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State of Utah

Calif Gull
California Gull Larus californicus ©Robert Royse Website

Birding Utah

Utah is the 11th largest state in the U.S, comprising 84,900 square miles. There are 29 counties, most of them quite rural. The human population of Utah is 2.2 million, most of whom reside along the Wasatch Front, a 102 mile (164.153 kilometers) stretch of a mountain range which is a branch of its more famous big brother, the Rocky Mountains. Much of Utah is a high desert; it is the second driest state in the U.S., averaging only 16.18 inches (41.0972 centimeters) of moisture per year. However, this can be deceptive as the northern part of the Wasatch Mountains average 600 inches (15.24 meters) of snowfall in a year. As such, it is an international destination for skiers. The 2002 Winter Olympics took center stage as most of the area ski resorts hosted millions of visitors. The state has a very diverse geographic habitat; whether it is Kings Peak, which rises to a height of 13,528 feet (4123 meters) in the Uinta Mountains in the northeastern part of the state, or the Beaver Dam Wash located in the southwestern most part of the state, which is the lowest point in Utah, at a modest 2,350 feet (716 meters). Roughly two-thirds of the state is high desert terrain, and the other third mountainous terrain. Utah is justly famous for its National Parks, one of which is Arches National Park in Southeastern Utah, where many a photo has been taken and published worldwide as it boasts over two thousand natural sandstone arches created by wind blown sand. Others are Bryce's National Park and Zion's National Parks. All three are located in the southern part of the state within a few hours of each other, making it easy to visit all three. Consequently, Utah offers a rich diversity of regular and rare winged visitors. The official Utah bird checklist stands at 428 species; species as different as the Greater Roadrunner and the White-tailed Ptarmigan may be seen here.

Perhaps most vital to bird habitat is the Great Salt Lake. A remnant of old Lake Bonneville which existed about 23,000 years ago, it is the second saltiest body of water in the world, second only to the Dead Sea. Salt content ranges from 6 to 27 percent (oceans are about 3 percent). With no natural outlet, water evaporates leaving the salts and other minerals to accumulate. At its normal elevation of 4,200 feet (1,280m), the lake is 28 miles wide (45 klms), 75 miles long (120 klms), with over 335 miles (539 klms) of shoreline (about 1,700 square miles). Fortunately, much of this shoreline is protected. It is not a deep lake, averaging only 13 feet deep (4m), with 33 feet (10m) being its deepest level. However, this is no dead sea but a true oasis which sustains life to millions of creatures as the water is rich with microorganisms. The most famous is the brine shrimp. Every fall these are harvested and sold overseas. The amount that can be harvested depends on that year's brine shrimp population. Crews operate every day for 24 hours straight, but once the poundage quota set by the DWR for that year has been reached, the fishing ends immediately. [Division of Wildlife Resource (DWR) realizes how vital the brine shrimp are to the ecosystem]. There has been as little as 265 pounds (120 kilos) in 1968 to 7,400 tons (7,518 metric tons) taken in 1995.

Each year between two and five million shorebirds migrate to, or through, the Great Salt Lake area, many feeding on the brine shrimp. Wilson's Phalaropes on their way to wintering grounds in Argentina, will sometimes double their weight before the long, non-stop journey. Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl over-winter. Year round there are plenty of raptors to be seen. The lake has six islands, the largest being Antelope Island. This is the only publicly accessible island, via a seven mile causeway. Gunnison Island, on the northwest side of the lake, is a state nature preserve. This island hosts the third largest colony of breeding American White Pelicans in North America. While there are many places to bird in Utah, if one has the opportunity to come in February one should spend at least one day at Farmington Bay. This is located about 20 minutes north of Salt Lake City. During the month of February, one can easily see hundreds of Bald Eagles here. Utah has the second highest congregation of Bald Eagles in the U.S., second only to Alaska. In February 2003, a record high count of 426 was seen in one day at Farmington Bay. A very good resource for what birds are being seen, a photo database of many North American birds, and the official Utah bird checklist can be found at: www.utahbirds.org.

