Our Observations

Great Horned Owl

Common Name: Great Horned Owl

Scientific NameBubo virginianus

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Over this spring and summer, the Hutchings Museum observed a family of Great Horned Owls nesting on the east side of the Utah Lake property. We can say that 3 baby Great Horned Owls successfully fledged from the nest.

The Great Horned Owl (also known as the tiger owl) is one of the most adaptable bird species in terms of habitat. They live in North and South America in environments that can range from swamps to deserts. Their name comes from the tufts of feathers that stick up off their head resembling horns. Great horned owls nest in barns, tree trunks, and abandoned nests.  

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Observations

Great Blue Heron

Common Name: Great Blue Heron

Scientific Name: Ardea herodias

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

The Great Blue Heron is North America’s largest heron. These herons are a part of the family Ardeidae. They can be found in wetlands and open waters ranging from Central America to North America. Great Blue Herons can be identified by their white-blue wings, brown-red thighs, grey neck with black and white streaks.

Observations

American White Pelican

Common Name: American White Pelican

Scientific Name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Just south of the shore, the American White Pelican can be found on small patches of land. Unlike other pelicans, the American White Pelican does not dive; instead they swim after their prey.

Observations

American Robin

Common Name: American Robin

Scientific NameTurdus migratorius

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

This common bird is found all across North America and are a familiar sight to lawns, cities, and wilderness. Be sure to keep an ear out, as these birds commonly love to sing and can be easily found through their song. American Robins commonly hunt earthworms and other ground-dwelling invertebrates.

Observations

Belted Kingfisher

Common Name: Belted Kingfisher

Scientific NameMegaceryle alcyon

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Belted Kingfishers are common across streams and shorelines in North America. They use their large hefty bill to catch aquatic fish and crayfish, and will frequently dive under water in pursuit of prey. Males have a single blue band across a white breast, while females have a blue and chestnut colored band. Baby kingfishers, called nestlings, have an acidic stomach that can digest bones, fish scales, and arthropod shells. By the time they leave the nest their stomach chemistry changes and they no longer have the ability to digest these things, and instead regurgitate pellets-  a trait commonly seen in owls, but found in many other bird species as well.

Observations

Franklin’s Gull

Common Name: Franklin’s Gull

Scientific NameLeucophaeus pipixcan

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

A smaller species of gull, Franklin’s Gulls are a migratory visitor in Utah, usually appearing in early spring and staying through the fall. They spend winters in balmy Chile and Peru, and stop in Utah as they migrate to Canada for the summer. Frequently confused with the slightly larger species of Laughing Gull, Franklin’s Gulls are smaller but still have the same laughing cry. Their conservation status is currently declining, and efforts are being made to count how many gulls show up and where they are located in order to map the decline of this species.

Observations

Caspian Tern

Common Name: Caspian Tern

Scientific NameHydroprogne Caspian

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

The largest of the terns, Caspian Terns breed along the great salt lake shorefront in Utah, where they can be easily identified with their hefty, robust size, and coral red beak. Terns are frequently found flying over lakes where they will circle and dive into the water for food, usually fish. This species appears to be stable in their population, but as with many birds, land development continues to threaten their breeding grounds.

Observations

Western Osprey

Common Name: Osprey

Scientific NamePandion haliaetus

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

This large hawk-like bird of prey is often found near large lakes, where they frequently dive in the water after fish. They can be identified by their large wingspan, often exceeding five and a half feet. Whiter in color than most birds of prey, from below they are noticed by their white wings with a prominent dark patch along their “wrists”. They frequently hunt fish and will dive feet first into the water to catch them. If you watch carefully, you may see an osprey leave the water with a fish clutched in its talons, where it will carry it off to a prominent perch over lakes to eat their kills. As a worldwide species, their population is not threatened. 

Observations

Marbled Godwit

Common Name: Marbled Godwit

Scientific NameLimosa fedora

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

With a long, slender bill, the Marbled Godwit will spend its time plunging the bill into sand or mud and sweep it about in search of aquatic insects. During migration, they almost exclusively eat aquatic plant tubers by using their bill like scissors and snipping off bits of plants to eat. The destruction and development of its native marsh and prairie habitats have caused this graceful bird to be placed under conservation watch status.

Observations

Western Grebe and Clark’s Grebe

Common Name: Western Grebe

Scientific Name: Aechmophorus occidentals

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Common Name: Clark’s Grebe

Scientific Name: Aechmophorus clarkii

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Both Western Grebes and Clark’s Grebes are found in Utah on lakes with marshy edges. These birds are often found sitting elegantly on the surface of lakes, where they sport a beautiful black and white neck, yellow bills, and bright red eyes. Although they may look similarly, these two are indeed different species! Scientists considered them the same species until 1985, after they learned the two species rarely interbreed despite living together in lakes and have substantial DNA differences. Clark’s Grebes have a brighter yellow bill, and the black cap does not extend down to surround their eyes like it does on the Western Grebe. Their population is stable, but with the removal of native marshes and wetlands their population is expected to decline.

Observations

Western Kingbird

Common Name: Western Kingbird

Scientific Name: Tyrannus verticals

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

With a grey back and lemon yellow belly, the Western Kingbird is a showy bird found in open meadows and fields across Utah and most of the western United States. Kingbirds are insectivores and prefer to hunt from power poles, trees, and other prominent perch overlooking fields where flying insects congregate. During the breeding season these birds become territorial, and have a habit of flashing a rarely seen red patch of feathers on their head to warn off potential intruders. The habitat of the Western Kingbird is expanding due to human activity. By leveling forests and installing power poles, humans have created ideal habitats for hunting and breeding for this bird species.

Observations

Red Winged Blackbird

Common Name: Red Winged Blackbird

Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

An abundant bird year-round in North America and across all of Utah, the Red Winged Blackbird is an easily identifiable bird across marshes, cattails, and roadsides. The males of this species get their name from the red shoulder patches, which grow more pronounced during breeding season. Females are brown with heavy streaking across their bodies. Males are often seen sitting atop reeds in their territory, where they sing their hearts out and fiercely defend their space from anything they perceive as a predator- including humans. Their population is stable.

Observations

Turkey Vulture

Common Name: Turkey Vulture

Scientific Name: Cathartes aura

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

A frequent summer resident in Utah, turkey vultures migrating from Mexico and South America are often the first sign of spring- and when migrating back they are often the last sign of summer’s ending. In the sky they are large, black birds who hold their wings in a V shape and ride columns of warm air to reach higher elevation and can often be seen circling overhead. One of the few birds in North America who has a sense of smell- turkey vultures will use this sense to hunt down their favorite meal- carrion!

Observations

American Kestrel

Common Name: American Kestrel

Scientific Name: Falco sparverius

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Observations

Canada Goose

Common Name: Canada Goose

Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Observations

California Quail

Common Name: California Quail, Valley Quail

Scientific Name: Callipepla californica 

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No

Observations

Sandhill Crane

Common Name: Sandhill Crane

Scientific Name: Grus canadensis

Location: Utah Lake Field Station

Invasive: No