State of Utah

Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus ©Kathryn Van Houten

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).

Mohave Desert area of St. George ©Nancy Obenauf – Red Cliffs Bird Festival Organizing Committee Member

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.

Birding Utah

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:

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.

This page is sponsored by Bird Las Vegas

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 467

    (As at January 2024)

    State Bird - California Gull Larus californicus

    It may seem strange that Utah's state bird is the California Gull. It was so honoured 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.

  • Checklist of the Birds of Utah

    This Checklist contains 467 species approved by the Utah Bird Records Committee through March 2021, arranged in taxonomic order and using nomenclature of the American Ornithological Society's Checklist of North American Birds, 7th Edition, 61th supplement.
Useful Reading

  • Birding Utah (FalconGuide)

    | By D E McIvor | Falcon Press | 1998 | Paperback - 410 pages, B/w photos, distribution maps | ISBN: 9781560446156 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Northeastern Utah

    | By WH Behle | Utah Museum of Natural History | Paperback | 136 pages | ISBN: 9780940378018 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Zion National Park and Vicinity

    | By Roland H Wauer | Utah State University Press | Paperback | ISBN: 9780874212198 Buy this book from
  • Birds of the Central Rockies

    | By Jan L Wassink | Mountain Press | 1991 | Paperback | 180 pages, 240 colour photos | ISBN: 9780878422357 Buy this book from
  • Utah Birds

    | (A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species) | James R Kavanagh & Raymond Leungv| Waterford Press | 2001 | Unbound | 12 pages, colour illustrations, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9781583551325 Buy this book from
  • Utah's Featured Birds and Viewing Sites

    | (A Conservation Platform for IBAs and BHCAs) | By Keith Evans & Wayne Martinson | Utah DNR | 2008 | Paperback | ISBN: 9781607029366 Buy this book from
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

    Great Salt Lake Bird Festival May 16-19, 2024 - Welcome to the 26th Annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. Discover Davis, Utah’s Amusement Capital, is pleased to once again welcome you to the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival in beautiful northern Utah. Davis County is home to the Great Salt Lake, a major North/South migration route for more than 250 bird species, making it one of the top places for birders to catch unique glimpses of our many feathered friends.
  • Red Cliffs Bird Fest at Greater Zion

    Red Cliffs Bird Fest 2024 will showcase the birding habitat of Greater Zion during spring migration where the beauty of the birds is truly matched by the beauty of the scenery. Join us April 25-27 as we spend 3 days exploring the varied birding habitats throughout incredible Southwest Utah! Within one day, you can experience the birds of micro-wetlands, low deserts, riparian habitats, and the aspen-fir belt. This year’s field trips offers access to all these ranges including guided trips to the famous Lytle Ranch Preserve, along with Peregrine Fund biologist guided tours of the condors of the Vermilion Cliffs! After a fun day enjoying our field trips, you can stop by the Hilton Garden Inn for evenings filled with guest speakers, door prizes, complimentary hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. We will also feature a variety of exhibitors ranging from conservation groups, artists, photographers, rocks & crystals, a variety of live animals who call Greater Zion home, and more. Registration begins February 1.
  • Audubon Society in Utah

    Offices & Chapters; Centers & Sanctuaries
  • Bridgerland Adubon Society

    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… Also see the Facebook page
  • Great Salt Lake Audubon

    Great Salt Lake Audubon, a chapter of the national Audubon Society, was founded in 1912 and is the oldest conservation organization in Utah. This volunteer organization strives to meet its mission through volunteer opportunities, seminars, educational field trips, urban riparian restoration and informative general meetings with guest presenters. We also support state and local conservation efforts.
  • Nature Conservancy in Utah

    When you donate today, you will help ensure a thriving natural environment for future generations of Utah.
  • Red Cliffs Audubon

    Red Cliffs Audubon is dedicated to inspire people to enjoy and protect the variety of birds and their habitats in our region.
  • Utah Birds

    This website is sponsored by the "Utah County Birders," a birding group from the north-central part of Utah. Funding for the website comes through the Utah County Birders organization with donations from and the Salt Lake Birders and Utah Ornithological Society.
  • Utah County Birders

    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 County Birders

    Facebook Page
    This page is a place for Utah County birders to share photos, video, sightings, birding adventures near and far, and more! We have all levels of birders as members. Non commercial, family friendly site. No advertising, and no offensive posts or language. Please keep posts and comments positive and constructive. This Facebook page is sponsored by the "Utah County Birders," a birding group from the north-central part of Utah.
  • Utah Ornithological Society