While birds are plentiful in Utah, other animals which can regularly be seen are the black bear, moose, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyote, kit and red foxes, raccoons, cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits, and badgers. A herd of 800 bison is maintained on Antelope Island. Every October DWR personnel have the Buffalo Round-up to check their health, which has become something of the tourist event as 800 bison in one place is quite a site to behold.

Contributor

Brian L Currie

Member of the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival Committee

bcurrie100@comcast.net

http://www.pbase.com/bcurrie

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 458

As at June 2016

Checklist

iGoTerraChecklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birding Utah (FalconGuide)

D. E. McIvor Paperback - 410 pages (April 1998) Falcon Press Publishing Co.

ISBN: 1560446153

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Northeastern Utah

WH Behle 136 pages Utah Museum of Natural History

ISBN: 0940378019

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Central Rockies

By Jan L. Wassink Published by Mountain PressPaperback 180 pages

ISBN: 0878422358

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

State Bird

California Gull Larus californicus

It may seem strange that Utah's state bird is the California Gull. It was so honored because of the Miracle of the Gulls. In late May 1848, one year after arriving in Utah, Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Pioneers were plagued by crickets [written reports affirm that the fields and mountain sides were blackened by their shear numbers]. Prayers were said and in early June thousands of California Gulls came to their rescue. Not only was each gull witnessed to eat dozens of these crickets, but once full the gulls regurgitated the crickets and continued to eat more. Thus, the vast majority of crickets were destroyed, so much of the pioneer`s crops were saved; the event becoming known as the Miracle of the Gulls.

Forums & Mailing Lists

BirdTalk

Mailing List

To post to list: birdtalk@utahbirds.org

List contact: birdtalk-owner@utahbirds.org

To subscribe to list: birdtalk-subscribe@utahbirds.org

To make field trip reports, to participate in discussions, to ask questions about birds and birding and to announce birding-related activities, use Bird Talk.

Red Cliffs Birdnet

Mailing List

To post to list: redcliffs@utahbirds.org

List contact: redcliffs-owner@utahbirds.org

To subscribe to list: redcliffs-subscribe@utahbirds.org

(Southwestern Utah)

Salt Lake Birdnet

Mailing List

To post to list: slbnet@utahbirds.org

List contact: slbnet-owner@utahbirds.org

To subscribe to list: slbnet-subscribe@utahbirds.org

(Northern Wasatch area)

Utah Bird Talk

Forum

To post to list: birdnet@utahbirds.org

List contact: birdnet-owner@utahbirds.org

To subscribe to list: birdnet-subscribe@utahbirds.org

To report rare or unusual bird sighting and to ask questions or make comments about these sightings, use the Birdnet.

Utah County Birdnet

Forum

To post to list: ucbnet@utahbirds.org

List contact: ucbnet-owner@utahbirds.org

To subscribe to list: ucbnet-subscribe@utahbirds.org

(Southern Wasatch area)

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Wings

Tour Operator

The spectacular canyons, rivers and forests of northern Arizona and southwestern Utah are among the most dramatic in North America…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2012 [09 September] - Richard Coomber & Paul Rogers - Utah & Wyoming

Report PDF

…Two single Great Egrets were seen during the morning, a bird we don’t see on every trip at this time of the year. Along the drainage canals, and the sweeping bends of the Bear River, Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets were frequently encountered, where they were joined by Double-crested Cormorants and some American White Pelicans. Franklin’s Gulls were hawking insects over parts of the refuge, feeding up before their long migration to winter off the coasts of Peru and Chile. Most of the white-headed gulls were Ring- billed, but we did manage to see a few California Gulls, which is Utah’s state bird, accorded the honour for saving the crops of the first Mormon settlers from a plague of grasshoppers. The only terns today were a few Forster’s Terns fishing along the river and a Caspian Tern found by Roger later in the afternoon….

2013 [06 June] - Petri Hottola

Report PDF

…A circle trip to a number of birding sites in Utah, Colorado and Kansas followed, before a return in Denver on the 28th. The idea was to look for eight target species/subspecies: White-tailed Ptarmigan, Greater Sage Grouse, Gunnison’s Sage Grouse, Dusky Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Rosy-Finch and Brown-capped Rosy-Finch. For Greater Prairie-Chicken there was not enough time, June not being the easiest season for neither this species nor for some of the listed ones. I did, however, eventually score with all the eight, some more easily than some others…

2014 [09 September] - Paul Rogers - Yellowstone & Grand Teton in the Fall

PDF Report

...This tour offers spectacular scenery, superb mammal watching and vast numbers of birds on The Great Salt Lake. Here numbers of Eared Grebes, American Avocets and Red-necked Phalaropes can literally reach hundreds of thousands; it is truly an or...

