Most visitors to Southern Utah are hoping to catch sight of some wildlife during their trip. From Bighorn Sheep to elusive foxes to curious rock squirrels, there’s no shortage of creatures to see. But don’t forget to look up every once in a while during your visit as well.
The skies of Southern Utah are just as diverse and interesting as the rest of the region. Hundreds of bird species call the area home. Some are found only in this region. If you’ve got a trip to Southern Utah planned, keep reading. We’re bringing you a few of the bird species you might get lucky enough to see.
Perhaps the best-known bird to make its home in Southern Utah is the California Condor. Their popularity can’t be attributed to their numbers, even though they are on the rise today. Instead, they’ve become a symbol of what happens when humans put their minds towards saving a species on the brink of extinction.
California Condors’ habitat once stretched across much of the U.S., and into Mexico. However, in modern times, a variety of human-led factors, like deforestation and pollution, led to their rapid decline. By 1982, there were just 22 known individuals alive. Those survivors were all captured and placed in a protective breeding program. Now, the California Condor has been re-released back into the wild, and their numbers are growing.
One spot that you might get lucky enough to see one of these special birds is in Zion National Park. The park is a refuge for the species and is frequently seen nesting on the cliffs, soaring above Angels Landing, or perched high in the treetops. These birds are easy to spot, thanks to their large size, dark black feathers, and distinctive redheads.
As with any wild animals that you encounter, never feed or approach a California Condor. However, have your camera ready to snap a few souvenir pics of this special creature.
Mexican Spotted Owl
Another endangered bird species you might get lucky enough to spot in Southern Utah is the Mexican Spotted Owl. While the species hasn’t seen the resurgence that the California Condor has, the Mexican Spotted Owl has found some areas of refuge in the region, and particularly near Zion National Park. Here, the slot canyons offer the perfect hiding spot, with cool air for hot summer days and plenty of lush greenery and trees to support the prey that they feed on.
The Mexican Spotted Owl is the fifth largest of the owl species found in North America. Their wingspan can reach up to 45 inches. Both male and female Mexican Spotted Owls have large bodies covered in mottled brown and white feathers. They also feature oversized, dark eyes that are distinctive of owls. Because of their limited numbers, these owls are a rare sight, although there are 15 known nesting areas within Zion National Park today.
If you were to spot one of these gray-colored, small birds in the wild, you might not think twice about it. But catch it in action and you’ll quickly see why this species is such a treat to see.
The American Dipper has a very unique distinction; it’s the only aquatic songbird native to North America. These birds can swim or walk along the bottoms of streams in search of food, but still take to the trees to sing their own bright, chirpy songs to communicate with one another. Their strong wings even allow them to dive and swim up to 20 feet at a time.
Utah is home to several hummingbird species, though two, in particular, are the most commonly spotted ones in the southern part of the state. The first is the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird. These tiny birds typically stay close to water and can thrive at higher elevations. Males are easy to spot, thanks to their red-throats and white chest feathers. The females don’t have the same red patch, and instead are mostly green with some rust-colored feathers on their backs.
The other common hummingbird species is the Black-Chinned Hummingbird. Like the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, these birds stay close to water, however, they prefer lower elevations or mid-elevations compared to their higher-elevation cousins. Males have a shimmering throat that features purple feathers around the edge and pale feathers below. Females don’t have the same shimmery feathers but do have the same pale throat.
As their name suggests, this next species is a common sight throughout Southern Utah. These large, jet-black birds are often seen flying high above the red rock cliffs, perched in small groups in trees, or hopping about on the side of the road. Their loud, tell-tale cawing can often be heard before you can even see them.
These birds are very adaptable and can be found at a variety of elevations throughout the region. They aren’t picky about their prey, feeding on many small animals and reptiles found in the region. When food is scarce, such as during the winter, these birds become carrion feeders, searching for dead animals. In areas such as National Park campgrounds and picnic areas, these birds have become a bit too adapted to the presence of humans and will steal food from garbage cans or even right off of picnic tables.
Keep Your Eyes on the Sky to Spot These Southern Utah Natives
From the iconic California Condor to the unique American Dipper, there’s no shortage of bird species to see in Southern Utah.
In fact, you might even get lucky enough to catch sight of a few from your private patio at your vacation rental. Don’t have a trip booked just yet? Book today and spend a night, a weekend, a week or even longer relaxing in the heart of the action of Southern Utah.