Moab Bird Watching
Black Throated Gray Warbler
Among the canyons, arches, river and mountains that surround Moab, is an abundant wildlife offering living wonders as graceful and beautiful as the scenery. Bird watching in Moab is a natural setting for birds that are unique to the Southwest, offering wetlands, canyons and high nesting area for birds whose habitats change with the seasons. Moab offers numerous picturesque locations for birding.
SCOTT M. MATHESON PRESERVE
The Matheson Wetlands, is an 875- acre wetland area and offers excellent birding on the outskirts of Moab. More than 225 species of birds have been recorded on the preserve. Walking the trails and boardwalks from the south side of the wetland is recommended. Two trailheads provide the major access points to the wetlands. The water levels are variable in the area, therefore, sometimes only the boardwalks will be above water and at other times the area appears dry.
Low elevation riparian, marsh, and open water.
Plumbeous Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow-breasted Chat, Bushtit, and many winter specialties.
Yearlong, but especially good during migration and in the winter.
The main Matheson Preserve trailhead can be accessed from Kane Creek Road. Drive south through Moab on US-191 until the highway (Main Street) goes over the Pack Creek Bridge (south Moab), then turn west on Kane Creek Road. The trailhead is signed and on the north side of the road just before the road reaches the banks of the Colorado River. The Mill Creek Parkway runs from Rotary Park (just southeast of the Center Street/400 East junction) to the Matheson Preserve. Also, accessible where the trail crosses Main Street (US-191) at 100 South.
South trailhead 38º 34' 24"N, 109º 34' 15"W.
COLORADO RIVER SCENIC BYWAY
The UT-128 corridor, also known as the Colorado River Scenic Byway, offers great birding and scenic view opportunities. It is approximately 45 miles from I-70 at the Cisco/UT-128 exit (#204) to the junction with US-191 near Moab. The confluence of the Colorado River and the Dolores River is 13.3 miles from the Interstate. Just below the confluence, UT-128 crosses the Colorado River at the Dewey Bridge. Spend time birding the Dewey Bridge and Dewey Bridge Recreational Site. Other birding hotspots in this map provide more detail for recommended side trips. For example, the La Sal Mountain Loop Road junction is 29 miles from I-70 (site #38) and Negro Bill Canyon (site #40) is 41 miles from I-70. Look for signs pointing to other points of interest, like the Mayberry Preserve (The Nature Conservancy), Fisher Tower, and the Castle Creek Bridge.
During winter months, look for Bald Eagle. Yearlong, look for Golden Eagle, Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Blue Grosbeak, Osprey, Common Raven, and waterfowl on the river. The Cisco Desert area, near I-70, is good for Golden Eagle and many other raptor species. Look for the Great Blue Heron rookery between mileposts 9 and 10.
Desert and lowland riparian.
Bald Eagle (winter), Great Horned Owl, Hooded Merganser, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Grosbeak, and many waterfowl.
From I-70 exit 204, UT-128 goes east then south then back west along the Colorado River to Moab. It is approximately 45 miles from I-70 to Moab along UT-128 and it is all paved.
Dewey Bridge, 38º 48' 42"N, 109º 18' 10"W.
There are birding opportunities for many stops along the way.
MOON FLOWER CANYON
From Kane Creek Road southwest of Moab, the pullout, campground and picnic area at Moon Flower Canyon offers an excellent birding spot. The trail runs through riparian vegetation with some sagebrush uplands. Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagles have been seen in this popular hiking area. There are several species of lizards come from this area, in addition to being nearly surrounded by scenic red sandstone cliffs, the area offers views of petroglyphs.
Low elevation riparian and sandstone cliffs.
Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagle are possible, but more likely are Canyon Wren, Rock Wren, Bushtit, and many warblers.
Moon Flower Canyon parking area is just 2 miles beyond the Matheson Preserve south trailhead along Kane Creek Road southwest of Moab.
38º 33' 15"N, 109º 35' 15"W.
Restroom and camping facilities are available.
LA SAL MOUNTAIN LOOP ROAD
This birding trail (road) from Moab goes through many habitat types and provides good birding and some spectacular scenery. In many travel magazines, it is listed as a desert to alpine scenic trip. The majority of the route is through mountain brush and aspen habitats at an elevation where bird numbers and diversity are high. Look for Virginia Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, and Western Bluebird. Hermit Thrush and Townsend's Solitaire are often heard. Depending on time, side trips can be taken to higher elevation conifer forests and high mountain lakes (9,000 feet). Two possibilities are the unpaved side roads to Oowah and Warner Lakes, where campgrounds and hiking trailheads are available (look for signs along the road). Species such as American Dipper, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Gray Jay may be found in the spruce-fir forest habitats. As the loop road drops into the Colorado River drainage, some of Castle Valley might appear bird-free, however the scenic views will easily cancel out any disappointment with bird numbers. Look for scenes you've seen in commercials and on calendars as this area is well photographed.
Mountain shrub, pinyon-juniper, aspen, and conifer forest. Riparian and running water at a few stream crossings.
American Three-toed Woodpecker, Vesper Sparrow, Western Scrub-Jay, and Red-naped Sapsucker.
Summer and fall.
Drive approximately 6 miles south of Moab on US-191 and then turn left (east) towards Ken's Lake on La Sal Mountain Loop Road. The road distance is approximately 60 miles back to Moab. The route crosses the west face of the mountain then drops into Castle Valley and joins UT-128 sixteen miles east of Moab.