2015 [10 October] - Richard Coomber - Yellowstone & Grand Teton in the Fall

PDF Report

...We began by visiting Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake in Utah. The low water levels were apparent, where there was water there were birds – tens of thousands of American Avocets, Black-necked Grebes and Red-necked Phalaropes stretched as far as the eye could see! On the island we found Bison and Pronghorn Antelope, migrant birds including tyrant-flycatchers, warblers and sparrows plus two species of owls – Barn and Great Horned...

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Sorrel River Ranch Resort B&B

Accommodation

You will find on the ranch an abundance of wild life attracted by the protected environment. They include, bald eagles, golden eagles, blue herons, a herd of mule deer, otters, beaver, canadian geese, mallards, falcons, raccoons, horses, goats and many species of birds.

Willow Glen Inn B&B

Accommodation

Willow Glen is open year round with each season of the year having its special attractions of birds, gardens, weather and room decorations. Willow Glen is in close proximity to Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks and the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Organisations

Audubon Society in Utah

Website

The usual list of local chapters etc.

Bridgerland Adubon Society

Facebook Page

Welcome to the Bridgerland Audubon Society Home Page. The Bridgerland Audubon Society (BAS) is a chapter of the National Audubon Society. The chapter is centered in the city of Logan, situated in the beautiful Cache Valley of northern Utah and southern Idaho…

Great Salt Lake Audubon

Website

Welcome to Great Salt Lake Audubon. Please join us on a field trip, or attend one of our special activities held throughout the year. If you just want to learn more about birding in Utah then link to the 1998 checklist for Utah birds, or read about some of Utah`s best bird watching locations, maps included.

Nature Conservancy in Utah

Website

Unusual site but in the very much improved tradition of NC websites. Our focus on science allows us to target lands of highest priority that need to be protected first. Our dedication to action keeps us on our toes and responsive to new opportunities in this fast-moving world. Our spirit of innovation allows us to find creative solutions and get the most from each conservation dollar. Our commitment to partnerships brings together people from all walks of life toward common purpose and action…

Red Cliffs Audubon

Website

If you are wondering where to go in southern Utah at this time of year to see some great birds, try starting at the Tonaquint Nature Center in St. George and travel northwest to Veyo and Pine Valley. The Tonaquint Nature Center pond has a few resident birds like the Black Phoebe, Marsh Wren, Red-tailed Hawk, Kingfisher, Say's Phoebe, Song Sparrow, Flicker and more…

Utah Ornithological Society

Website

The Utah Ornithological Society, an organization of professionals and amateurs interested in birds, was formed to promote the field study of birds in Utah. Articles on various aspects of Utah ornithology are published in the quarterly journal Utah Birds.

Utah County Birders

Website

Membership in the Utah County Birders is open to any interested person. Dues are $10 per year. Send dues to Tuula Rose, 1065 East 560 North, Provo, UT 84606.

Utah Records Committee

Website

Contacts on the records committee.

Wasatch Audubon Society

Website

An association of people who share an interest in birds, all natural things, and Utah`s varied habitat.

Festivals

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

Website

Farmington, Utah - Great Salt Lake Bird Festival is headquartered in beautiful Davis County Utah! Davis County is where you can connect with all of the best birding hotspots in Northern Utah. Millions of migratory birds visit the Great Salt Lake every season and so can you. We offer field trips with the best local birding experts. We take you to many places the general public cannot go. Many trips are small to provide the best birding experience. Great Salt Lake Bird Festival offers a variety of ways to go birding including horseback and boats on the renowned Great Salt Lake...

