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Bird watching in Utah


Thanks to Utah’s unique, and generally scenic, geography, this state draws birds in flocks, from the migratory species that crowd the Great Salt Lake in spring and early summer to the desert birds of the Mojave. Even riparian songbirds are attracted to urban waterways like City Creek, a stone’s throw from downtown Salt Lake City.

Some of the most scenic birding can be found in popular, and often crowded, national parks like Zion National Park, but there are also plenty of places one can sight feathered creatures in solitude like the arid Beaver Dam Mountains or the raptor rich valleys west of Utah Lake. Importantly, there is quality birding within easy reach of every one of the state’s developed centers, so don’t let city streets put you off a search for Black Swifts (try Bridal Veil Falls, incidentally).

Great Salt Lake:
For some of the best bird watching in the state head for Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on the Great Salt Lake, host to over 200 migratory bird species come spring and early summer. Drive the 12 mile loop road for access to wetlands dotted with the likes of wading Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, grebes, the White-faced Ibis and the American Avocet. Also consider a detour to Antelope Island, a breeding ground for a long list of bird species and home to roaming bison.

City Creek Canyon:
Catch the cheerful refrain of songbirds within a stone’s throw of central Salt Lake City meandering trails in City Creek Canyon, a riparian corridor busiest with birds in spring and summer. Keep an eye out also in the areas of open field and surrounding brush for several different types of owl, Ring-necked Pheasants and Ruffed Grouse.

(St. George) Beaver Dam Wash:
For a glimpse of this state’s best desert bird variety, head for Beaver Dam Wash in Utah’s southwestern corner. This one is a little off the beaten, sometimes dusty, path but the route through the Beaver Dam Mountains (posted with wildlife signs) offers a glimpse of road-runners and thrashers, with particularly good variety around the local camping area.

(Utah Lake) Cedar Valley and (Bridal Veil Falls):
Raptors, including hawks, eagles, falcons and Merlins, are the premier birding attraction west of Utah Lake, concentrated in spots like Cedar Valley. Also consider a detour northeast of Utah Lake to Bridal Veil Falls, where the Black Swift, which nests behind the falls, can sometimes be sighted as can the Belted Kingfisher.

Cache Valley:
Cache Valley, in the northeastern corner of the state, is raptor country, but look also in Cutler Marsh for grebes and Sandhill Cranes or venture up into the Wasatch Mountains to spot montane songbirds along the Logan River.

(Moab) Matheson Wetlands Preserve:
Couple a trip to Moab with superb bird watching on a detour to Matheson Wetlands Preserve, a peaceful stretch of green framed by desert. More than 200 bird species alight at this oasis beside the Colorado River, easily accessible via designated trails and a two-story viewing blind; bird numbers here peak during spring and fall.

Zion National Park:
In this undeniably magnificent park, there are suitably majestic birds to match. Peregrine Falcons, brought back from the brink of extinction, soar overhead, as do California Condors and Bald Eagles. There are more than 200 additional bird species known to use park fly space, from warblers and swallows to hummingbirds and woodpeckers.

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