    The Utah Ornithology Society was dissolved 1 January 2011 , but some of the functions provided by the society will continue on through other means. It no longer publishes the Utah Birds journal, nor holds yearly conferences and is legally dissolved. However, the Utah Birds Records Committee, which was established under the auspices of the UOS will continue on as before. It will function in conjunction with the Utah Birds website which will facilitate its activities and publish committee reports and the official state checklist which is maintained by the committee.
  • Utah Records Committee

    There are about 125 bird species on the Utah Checklist for which sighting documentation is requested by the Records Committee.
  • Wasatch Audubon Society

    The mission of National Audubon is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth's biological diversity. Wasatch Audubon is a local chapter of National Audubon, covering Weber, North Davis, Morgan and Box Elder Counties in Utah. It is one of nearly 500 such chapters nationwide.

Abbreviations Key

  • BS Gillmor Audubon Sanctuary

    WebsiteSatellite 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….
  • IBA Cutler Reservoir and Marsh

    InformationSatellite View
    This IBA includes the lands that PacifiCorp owns within the project boundaries of the Cutler Reservoir Project and Marsh, any sovereign lands (the submerged meander corridor) of the Bear River within the boundaries, the 150 acre Bud Phelps WMA owned by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and the 146 acres owned by Bridgerland Audubon Society. Bald Eagles use trees and perches for resting and hunting in the spring. Ferruginous Hawks hunt and Grasshopper Sparrows nest in grasslands around the reservoir. There are significant numbers of American White Pelicans that use the area for foraging and loafing. Numbers are under 4(b) below. Peregrine Falcons (migration and summer resident), Swainson's Hawks (nest/forage), Caspian Terns (forage), Short-eared owls (nest), Osprey (forage), Burrowing Owls (nest) and Long-billed Curlews (nest?) use the area, but transect survey data provides very limited numbers. Survey data is on file with the IBA nomination.
  • NC Kennecott

    InformationSatellite View
    The Kennecott Nature Center is a nature observation center and classroom located in an area of wetlands alongside the Jordan River in Murray, Utah.
  • NC Ogden Nature Center

    InformationSatellite View
    The Ogden Nature Center is a 152-acre (0.62 km2) nature preserve and education center located in Ogden, Utah. Created in 1975, it was Utah's first nature center. The center includes live animal exhibits, walking trails, ponds, bird blinds, observation towers, treehouses, gardens featuring drought resistant plants, and protected areas for wildlife.
  • NC Stokes Nature Center

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Allen & Alice Stokes Nature Center is a regional nature center and outdoor exploration hub for people of all ages in the heart of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. We are the official educational permittee of the USDA designated Logan Canyon Children’s Forest and are proud to serve the Bear River region.
  • NC Swaner EcoCenter

    InformationSatellite View
    The Swaner EcoCenter is a nature preserve and Utah State University Distance Education site located in Snyderville Basin near Park City, Utah. Swaner encompasses a 1,200-acre (490 ha) wildlife refuge, a 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) state of the art environmental education facility, a 100-acre (40 ha) farm, and 10 miles (16 km) of trails.
  • NP Bryce Canyon

    WebpageSatellite View
    At Bryce Canyon National Park, erosion has shaped colorful Claron limestones, sandstones, and mudstones into thousands of spires, fins, pinnacles, and mazes…
  • NR Lee Creek Area, South Shore Preserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    With the help of many partners, we've transformed a severely degraded area into a healthy, vibrant place for wildlife, and created a place where the community can experience the natural beauty and wonder of Great Salt Lake through wildlife compatible activities such as sunset viewing, bird watching, photography and nature walking.
  • NR Legacy Nature Preserve

    Facebook PageSatellite 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…
  • NWR Fish Springs

    WebpageSatellite View
    Located on the southern extreme of the Great Salt Lake Desert, Fish Springs has been a place of essential importance in meeting the needs of humans and wildlife over the past 10,000 years. Most critical are the life-sustaining waters that make Fish Springs a true oasis in the desert.
  • NWR MBS Bear River

    WebpageSatellite 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…
  • NWR Ouray

    WebpageSatellite View
    Ouray National Wildlife Refuge lies along the Green River in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah. The Refuge provides diverse habitat types supporting over 350 fish and wildlife species and offers numerous wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities.
  • WMA Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area

    WebpageSatellite View
    During migration, the diversity of sound and color astounds visitors to Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area (WMA). Hundreds of thousands of waterbirds, songbirds and raptors visit this area during the migration and nesting seasons. More than 200 different species have been documented on the management area.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • BirdTalk