St. George Winter Bird Festival

http://www.sgcity.org/birdfestival

January 27-30, 2011: Join us for the 8th Annual Winter Bird Festival in sunny St. George, Utah. Presentations, Kid’s Workshops, Exhibits, Sales, Field Trips, Guest Speakers and an evening Banquet. The festival is designed for beginning and experienced birders. Admission is free, banquet a fee event. Also see: www.redcliffsaudubon.org

Reserves

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Webpage

Satellite View

In the spring, Bear River is active with life as birds fly back from the south. There is a continuous flow of different species in and out of the refuge. Each day offers something new. Birds are in their bright and colorful breeding plumage and the observant visitor can witness eons-old courtship rituals. Geese and ducks begin to arrive in late March. Shorebird migration lasts from early April through mid-May…

Bryce Canyon National Park

Webpage

Satellite View

At Bryce Canyon National Park, erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes…

Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area

Webpage

Satellite View

Fish Springs NWR

Webpage

Satellite View

Getting to Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is in itself a memorable experience. Located in Western Utah, on the southern edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert, this isolated refuge is 80 miles in any direction from the nearest gas station or grocery store…

Gillmor Audubon Sanctuary

Website

Satellite View

Gillmor Audubon Sanctuary is part of the Great Salt Lake wetland ecosystem; an internationally recognized site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and a vital pathway for millions of nesting and migrating birds….

Legacy Nature Preserve

Webpage

Satellite View

The Legacy Nature Preserve is a 2,225-acre wildlife preserve on the southeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Established as environmental mitigation for the Legacy Parkway Project, the Preserve helps prevent encroachment of future development into this portion of the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem by restoring a mosaic of different wetland and upland habitats that are important for a myriad of wildlife species, especially migratory birds…

Ouray NWR

Webpage

Satellite View

The refuge is located on a stretch of undeveloped land along the banks of the Green River…

Blogs

NeoVista Birding

BLOG

Jeff Cooper shares the stories and images born of his encounters with birds and nature and the places they meet....

The Accidental Birder

BLOG

Life lessons from the wife of a birder - A blog dedicated to birding. I'm the wife of a birder and I blog weekly about birding and I'm also a novice (VERY novice) photographer…

Utah Birders

Blog

The Utah Birders are about sharing. Sharing information, sharing knowledge, sharing sightings, and sharing in the enjoyment of our feathered friends…

Other Links

Bird Watching Spots

Website

e.g.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…

Birds and Great Salt Lake

Website

Important lake wetlands include Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Locomotive Springs, Salt Creek, Public Shooting Grounds, Harold Crane, Ogden Bay, Timpie Springs, and Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Areas operated by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; and Gillmor Sanctuary wetlands managed by the Audubon Society…

Checklist

Website

Compiled by the Utah Birds Records Committee - This Checklist contains 447 species approved by the Utah Ornithological Society Bird Records Committee through August 2010, arranged in taxonomic order and using nomenclature of the 7th American Ornithologist's Union Check-list of North American Birds and the 51th supplement of that Check-list…

Checklists

Website

Checklists for a variety of localities across the state…

Index of Birding Places in Utah

Website

This is an index of popular birding sites in the state of Utah. Most of the information concerns directions on how to get to these sites…

Salt Lake Birders

Website

Membership in Salt Lake Birders is open to any interested person. Dues are $15 per year and may be sent to Salt Lake Birders, P.O.Box 58343, Salt Lake City, UT 84158.

Stokes Nature Center

Website

Located one mile up beautiful Logan Canyon on the Logan River, the 3,000 square-foot lodge was constructed in 1924 by members of the American Legion and later donated to the Trapper Trails Council of the Boy Scouts. Logan`s First Presbyterian Church took title to the building in 1996 and in a partnership with the Bridgerland Audubon Society designated a board to establish a separate organization to develop a not-for-profit nature center.

Tim Avery Birding

Website

Bird phottography and identification… from Utah birders.

Utah Birds

Website

An excellent site featuring articles, sites, records, checklists and much more… the definite starting point for visitors. Fatbirder recommended.

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Don Getty

Gallery

Has a gallery of fine photographs taken in Utah…

Photographer - Mia McPherson - On the Wing Photography

Gallery

The photography of Mia McPherson and the stories behind the images… a northern Utah based bird, wildlife and nature photographer plus the stories behind the images…