A small, sandy-colored, long-billed bird sitting on a red sandstone wall.
A Rock Wren sits on a wall at Quarai.

NPS Photo/Adair Bock

Picture of American Robins at Abo.
American Robins at Abó

NPS Photo/Murt Sullivan

The Birds of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
By Hart Schwarz

With edits by Adair Bock and Bethany Burnett

By National Park standards Salinas has modest dimensions, scarcely exceeding 1000 acres, and even these are not contiguous, but split into three units spaced as far as 35 miles apart. And yet, while considerable diversity of birds and habitats might have been expected in such a scattershot park, the homogeneity of habitat in this piñon/juniper life zone is a decidedly unifying factor, which allows the Salinas bird list to be broadly applicable to all three units. Still, each of the units (Gran Quivira, Quarai, and Abó) has its distinctive signature, dependent in large measure on the availability of wetland resources. Amazingly, in seven short years (1996-2002) more than 150 bird species were documented for Salinas. And if you're looking for birds, Quarai is the place to find them.

Quarai (6,600 ft.): Early bird records are scarce for Salinas, and, when extant, pertain mainly to Gran Quivira, which, as the only unit with federal Monument status until 1980, attracted most of the research efforts. Thus, early on, the birds of Salinas were seen through the monochromatic prism of GQ, where the absence of water made for relatively low bird diversity. However, recent ornithological investigations since 1996, have revealed extraordinary biological riches at Quarai, where perennial waters support cottonwoods and other riparian vegetation, including many fruiting shrubs--and as a result, a wide variety of birds.

This year, a pair of Cooper's Hawks nested along the Spanish Corral Trail, and Great Horned Owls nested in the ruins. One of the latest spring arrivals can be the somberly-clad, but very stylish Phainopepla, which here at Quarai is at the northern limit of its range. Eggs are generally laid during the latter part of June, with young generally fledging by the end of July when chokecherries and currants begin to ripen. Other nesting birds at this oasis on the edge of the Manzano Mountains, include Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Say's Phoebe, Plumbeous Vireo, Rock Wren, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, and Lesser Goldfinch. Song Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows are indicators of the winter season, which, although much subdued compared to the hectic pace of summer, may feature such interesting visitors as the Virginia Rail or the Marsh Wren.

While summer and winter have a certain predictability about them, migration at Quarai is the deck containing the Joker that can make the most far-flung hope a reality. Because Quarai can be such a vortex of birds in spring and fall, the Park Service and the Forest Service have joined to celebrate
World Migratory Bird Day here since 1998. Already 92 species have been recorded on that second Saturday in May between 1998-2002. This list includes fifteen species of warblers, of which the Blue-winged and the Chestnut-sided are, perhaps, the most distinguished.

Click here to see the cumulative World Migratory Bird Day list for Quarai.

Click here to read about the 2014 World Migratory Bird Day at Quarai.

Abó (6,100 ft.): Like Quarai, Abó has perennial water, giving it a superficial resemblance to Quarai, but without the Yellow-breasted Chat or the Phainopepla. Rock Wrens, Say's Phoebes, Canyon Towhees, and Lesser Goldfinches are commonly spotted at Abó. During fall migration, Lark Sparrows and Hairy Woodpeckers become more commonly seen. Additionally, Abó harbors a few specialties of its own, such as the Black Phoebe nesting annually on a rocky ledge above a spring-fed pool. Mountain Bluebirds and Barn Owls have been spotted nesting in the church. Unique transients at Abó have included such casual drop-ins as the Spotted Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Steller's Jay, Northern Waterthrush, and Clark's Nutcracker.

Gran Quivira (6,500 ft.): This site, sitting atop Chupadera Mesa, has magnificent views into the Estancia Valley below, but, without even a trace of water, is limited to the typical birds associated with a near-pristine juniper-savannah landscape. During the breeding season, these would include the Mourning Dove, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Scrub-Jay, Bewick's Wren, Juniper Titmouse, Chipping Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Rock Wren, Say's Phoebe, and the occasional Gray Flycatcher.

In order to learn why more and more people are discovering the joys of birding Salinas, look for the following related links elsewhere on this web page: the bird checklist, soon to be updated; the spring count totals for World Migratory Bird Day at Quarai (1998-2020); and the results of a Breeding Bird survey at Gran Quivira on May 26, 2002.

Click here to see the 2002 Breeding Bird Survey at Gran Quivira


Last updated: February 27, 2021

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Mountainair, NM 87036-0517


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