Avian Autobahn

Updated: Jan 20, 2020

By Bill West

From a bird’s perspective, the Galisteo Basin is not much to look at. Some Pinyon, some Junipers, little water. If it was anywhere else, honestly, it would be home to a small number of specialists. But it’s not. The Galisteo Basin is situated between the bottom of the Rockies — the Sangre de Cristos — and the Rio Grande corridor. If you’re a tanager, warbler or Ruby Crowned Kinglet, and you’re migrating south from Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, or Canada, your likely southbound choices would include veering to the southwest at the end of the Rockies and using the Basin to reach the Rio Grande. Interestingly, there are also birds — American Robin, Townsend Solitaire, Mountain Bluebird — that are altitudinal migrants descending to the Galisteo Basin in Fall, living on a strict diet of Juniper berries throughout the winter.  This Basin is an extremely valuable highway from the Rockies to the Rio Grande Valley. And we’ve clocked the traffic. It’s heavy: 50 species of birds fly through every year. 

Bill West runs West Wing Birding, based in Santa Fe. He offers birding tours in New Mexico, the American Southwest, western Mexico, and Ecuador.

This excerpt is from The Galisteo Basin, a coffee table book edited by Galistean John Miller, available as a gift with a $75 donation to La Sala.

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