Utah is a great state for outdoor activities: five national parks, ski resorts, the Great Salt Lake, mountain trails, and red rock desert. Because Utah is famous for its natural wonders, it is no surprise that Utah is a great place to see wildlife, especially birds. The Great Salt Lake and its wetlands are home to millions of migrating and resident birds, making them an important migratory stopover site along the North American Pacific Flyway. Even in the state capital, Salt Lake City, there are many places that allow for great views of the wild birds for both beginners and longtime birders. If you are new to birding in Utah, here are a few places to consider for your own “stopover” to enjoy the local birdlife:
The Jordan River connects Utah Lake to The Great Salt Lake and is home to many different bird species. Because of this, anywhere along the river is a great spot to see birds. An abundance of parking areas and walking trails makes access to the river easy. Areas to focus on include Arrowhead Park Trail (from 4500S-5400S, parking near 4800S), the stretch between 2100S and 3300S (parking on Redwood Trailhead Park, 2320S), Jordan River Nature Center (3300S-4500S, parking at the center on 3300S), and Rose Park (near the Rose Park Golf Course). Bird species you might see include Great Blue Heron, various duck species, Wilson’s Snipe, American Kestrel, Marsh Wren, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bullock’s Oriole, California Quail, Western Screech-Owl, and Common Yellowthroat.
Home to playgrounds, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and Tracy Aviary, Liberty Park is also a city oasis for birds near South Salt Lake. Located between 900S-1300S and 700E-500E, Liberty Park is home to common suburban/urban birds as well as random rarities. With a pond and plenty of trees, as well as easy trails and lawn space, Liberty Park is a great spot for beginners and expert birdwatchers alike. Bird species you might see include Red-breasted Nuthatch, Canada Goose, Hooded Merganser, Red-naped Sapsucker, Great Horned Owl, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cooper’s Hawk, Yellow Warbler, Red-winged Blackbird, Pine Siskin, and Warbling Vireo.
City Creek Canyon Trailhead
At the mouth of City Creek Canyon lies a trail that houses many montane forest bird species within the outskirts of Salt Lake City. The trailhead starts at Memory Grove Park and heads up Bonneville Boulevard into the Canyon where there is a paved road that leads to other trails and picnic areas. Along this road you can come across many bird species that you would often have to go to the ski resorts or mountain reservoirs to see. Parking is limited along the trail. Due to its popularity, it is often full. You may have to start early or walk a ways to get into the canyon itself. Bird species you might see include Chukar, Pacific Wren, American Dipper, Golden Eagle, Mountain Chickadee, Northern Goshawk, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Steller’s Jay, Common Raven, Lazuli Bunting, and Townsend’s Solitaire.
Decker Lake is a man-made pond found just north of the Maverik Center in West Valley City and is home to many bird species at all times of the year. There is a walking trail that goes along the entire pond with great views of birds in the water and along the shore. The parking lot is located on Decker Lane just off of Decker Lake Blvd. The entire loop trail is only about 0.75 miles and is well maintained with both paved and unpaved sections. Bird species you might see include American Avocet, Green-winged Teal, Common Merganser, Greater Yellowlegs, California Gull, Song Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Least Sandpiper, and Western Kingbird.
Big Cottonwood Regional Park
This small park located on E Murray-Holladay Road (south of 4500S between 1300E and Highland Drive) is another park that is home to many bird species. There are easy walking trails that encircle the park with a small wetland and suburban woodland that many bird species can be found in at any time of the year. Since it is popular with birders, there are often many reports of rare species seen here, including alpine species and the occasional eastern wood warbler. Bird species you might see include Evening Grosbeak, American Robin, Mountain Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Brewer’s Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Northern Flicker, Lesser Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler.
This area is a bit farther away from Salt Lake City, but it is a great spot to see birds in the mountains of Salt Lake County. Located between Brighton Ski Resort and Solitude Ski Resort at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, this area is popular with hikers, skiers, snow-shoers, and birdwatchers. Since it is so popular, parking fills up quickly in the summer and there is a fee to snowshoe during the winter, but it is worth it to see breathtaking mountain views and plenty of mountain wildlife, including moose, pika, and many bird species. Bird species you might see include Clark’s Nutcracker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Red Crossbill, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Spotted Sandpiper, Osprey, Pine Grosbeak, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Western Wood-Pewee.