- Jct. with US-191 south of Moab, 38º 29' 14"N, 109º 27' 46"W
- Jct. on Mill Creek and road to Oowah, 38º 29' 58"N, 109º 18' 23"W
- Jct. with UT-128 NE of Moab, 38º 40' 27"N, 109º 25' 01"W
- Click here for a detailed map of the Loop Road.
A full gas tank, drinking water, and food snacks are recommended for the trip. Don't attempt the drive during winter storms.
The red cliff-rimmed mesas on the north side of the La Sal Mountains above Castle Valley are an excellent place to observe the many bird species associated with pinyon-juniper habitat. The south end of Fisher Mesa has scattered ponderosa pine, but the main part of the mesa is dominated by mature, diverse stands of pinyon pine and Utah juniper. The area is easily accessed via paved road from Moab and includes a pleasant hiking/mountain biking trail along the east rim of Fisher Mesa. The Bull Valley Overlook, just beyond the end of the pavement at a large pullout, is an excellent location to observe the cliffs running for several miles above Fisher Valley. The pullout is at the head of Bull Canyon.
In addition to pinyon-juniper birds such as Black-throated Gray Warbler, Juniper Titmouse, and , there is an excellent opportunity to observe migratory raptors during fall months. Spring access is often limited by lingering snow. Along the cliffs, look for Golden Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Violet-green Swallow, and White-throated Swift.
Pinyon-juniper woodlands and rock cliffs.
Golden Eagle, Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Violet-green Swallow, White-throated Swift, and Canyon Wren.
Best during summer and fall.
From the US-191/UT-128 junction just north of Moab, drive 16 miles to the northeast on UT-128. The road follows along the south side of the Colorado River (site #35). Turn right (south) on the La Sal Mountain Loop Road through Castle Valley. In approximately 12 miles the road forks. Instead of remaining on the La Sal Loop Road, drive east towards Gateway for 7 miles to FR-601 and the Fisher Mesa Trailhead. The Bull Valley overlook is another half mile east.
Bull Valley overlook is 38º 36' 56"N, 109º 13' 22"W.
Loose sand and gravel can make footing dangerous, don't walk too close to the high cliff edges
NEGRO BILL CANYON
The 2-mile trail (one way) up Negro Bill Canyon is a great birding trail. Expect riparian habitat, "slickrock" and the birds associated with these habitats. Negro Bill Canyon was named for William Granstaff who ran cattle in the canyon. The trail leads to the Morning Glory Natural Bridge that spans 243 feet making it the sixth longest natural bridge in the nation. As the entire length of the trail provides interesting birding opportunities, the length of the walk can be variable. The trailhead is on UT-128 which connects Moab with Exit 204 on I-70 and has been designated the Colorado River Scenic Byway, look for additional interesting spots in publications describing Utah's scenic drives.
Low elevation riparian and rock cliffs.
Gray Vireo, American Dipper, and Canyon Wren.
Yearlong, but can be very hot during mid-day in the summer.
From the US-191/UT-128 junction just north of Moab, drive 3 miles to the northeast on UT-128. The road follows along the south side of the Colorado River and the trailhead is on the south side of the road.
38º 36' 33"N, 109º 31' 59"W (trailhead).
Restroom facilities are available.
Moab Information Center
Once you arrive in Moab, your first stop should be the Moab Information
Center. Conveniently located at the corner of Main and Center Street in
Moab, the MIC offers information on recreational opportunities and visitor
services throughout southeastern Utah. Allow some time for the interpretive
displays and large gift shop featuring guide books, maps, videos, DVD's,
postcards, and much more.
GPS - Moab Info Ctr
38° 34' 22.4" N
109° 33' 0.1" W
Birding Tips for Beginners
- You need a field guide for your area. A field guide is a book with pictures of the birds and tips for identifying them. The best book for new birders in the western region is “Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds”
- You need a binocular to see the birds. The best birders have the best binoculars — even though they can identify a bird 100 yards away by its silhouette. Newcomers with a cheap binocular see a fuzzy ball of feathers and don't have a clue which bird it is.
- You need to know what to expect in your area. The giant woodpecker you saw in the woods was a Pileated Woodpecker, not an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Checklists of birds in your area will tell you this. Many State and National parks near you have Checklists of the birds seen in the park.
- You need to be able to find the birds. To do this, you should learn about the habitat each species of bird prefers. Do they like to spend their time at the top of a tree or on the ground or on a lake? You should also learn the songs of the birds in your yard. Later, learn the songs of other birds in your area of the country. To find a bird, you will often hear it first.
- Join a group of other birders. Birders are very friendly and helpful. They are always willing to share their knowledge. Start by calling the local Audubon Society, the local Nature Center or Parks Commission, or the local Bird Club.
- Bring the birds to you. You can attract birds to your yard with just a little work. Planting the right flowers will attract hummingbirds. Sunflower seeds will bring lots of new birds to your house. You might even want to build a bluebird house.
- Record your bird sightings. You might want to keep a "diary" or list of the birds you see in your yard. You can also keep a list of birds you see in your town or on your vacation. Birders often keep lists for their county, state or country. They may also keep track of birds seen in one day or one month or one year.
- When birding, wear neutral colored clothing , not white. Avoid anything that reflects in the UV. Avoid bright colors as a general rule.
- Find more tips and useful information at birding.com.
Moab Area Owl Sightings
Northern Saw Whet Owl