With 229 square miles to explore, Zion National Park is a park with all kinds of habitats and spaces to find birds. Additionally, this park plays an important role in the recovery effort of many species of bird, including the Mexican spotted owl, the peregrine falcon, the California condor, and the bald eagle. The park serves as a safe haven, a sanctuary that protects birds from extinction. Inside Zion National Park, the birds’ needs are met. With their food, nesting, and habitats preserved, they don’t have to worry about manmade dangers.
Zion National Park features a 15-mile-long canyon, known as Zion Canyon, which cuts through Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. But this is just one of the many impressive sights at the park. The park’s lowest elevation is at Coalpits Wash (3,666′) and the highest is at Horse Ranch Mountain (8,126′). The park also possesses a very unique geography, featuring the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert terrains. This diverse geography allows for diverse plant and animal wildlife.
Top Bird Watching Areas
The park is essentially divided into four areas: Zion Canyon, Kolob Terrace, Kolob Canyons, and the eastern area. Each area is very different from one another. They possess a wide variety of habitats including riparian, shrubsteppe, canyon, desert, mixed Gambel’s Oak and Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands, Aspen, and mid-elevation conifer forest.
Inside these areas are plenty of top bird watching locations! Check out these bird watching hot spots below:
- Angel’s Landing
- Canyon Overlook
- The Narrows
- Emerald Pools
- Hop Valley Trailhead
- The Grotto
- Kolob Terrace Road
- The Kolob Terrace
- Kolob Canyons
- Kolob Reservoir
- Lava Point
- Pa’rus Trail
- Taylor Creek
- Riverside Walk
- Wheeping Rock
- Watchman Trail
- South Campground
The birding is just as diverse as the park’s terrain. The prime time to visit the park for bird watching is between April and October. However, the end of April through May is the absolute best time to visit. This is due to the mixing of migrant and resident birds. The riparian habitat homes southwest birds such as Yellow Warblers, Lucy’s Warblers, and Summer Tanagers. You can hear Canyon and Rock Wrens singing throughout the inside of the canyon and the chattering of White-Throated Swifts above. While there are many different kinds of birds to discover at Zion National Park, there are many special birds that make this park their home.
During midmorning hours, you can see California Condors warming up atop rocks and walls high in the air. Their daily rituals power their eagerness to fly across the park, find food, and nest atop giant sandstone walls. These massive New World Vultures are protected in Zion National Park with miles of stony sanctuary to thrive in. Condors used to be seen flying all over many parts of the United States, but in 1982, the world population managed to decrease to a staggering 22 birds. Thanks to effective recovery programs, a captive breeding program helped protect the bird from extinction. Keep an eye out at the top of the canyons for these giant creatures!
Mexican Spotted Owl
Mexican spotted owls have been considered federally threatened since 1993 due to deforestation and habitat degeneration. Thankfully, this impressive hunter can thrive among Zion’s canyons. The Mexican spotted owls can be seen across the Four Corners territory across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona- primarily dry desert areas. So, where can they be found in Zion National Park? There are cool, narrow canyons sculpted into the park’s sandstone from flooding. These secret areas provide the Mexican spotted owls with a perfect home. Tall canyon walls prevent lots of sunlight from entering their homes, which allows for temperate canyon wildlife.
Upon first glance, American dippers are dull-looking birds. Their gray and brown features and small stature make them look like birds you’re probably used to seeing. But their natural behaviors are far from boring- these birds are fascinating to watch. They spend most of their time foraging for food above the ground and, surprisingly, underwater. The Virgin River at Zion National Park serves as a home for these adorable and tiny birds. Check out this river’s waterways to watch them dip their heads below the water to look for food (hence the name “dipper”).
Now this is one impressive bird. The peregrine falcon is not only the fastest bird, it’s the fastest animal in the world! When in its hunting dive (the stoop), it soars high into the sky before diving at speeds of over 200 mph. And its horizontal cruising speeds can reach up to 56 mph. The word “peregrine” originates from the Latin word “peregrinus,” which translates to “wander” or “to travel abroad.” This refers to the bird’s long migrations, migrating as far as 1,553 miles away. Basically, this guy is flying fast over every continent except Antarctica. You can see this skillful falcon soaring around Zion National Park, particularly in the scarlet cliffs.
Hummingbirds are adorable and colorful birds that are exciting to look out for. These beautiful birds, with bright colors similar to jewels, are all over the place in Zion National Park. They most common hummingbirds are the black-chinned and broad-tailed hummingbirds, which are most observed during the breeding season, and the rufous hummingbird is commonly seen passing through Zion in late summer as it migrates to the south. You can find them in the lush canyon below the Virgin River finding food and shelter around the Fremont Cottonwood trees. Additionally, you can find different kinds of species around the wildflowers in the desert terrains.
Ravens are intelligent and adaptable creatures that you are likely used to seeing. But get your cameras ready: seeing their black exterior contrast against the red rock sandstone cliffs in Zion National Park. It’s quite the sight! One key trait of the raven is its omnivorous diet. This allows it to survive the harsh climates of Zion’s deserts with multiple resources for food. Keep an ear out for these guys if you’re exploring the Zion deserts!