Manzano Mountains, NM

[Temporarily closed] Visit Manzano Mountains, Aug 27-Nov 5

Due to health recommendations regarding COVID-19, as well as recommendations from groups like the Bird Banding Lab and North American Banding Council, HawkWatch International is temporarily suspending operations at five of our HawkWatch research sites for the 2020 season. Our full statement is available here.

Manzano Mountains HawkWatch is located on USFS Cibola National Forest public land, and was established to to learn more about raptors and their migration through the southern Rocky Mountain Flyway and this central New Mexico range. HWI began standardized, annual migration counts in the Manzano Mountains in 1985, followed by a banding project in 1990. Annual counts typically range between 5,000 and 7,000 migrants of up to 18 species.

BirdWatching Magazine highlighted our Manzano Mountains HawkWatch site in their August 2013 edition.  View article

Downloadcurrent count totals the site brochure and species checklist.

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Visitors and Groups

Come visit us at the site--everyone is welcome! Our educational interpreters will help you learn more about migration ecology, raptor identification, and our research efforts. If you are a large group, please contact us to schedule your visit in advance. Weekends can get busy, and we want to make sure your group has the best experience possible. If you are an individual or small group (5 or less), you do not need to schedule your visit.


Gavilan Trailhead sign 2014From Albuquerque, NM, take I-40 East for 13 miles to exit 175 for NM-337/NM-333 toward Tijeras. Continue onto NM-337 South for 29 miles. Turn right onto NM-55 South and continue for 12 miles. Turn onto Co Road B066 and continue for 9 miles up to Capilla Peak (follow the signs to Capilla Peak Campground). The trailhead to reach the observation area can be seen on the west side of the road when you get to Capilla Peak. You can park on the side of the road near the trailhead sign, and take the 0.7 mile hike to obs. This is a moderate trail with few rocky section and little, rolling elevation gain.

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What to Bring

  • Binoculars
  • Bird Field Guide (we have Jerry Liguori’s raptor guide books available at our store)
  • Water (plenty of water!)
  • Food/snacks
  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Dress in layers, as the weather can be variable at this altitude (windshell, base layer, jacket, gloves, etc.)
  • Camera

When to Visit

We operate daily 9am-5pm, August 27-November 5. All activities are weather dependent and we do not conduct migration counts in inclement weather (heavy rain). Click here to see a weather forecast for the count site. The best time to visit is during bulk passage (highest volume of raptors migranting through), which occures September 10 through October 26. Because of the sensitivity associated with raptor trapping/banding, as a general rule we do not allow visitors into our trapping blinds.


For those interested in overnight stays, the Capilla Peak Campground is located next to the trailhead. There are also numerous lodging options around the Albuquerque area.

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