Birds of Utah
Logan is located in the Cache Valley, which is a rich year-around birding area. The entire valley is a great place to see a wide variety of raptors any time of the year and there are several roads which access the raptor country north and west of Logan. West of Logan on Utah Highway 30 is Cutler Marsh, an excellent place to see marsh birds including both Clark's and Western Grebes (Spring and Summer) and Sandhill Cranes (especially in the Fall). There are also several wooded streams in this area that support a variety of songbirds. East of Logan, U.S. Highway 89 ascends the Wasatch Mountains through Logan Canyon. This is a particularly rich birding area, full of montane songbirds like tanagers, towhees, warblers, and flycatchers. There are several pull-overs along the Logan River as well as a number of side roads to explore.
The Great Salt Lake is one of the most important bird areas in western North America. It hosts millions of shorebirds, ducks, and other waterbirds. West of Brigham City (north of Salt Lake City on I-15) is the world's first national migratory bird refuge, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. This is a showcase of Great Salt Lake's bird life. Farther south and west of Ogden are two state waterfowl management areas, Ogden Bay WMA and Harold Crane WMA.
Over 250 species of birds nest and feed on Antelope Island, a Utah state park and the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. In addition to hundreds of bison (American buffalo), there are coyotes, pronghorn sheep and bighorn sheep - many of which can be seen from the car. There are also various species of waterfowl and other birds - some of which are seasonal. Chukars are in abundance year round. Bald eagles, winter ducks, and prairie falcons are found in January, February, and March, with peregrine falcons, stilts, and burrowing owls through the rest of spring. Canada geese goslings are born in June, pelicans are seen in August, and wintering ducks are found in December. Turn west off of I-15 at Antelope Drive (exit 332) and continue to the island. A state park fee of $9 is required before crossing the causeway.
The Great Salt Lake wetlands are a critical link in the flyway between North and South America, with 3 to 6 million birds, representing 250 species visiting and nesting annually. The Nature Conservancy makes bird watching easy in the Layton area, with a mile-long boardwalk and a 30 foot observation tower. Guided tours are available. Access is from the end of 3200 West off Gentile St. at the lake. Open daily from March to October. (801) 531-0999.
North of Salt Lake City you will find Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, a complex network of dikes designed to contain fresh water for shorebird habitat. Access is via 1325 W and Glover Lane in Farmington. Information: (801) 451-7386.
On the south shore of the lake (west of Salt Lake City on I-80) is Salt Aire and the Salt Lake Marina. These are both excellent areas to see birds that favor the saltier side of the Great Salt Lake. Each of these Great Salt Lake areas offers different views of the Lake and its bird life.
Annually the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival is held spotlighting the birds of Great Salt Lake and the surrounding areas. The Festival features bus/van/car/boat tours to birding areas, workshops with expert speakers, artists, displays, booths and food.
Ogden Nature Center, 966 W 12th Street, is a 152-acre nature preserve and education center open to the public for discovery and exploration. Visitors enjoy meeting birds of prey, snakes, tortoises, salamanders and other native animal species. Outside there are picnic areas, tree houses, bird blinds, a spotting tower and 1.5 miles of walking trails. The Nature Center boasts two of Utah's greenest buildings, with hands-on nature exhibits and a unique gift store. The Center offers a wide variety of community programs including art, photography, birding, wildlife in Utah, outdoor recreation, conservation, sustainable practices and more. During the school year naturalists lead outdoor field trips for school children and in the summer, week-long nature camps. Several community events are held at the Nature Center including Earth Day and Creatures of the Night at Halloween. Open year-round from 9 am - 5 pm Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 am - 4 pm. Closed Sundays and most major holidays.
In addition to the Great Salt Lake areas mentioned above, great birding areas close to Salt Lake City include City Creek Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon/Brighton Ski area. City Creek Canyon is walking distance from downtown Salt Lake City, yet it is one of the best songbird areas in the state. The streamside woods along City Creek are alive with songbirds, especially in the spring and summer, and there are several walking/biking trails along the stream. From the intersection of North Temple and State Street (downtown), head east (on North Temple) to B street. Turn left on B street and follow it up the hill then down into the canyon. Park near the hairpin turn and take any of the several walking/biking trails. The paved trail follows the stream both north (into the mountains) and south (into Memory Grove Park at the edge of downtown). The road into Big Cottonwood Canyon takes you east of Salt Lake City into the Wasatch Mountains and up to the Brighton Ski Area. This is a great place to see more streamside songbirds as well as some high elevation birds and spectacular summer wildflowers. From I-215, simply follow the signs to Brighton Ski Area.