    Mailing List & Forum
    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.
  • Utah Birds

    Sightings etc.
    Bird Sightings & Reports
  • Utah County Birdnet

    UCBirders forum
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Mountain West Birding and Wildlife Tours

    Tour Operator
    Mountain West Birding and Wildlife Tours is a small family owned business operated by Tim Avery. We are located on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah and take people birding all over the mountain west. We offer a variety of tours to see some of the great birds and wildlife found in Utah and around the mountain west. Our Flammulated Owl tour is the most reliable and popular tour we offer; while our Custom Tours are a perfect way to maximaize your birding experience!
Trip Reports
  • 2016 [08 August] - Andrew Birch - Zion, Bryce, Cedar Breaks and Grand Canyon National Parks

    This was a family road trip visiting the Utah National Parks (sandwiched between nights in Vegas), so birding was not a priority. However, these trip lists will give you a flavor of the species possible to see at this time of year with little effort.
  • 2021 [05 May] - Pat Leuders

    PDF Report
    n. Scope views of Horned Grebes in breeding plumage, American Avocets, California Gulls, Ring-necked Ducks, and White-faced Ibises were exciting for all...
  • 2022 [05 May] - Dve Mehlman

    PDF Report
    ...The huge advantage of this stop was that hardly anyone else got off there, so we had the area practically to ourselves to conduct a proper condor vigil. Alas, no condors appeared, but we did see Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk in the sky there (the latter the only one of the trips) and we were able to find Spotted Towhee and Ash-throated Flycatcher, plus a Wild Turkey called— all in all, a nice reward for our spontaneous extra stop...
  • 2022 [09 September] - Bryan Shirley

    PDF Report
    ...Later in the afternoon when the rain stopped, we did a short bird walk, but all the birds we saw were right over our cabins! We had a nice flock of Pygmy Nuthatches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Tanager, and a Warbling Vireo...
  • 2023 [05 May] - Dave Mehlman

    PDF Report
    Annotated list
Places to Stay
  • Sorrel River Ranch Resort B&B

    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

    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.
Other Links
  • Audubon Western Water, Saline Lakes Program

    Saline lakes—the landlocked saltwater lakes fringed with wetlands that dot the Intermountain West—are beacons for millions of birds crossing an otherwise arid landscape. But as water recedes (due to drought, water diversions, and climate change) and exposes toxic dust, not only is habitat lost, but surrounding communities—like the one near the Salton Sea—are at higher risk for asthma and other health issues. The risk of toxic dust is also increasing at Great Salt Lake—the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, and a critically important habitat for birds.
  • Birds and Great Salt Lake

    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

    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
  • Index of Birding Places in Utah

    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

    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.
  • Tim Avery Birding

    When it comes to birding there are several things I'm very passionate about. One was doing a Utah Birding Big Year in 2007, when I saw 355 species. Another passion is one I've been at work on for 4 years, a field guide to the Birds of Utah. And third, I love sharing that passion with others, and do so through various field trips and my company Mountain West Birding Company--which offers a variety of guided tours.
  • Jeff Cooper - NeoVista Birding

    Blogging allows me to fulfill my passions for exploring, discovering, learning, and sharing. I never tire of seeing what nature has to offer and love capturing and sharing images from my experiences with nature
  • Jeff Strong - Bear River Blogger

    Blogging about birds, butterflies and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Thanks for visiting Bear River Blogger. I am a professional outdoor freelance photographer who has decided to put my voice out there on the blogospere. I got started with photography in 1986 when I took a photography class in school thinking it would be an easy way to pad the GPA. I hate to admit that was my first exposure with photography, no pun intended, and I was learning not only about light and composition but we delved into developing film and printing black and white prints as well. Needless to say my plans about bolstering my GPA didn’t go as easy as I thought but it was a great learning experience for something I would eventually come back to years later with the advent of the digital camera.
  • Lisa Boice - The Accidental Birder

    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

    The Utah Birders are about sharing. Sharing information, sharing knowledge, sharing sightings, and sharing in the enjoyment of our feathered friends
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Mia McPherson - On the Wing Photography

    This site contains blog posts with my photos and the stories behind the images plus my extensive photo galleries which contain more than 8000 photos of birds, wildlife, flowers and trees along with images of the landscapes I visit. I feel that it is important to tell the stories behind my images.
  • Photographer - Tim Avery

    Since 1996 I have literally taken 100,000's of photos of birds. Since 2004 this website has accumulated over 14,000 edited photos of more than 1000 species + various other wild things. Take a look around!

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

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