Maxwell NWR--Headquarters

Tips for Birding

The kiosk and picnic tables are shaded by mature elms. Here, on the surrounding turf, and under building eaves, from late spring into summer you are most likely to see Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Lark Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, and Bullock’s Oriole. Common Ravens have nested in the elms, and Great Horned Owls are known to at least roost there. In fall and winter, as well as Red-Tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, and Western Meadowlarks, you may see large waterfowl flyovers, but none of the Refuge’s playa lakes are visible from the hotspot. 

The headquarters area is a distinct locationally-specific hotspot. Please do not list species observed elsewhere on the Refuge for this hotspot. For example, birds seen on the drive up Lake 13 Road should be listed for the overall Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge hotspot. 

Birds of Interest

Olive-sided Flycatcher, Northern Harrier, and Ferruginous Hawk. Eastern Kingbird is often reported here during summer months, along with both Cassin's and Western Kingbirds.

About this Location

The Refuge visitor center, offices, and maintenance buildings are on the east side of Lake 13 Road, about one and a half miles north of NM-505; confusingly, the section of Lake 13 Road on which the headquarters lie is also shown on maps as a north-south portion of County Road A-2. The small visitor center is open on a very limited schedule; call or check the Refuge website for days and hours. Displays, flush toilets, and a water bottle filler are located inside the VC/HQ building. Picnic tables and a seed feeder may be found on the grounds near that building’s southwest corner. The entrance driveway gate is typically closed when the visitor center isn’t open, but an information kiosk and vault toilet have been provided outside the gate. If you park there to bird or picnic, please do not block the gate.

About Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

See all hotspots at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge

The Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge presents visitors with a unique wildlife viewing experience. Visitors are treated to year-round views of hawks, owls, eagles, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and black-tailed prairie dogs.

Located in northeastern New Mexico at an elevation of 6050 feet, Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 3,699 acres of short-grass prairie, playa lakes, woodlots, wetlands, and crop fields. The refuge sits in an open basin surrounded by high mesas to the northeast and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west. Since 1965 this landscape has been managed for the benefit of wildlife and has provided a feeding and resting habitat for migratory birds.

Birders and wildlife watchers can challenge themselves by attempting to check off all 289 species of birds found on the refuge. American kestrels, wild turkeys, and Wilson’s phalaropes are a few of the common species you will enjoy seeing at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge.

Mid-October on the refuge is generally the peak fall migration of sandhill cranes, geese, and ducks. However, any time of year you are likely to see a diversity of wildlife. Wildlife watching is generally best during the morning and at dusk when wildlife is most active.

Rangeland on the refuge is rolling prairie and reclaimed farmland containing a variety of grasses including blue grama, galleta, sand dropseed, threeawn, and buffalo grass, as well as fourwing saltbush and cactus. Lakes on the refuge provide 700 acres of waterfowl roosting and feeding habitat. Wet years bring dense shoreline vegetation, while the lakes may disappear in dry years.

The refuge lakes and associated Stubblefield Lake are primarily for water storage for irrigation purposes for surrounding ranches and are managed by the local water manager. The refuge owns the surrounding grassland but not the water making water management impossible. Stubblefield Lake is privately owned. Fishing is allowed in some areas of the refuge.

From Raton, take I-25 south to Maxwell, go north on NM-445  for 0.8 miles, and west on NM-505 for approximately 2.5 miles. Turn north at the entrance sign (1.5 miles to headquarters).

The vault toilets by the parking area for Lake 13 are seasonally open and maintained. There are flush toilets in the Visitor Center (headquarters building), but that building is open on an extremely limited basis.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

  • Entrance fee

Content from Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge Official Website, John Montgomery, and John Montgomery

Last updated September 14, 2023