The Provo River is a blue-ribbon trout stream and an internationally recognized Important Bird Area. Right below the Jordanelle Dam is an area of outstanding birding that stretches for several miles along the Provo River. This area offers great year-around birding for songbirds and marsh birds. Western warblers, flycatchers and American Dippers are just about a sure bet. And above the dam, on the Jordanelle Reservoir, you can see anything from ducks to loons. To access this area, travel north of Heber City on U.S. 40 and turn east on Utah 32. Take the first left and follow this road towards the face of the dam and look for access roads on the left.
Some of the best birding areas in northeastern Utah are along the Green River. One of these areas is about 12 miles east of Vernal on U.S. 40 near the town of Jensen. Stewart Lake State Waterfowl Management Area is just south of Jensen and adjacent to the river (just look for the signs).
Another great Green River birding area is Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. To get there, go 30 miles west of Vernal on U.S. 40 then turn south on Utah 88, follow highway 88 about 20 miles south and turn east at the refuge headquarters sign. Both of these areas offer great songbird, marsh bird, and duck watching. Be sure to look for Lewis's Woodpeckers in the large trees near the river. For a different flavor, take U.S. 191 north of Vernal into the Uinta Mountains towards Flaming Gorge Reservoir. This area offers excellent mountain birding with the possibility of seeing Northern Goshawks, lots of woodpeckers, and even Osprey on the reservoir.
Also in this area, the Pariette Wetlands include a perennial stream and 20 man-made ponds that are managed for waterfowl and wildlife. The wetlands are located SW of the town of Myton.
U.S. Highway 189 east of Provo follows the Provo River past Bridal Veil Falls, home of the extremely rare and illusive Black Swift (summer), and into the Heber City Area (see above). There are several parks that access the river for great birding. West of Provo, on the west side of Utah Lake is the premier year-around raptor area Rush/Cedar Valley. This is a large area transected by Utah Highways 73, 68, and 36 and U.S. Highway 6. This area is home to Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and Prairie Falcons (all year), as well as, Bald Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, and Merlins (winter).
If you are up for an adventure, take the Pony Express Route into the West Desert to Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge. This is a great trip for desert birds like Sage Sparrows, Sage Thrashers, Brewer's Sparrows and a variety of ducks and shorebirds (at the refuge). It's a long trip (even if you're not on a pony), so be sure you have a full gas tank and a full spare tire.
Bald eagles can often be seen during with throughout Sanpete County, and especially around the fish hatchery located 1 mile NW of Fountain Green. Every winter, biologists and volunteers help the public view eagles during the Fountain Green Annual Bald Eagle Day.
The Energy Loop: Huntington & Eccles Canyons National Scenic Byways offer abundant year-round birding sites. Every bend in the road presents a glimpse of Mountain Bluebird, jays, and song birds of every description and size. There are abundant walking/biking trails throughout the canyons which will give you an even closer look at the wildlife. You might be fortunate to see an owl or two in the pines and quakies of the forest, and Red Tail Hawk are visible soaring above the trees. From the Skyline Drive vista you can view the majestic Eagle in flight as his great wings catch the ever-changing currents of air. The reservoirs, mountain lakes, and streams offer excellent areas to view a variety of waterfowl during different seasons of the year.
Desert Lake Waterfowl Management Area is located in Emery County, approximately 20 miles south of Price, Utah. The Desert Lake is preserved as a resting pond where waterfowl are allowed undisturbed sanctuary. You will primarily see ducks and geese, but shorebirds, a variety of songbirds, and birds of prey are easily located. Blue Heron and Egret are also found in the area. The reserve also supports upland game birds such as pheasant and dove. Game and nongame animals which frequent the site are deer, prairie dogs, beaver, and cottontail rabbits. For more information about this area contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 435-637-3310.
Matheson Preserve is on the western edge of Moab. This excellent birding area rests beneath the thousand-foot cliffs of the Colorado River. The preserve has several foot trails and a boardwalk, with observation blinds, right in the marsh. You'd need hip boots to see birds like this anywhere else.
In the extreme southwestern corner of the state is one of the Utah birder's favorite spots. Beaver Dam Wash offers a number of Mojave Desert species found nowhere else in the state. To get there, go west of St. George through the town of Santa Clara and through the Shivwits Reservation; take the southern fork over the Beaver Dam Mountains and while descending the hill, look for a gravel road to the west with watchable wildlife sign (binocular). Follow the signs through the Mojave desert (look for thrashers and roadrunners) down into the wash. The road will turn north and at the end of the road is a campground and one of the best birding places you'll find in Utah. It's about 35 miles from St. George, including 10 miles of bumpy, dusty gravel road.
Each of Utah's National Parks offers excellent birding. From Dinosaur National Park (near Vernal) to Canyonlands National Park (near Moab) to Zion National Park (near St. George), birding in the national parks is a hoot (Mexican Spotted Owls have been heard in all of these parks). Each of the park and monument visitors' centers will have information on where to go in the park to see birds.