U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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National Wildlife Refuge

This montage of common scenes at Maxwell NWR include a killdeer's nest with unhatched eggs, a sunset over one of the ponds, a baby killdeer, and a deer looking at the camera.
P.O. Box 276
Maxwell, NM   87728
Phone Number: 575-375-2331
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Common scenes at Maxwell NWR.
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  Wildlife and Habitat

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The refuge manages approximately 700 acres of wetland and lake habitats. Lakes 12, 13 and 14, predate establishment of the refuge, and are considered permanent reservoirs for water delivery to farmers and ranchers in the vicinity of the refuge. The reservoirs hold water all year, although water levels (and shorelines) vary with precipitation and irrigation demands. Small area of wetland habitats associated with the lakes and the various ditches provide cover and feeding areas for wetland-dependent wildlife as well.

As remnants of old homesteads, the elm and cottonwood dominated woodlots are unique habitats on the refuge. They support Swainson's Hawks, Yellow-billed cuckoo, Eastern Kingbirds, and many migrant songbirds such as warblers. The woodlots provide loafing areas for the resident mule deer and white-tailed deer, as well as cover for mountain lion and black bear, which are occasional visitors to the refuge.

Maxwell Refuge is known as a place where many non-game bird species considered unusual in New Mexico can be regularly found. For example, the refuge supports the highest density of Grasshopper sparrows in the State. In the winter months, as many as 60 bald eagles can be seen here, feeding on the resident and migratory waterfowl. In any given year, over 350 species of birds may use the refuge. The refuges' habitats provide breeding, feeding, and shelter throughout the year. For example, approximately 70 species, including the Swainson's Hawk, Eared Grebe, and three species of kingbird (Cassin's, Western, and Eastern) breed and raise young within the refuge. Many neotropical migratory birds also depend on the refuge as a stopover.

A variety of duck species such as the blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, gadwall, Pied-billed grebe, eared grebe, Clark's grebe and mallard nest in/near the wetland habitats of the refuge when water levels are appropriate and adequate cover is available. During the migratory periods (late August-October and again in March-early May), spectacular displays of upwards of 48,000 American coots, 3,000 Canada geese, 6,000 ruddy ducks, 4,000 mallard, 10,000 gadwall, 500 sandhill crane, and 23,000 American widgeon have been seen.

Virtually all species of hawks and owls in the southwestern United States use the refuge. Ferruginous hawks, prairie falcons, osprey, Sharp-shinned hawks, rough-legged hawk, and (rarely) goshawks can be een soaring above, and feeding within, the refuge. Smaller hawks, such as the Merlin and American Kestrel can be found as well. Nesting hawks and owls include Swainson's Hawks, Red-tailed hawks, ruffed-legged hawks, Barn Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Burrowing Owls. At least 14 species of frogs, toads, and amphibians are found on the refuge. A few of the most common include the Leopard Frog, Western Chorus Frog, and New Mexico spadfoot toad. The refuge also has a healthy population of mule deer and white-tailed deer, and is occasionally visited by bear, lion, pronghorn and elk.

The refuge hosts a large population of bald eagles. As many as 60 of these birds, American's symbol, winter here. Ample opportunities exist to view these magnificent birds of prey, especially near Lake 13. Typically, eagles begin showing up at the refuge in early October and stay until mid-March. However, several bald eagle nests are nearby the Refuge, so eagles can be seen year-round. The refuge has several large colonies of Black-tailed prairie dogs. Black-tailed prairie dogs are grass-eating burrowing rodents that are believed to be declining throughout the west. They are very social animals and live in 3 large towns on the refuge. You know you are near a prairie dog town because grasses and other vegetation are clipped close to the ground to allow for a greater range of sight for the animals and their burrowing results in large mounds of dirt. Prairie dogs are an important component in the ecology of the short-grass prairie habitat, and contribute to enhancing soil structure, water filtration, and plant growth.

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