Where to see migrating birds in Utah this spring
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Yellow-headed backbird standing in water, surrounded by trees, its head pointed upward

Where to see migrating birds in Utah this spring

Salt Lake City — Spring is here, which means wildlife migrations are in full swing in Utah. Bird-watching is a great opportunity to get outdoors and see a wide variety of birds during their annual migrations — and enjoy the fun challenge of trying to identify them!

Yellow-headed backbird standing in water, surrounded by trees, its head pointed upward

World Migratory Bird Day is on May 11 and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean. If you are wanting to do some bird-watching this year, early mornings (between 6–9 a.m.) are great times to locate birds since they tend to be very vocal and active during those hours. It's also helpful to use binoculars and to have a bird identification book — or an online resource — within reach during your birding trip. Both can be very useful in identifying the different bird species you may see.

Whether you are a bird-watching enthusiast or just like being outside in nature, here are several great places throughout Utah to see migrating birds this spring:

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

The 26th annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival is an exciting opportunity to see and learn more about birds in Utah. Sponsored by Davis County and hosted at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Wildlife Education Center, this event will take place May 16–19 at a variety of locations around the Wasatch Front. The festival will offer over 60 birding field trips, each designed to create a uniquely different experience, as well as other activities, including arts and crafts and other family activities.

Be aware that the field trips are space limited, and you need to reserve your spot in advance. Some of the workshops and field trips are already full, but several still have openings, including:

  • Trip #22: Digiscoping at Willard Bay State Park on May 17
  • Trip #23: Sage-Steppe Birding at Promontory Point on May 17
  • Trip #47: Bird the West Desert & Pony Express Trail on May 19

"Our committee worked hard to add over 20 new field trip opportunities to this year's festival," Davis County Tourism Events Manager Kristal Blessett said. "We also have many free activities for the general public to experience. We hope everyone can come out to learn more about birds during this unique migration event!"

The Eccles Wildlife Education Center at the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area will be the headquarters for the festival, and it offers a 1.2-mile nature trail that visitors can stroll along to spot birds and enjoy the wetlands. However, if you don't feel up to walking or the weather isn't good, there are also opportunities to see birds from inside the conservation hall at the center. The conservation hall overlooks a pond, which has a variety of birds, and there is also a heron rookery within view. This is a great time of year to see great blue herons nesting on the poles, and visitors can also often see avocets, geese and sandhill cranes during the spring.

For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival website.

Northern Utah

  • Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge: Visitors can enjoy a self-guided 12-mile automobile tour at this national wildlife refuge and see a variety of birds that use the refuge as a migratory stopover. The tour route is open every day from sunrise to sunset. Find more details on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
  • Antelope Island State Park: This is a great spot to see a variety of shorebirds that use the Great Salt Lake and is also home to burrowing owls.
  • Mountain reservoirs: East Canyon, Hyrum, Echo and Pineview reservoirs are all great places to view common loons on their migration north to their breeding territories.

Central Utah

  • Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge: This is arguably one of the best places to see birds in Utah.
  • Utah Lake State Park: The park and the airport dike road are great places to see migrating birds. Young ducklings and goslings can often be seen in the Provo River and Utah Lake during late April and May.
  • River corridors and other wetland areas: The Provo River Trail, Spanish Fork River, Hobble Creek Trail and Jordan River Trails are also great bird-watching locations.

Northeastern Utah

  • Ouray National Wildlife Refuge: This location also offers a self-guided 9-mile automobile tour that provides a great opportunity to view several different habitats and birds, especially from the observation tower. Find more details on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
  • Pelican Lake: This waterbody has a large diversity of waterfowl and migratory songbirds.
  • Red Canyon Overlook near Flaming Gorge: This area offers an opportunity to see some high-elevation birds.
  • Stewart Lake Waterfowl Management Area
  • Mountain reservoirs: Big Sandwash, Matt Warner, Red Fleet and Steinaker reservoirs are great places to view migrating common loons. You can also often see pelicans at Matt Warner Reservoir this time of year. All of these reservoirs are ideal places to see small songbirds as well due to the variety of habitats they offer.

Southeastern Utah

  • Mill Creek: This area near Moab is a great spot for viewing migrating birds.

Southern Utah

If you are interested in bird-watching from the comfort of your own home, you can find a few tips on the DWR website.

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