Bird watching

Because of Utah's diverse climate zones and terrain, wildlife in Utah is everywhere! There are over 600 species of mammals, birds, fishes, reptiles, and amphibians that make their homes in Utah's diverse habitat. Below is some general information on recreational opportunities involving Utah wildlife. Also included in this section are listings of specific opportunities in the northern and southern parts of the state as well as Utah's best bird watching spots.

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 and Sandhill Cranes. There are also several wooded streams in this area that support a variety of songbirds.

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) is the world’s first national migratory bird refuge, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. This is a showcase of the 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 which are also great areas to see what the lake has to offer. Just north of Salt Lake City, you can access the lake on the Antelope Island Causeway and State Park. Also north of Salt Lake City is Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, another great place to find marsh birds.

On the south shore of the lake (west of Salt Lake City) 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. A quick list includes American White Pelicans, Black Terns, Redheads (the ducks, that is), Soras, Wilson’s Phalaropes, Burrowing Owls, White-faced Ibis, American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts.

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.

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.

Some of the best birding areas in northeastern Utah are along the Green River. Stewart Lake State Waterfowl Management Area is just south of Jensen and adjacent to the river. Another great Green River birding area is Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. Both of these areas offer great songbird, marsh bird, and duck watching.

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).

Resources: Utah’s wild life