chub, longnose dace, white sucker, and fathead minnow. These ponds are critical to birds migrating along the Central Flyway as they depend on the refuge as a place to rest and refuel during their long journey.

Nesting on the refuge are nearly one-third of the documented bird species found on the refuge, including long-billed curlews, avocet, Canada geese, mallards, northern pintails, blue-winged and cinnamon teal, gadwall, and ruddy ducks.

The sandhill cranes arrive in the fall as they migrate to their winter home. Bald eagles, northern harriers, and American kestrels are frequently sighted soaring above the refuge scanning the grasslands for prey or attracted to the hundreds of ducks and geese on the refuge’s open waters. Migrating shorebirds like long-billed dowitchers and sandpipers, probe the mudflats in early fall and spring. In the woodlands, wild turkeys wander in search of a meal and on the prairies. Rocky Mountain elk blend into the grasses, home to badgers and ground squirrels.
From Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge webpage