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Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge–Visitor Center Area

Birding in New Mexico

Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
Visitor Center Area

La Joya, New Mexico 87028
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge webpage
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Trails webpage
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Hunting webpage
Amigos de la Sevilleta webpage

Also, see Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge

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Socorro County

Sevilleta NWR–Visitor Center Area
Coordinates: 34.3514526, -106.8822822
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Photos by John Montgomery

Tips for Birding Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Use the Visitor Center hotspot to report observations in the immediate vicinity of the Visitor Center. Observations from the Entrance, Nature, Mesa View, and Ladrones Vista trails should instead be recorded for the general Refuge hotspot as there are no specific hotspots for these trails. Users of eBird species frequency bar charts should be aware that observations in the Cactus Garden (the portion of the Nature Trail nearest the Visitor Center) and even along the Wildflower Loop are probably being reported as occurring at the Visitor Center hotspot. eBirders are encouraged to provide more precise descriptions of their birded area, such as “includes Cactus Garden”, in their list’s Checklist Comments.

The Visitor Center is not open every day of the week, and the gate across the road leading to the Visitor Center is typically closed on weekends. However, between sunrise and sunset, visitors are welcome at the Refuge all days of the year. Should the road gate be closed, you may park in the dirt lot directly east of the gate and hike up the short Entry Gate Trail to the Wildflower Loop, which will take you to the Visitor Center (see the Refuge website trails page for excellent maps). The Refuge website will show the days and hours the Visitor Center is open. Whether it is open has some bearing on the number of birds you will see, as the seed feeders (and seasonal hummingbird feeders) around the building may not be filled on days the Visitor Center is closed. Note that spilled seed below feeders attracts rodents, which in turn attract snakes; summer visitors should be mindful of rattlesnakes.

At least from late spring until early fall, two hummingbird feeders are hung on either side of the front (west) entrance to the Visitor Center. There is a shaded bench near one, and it is not uncommon to see 8 to 10 Black-chinned hummers vying for position during heavy morning and evening feeding times. Heading south (beginning a clockwise loop outside the Visitor Center), the sidewalk on the east side of the building takes you past a seed feeder. Turn west onto a gravel path and you’ll see another seed feeder to the right, but don’t neglect the small (6’ by 3’) concrete “pond” on your left. It attracts Black-throated Sparrow as well as common feeder species (Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Gambel’s Quail) and seasonal migrants. The path curves north around the back of the Visitor Center, through vegetation typical of the transition from Chihuahua Desert to Colorado Plateau Shrub-Steppe, leading to a trail map kiosk.

From here, the path is paved around the north and east sides of the building, connecting to the Wildflower Loop, passing by the wildflower garden occasionally maintained by the Amigos de la Sevilleta (whose members have access, on formal tours, to parts of the Refuge the general public does not), and completing the wheelchair-accessible clockwise loop back at the Visitor Center front entrance. The total distance around the building is less than 0.2 mile.

The area around the open west patio, including a hummingbird and seed feeder, can be enjoyed while relaxing at one of the many picnic tables and benches. The shadier north patio also has a seasonal hummingbird feeder. House Finch and Barn Swallow often nest here.
From John Montgomery

About Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and Headquarters is located 50 miles south of Albuquerque and is about 0.25 miles west of I-25 at exit 169.

About Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System in the lower 48 states.

The 230,000-acre refuge includes four different biomes that intersect and support a wide array of biological diversity. The Rio Grande flows through the center of the refuge and is an important source of water that creates an oasis for wildlife in the arid landscape. Scientists from across the country and internationally come here to conduct research in these amazing ecosystems. The refuge is unique in that it was set aside “to preserve and enhance the integrity and the natural character of the ecosystems of the property by creating a wildlife refuge managed as nearly as possible in its natural state.” Thus the refuge is not managed for specific wildlife species but to allow natural processes such as flood and fire to prevail.

Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge is unique because four different kinds of biomes intersect on the refuge, including the Colorado Plateau Shrub Steppe, Great Plains Short Grass Prairie, the Chihuahuan Desert, and the Pinyon-Juniper Woodland.

A biome is a regional ecosystem with distinct types of vegetation, animals, and microbes that have developed under specific soil and climatic conditions. The result: an area with a remarkable array of plant and animal life.

The Colorado Plateau is a large geological slice of western North America and reaches its southeastern limit on Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. The Colorado Plateau Shrub Steppe is one of the many biomes found within the Colorado Plateau and is a sparse, windswept environment; not quite desert, but definitely not forest. The sagebrush, saltbush, and grasses of the shrub-steppe thrive in conditions where few plants can survive and support many different wildlife species.

The Great Plains Short Grass Prairie has wide open spaces, sunshine, and acres of nutritious grasses and flowering plants – exactly what animals of the grassland need. The Gunnison’s prairie dog is one of the main architects of the prairie. They create elaborate underground burrows with long tunnels for hiding, nesting, and escaping extreme heat or cold. Within the grassland, many ground-dwelling animals find shelter in the network of tunnels and burrows built by prairie dogs and also kangaroo rats.

The Chihuahuan Desert appears forbidding to humans, but this dramatic landscape is home to an amazing array of life. Creosote bushes interspersed with yuccas, grasses, and cactus give this desert its characteristic appearance.

The Pinyon-Juniper Woodland supports two main tree species: pinyon pine and one-seed juniper. Both tree species provide high-quality food for wildlife throughout the year in the form of juniper berries and pinyon seeds. This biome shelters and supports some of the area’s larger wildlife such as black bear and mountain lion.

In addition, the Rio Grande flows through the center of the refuge creating an oasis along the river that plays a vital role within these mixed ecosystems. Because the environments are so diverse, they attract and support a wide diversity of native species, including 251 species of birds, 80 species of mammals, 58 species of reptiles, 15 species of amphibians, and more than 1,200 species of plants.

The more commonly seen wildlife on the refuge includes mule deer, coyotes, pronghorns, snakes, lizards, and many different types of birds.
From Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge webpage