Sunday, November 3, 2019

24 Backyard Birds to Know | Utah

[2022 Rewrite]

I've put this resource together for you to answer your question: What birds are in my backyard in Utah?

This article lists and discusses the identification of the most common birds in your backyard. The birds chosen in this article are compiled from actual data from the citizen science program eBird. Thus, it is more accurate than some other similar articles you may find on the web. I provide pictures of each bird species mentioned. I tell how to attract them to your backyard.


These are the most common backyard birds in Utah:

  1. American Robin
  2. House Finch
  3. European Starling
  4. Black-billed Magpie
  5. Dark-eyed Junco
  6. House Sparrow
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. Black-capped Chickadee
  9. Red-winged Blackbird
  10. Song Sparrow
  11. Northern Flicker
  12. Eurasian Collared-Dove
  13. White-crowned Sparrow
  14. Lesser Goldfinch
  15. Barn Swallow
  16. Spotted Towhee
  17. Western Meadowlark
  18. American Goldfinch
  19. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
  20. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  21. Western Kingbird
  22. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  23. Cliff Swallow
  24. Black-headed Grosbeak




What's in this article?

  • State overview of birds and bird watching in Utah
  • Photos and identification of common backyard birds
  • Most common birds by season
  • Common birds of Salt Lake City, St. George, Utah



Utah Birds and Birding in Utah State


eBird lists over 465 types of birds as occurring in the state of Utah.

The most common bird in Utah: the most frequently seen bird in the state is American Robin. It is reported on 36% of bird watching lists.

The official State Bird of Utah is California Gull.

If you are serious about knowing the birds native to Utah, then check out eBird for Utah. It has recent sightings and photos, illustrated checklists with weekly abundance bar charts for state, counties, and individual hotspots of the best birding locations.

If you want to know about other people interested in birds in your area, join a local bird group. The American Birding Association maintains a list of bird watching clubs for each state.



My other pages for birds in Utah:

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Utah





Utah Bird Identification (Pictures of backyard birds of Utah)


This section is the species accounts. These are designed to help you to recognize birds you see in your backyard. I have used eBird to select the birds that are most common. “Common” means the birds seen most often throughout the year, not necessarily the most numerous.

Each species account starts with an image. I have tried to use my own personal photographs of each species, if I have them. But I've done my bird photography mostly in the West. Thus, I've had to rely on others for pictures of some common Eastern birds. I always make sure the bird images (mine and others) are correctly identified.

In the identification section I am using size and shape and bill type before considering the color or patterns on the birds. I find these more reliable when trying to identify an unknown bird. Pay attention to body and tail shape and especially bill shape of birds you see, not just plumage color.

I have written an article on how to identify birds, it is slightly different from other popular identification methods. Check it out if you wish: 7 Steps to Identify Birds.

In the section on bird feeders and foods I tell how to attract each species. Not all types of backyard birds will come to feeders. But all backyard birds can be attracted with water. So don't forget to add a birdbath to your bird feeding station.

Do you live in Northern Utah? Southern Utah? To appear in this article, most birds are widely distributed throughout the state and are often year-round residents. However, for those birds that are more localized in place or time, I list the general region and seasonality. Please see the section following these species accounts for the lists of common species by season.

Even if a species is found in a general area, they occur only in the habitat they prefer. So, the exact habitat of your neighborhood is important for the presence of absence of certain kinds of birds.



1. American Robin

Turdus migratorius

This familiar bird is a resident in the northern half of the United States and a winter visitor in the southern half.


Photo of American Robin
American Robin. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: American Robins are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: 10 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the same size as a Blue Jay or one of the Scrub-Jays. Larger than Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. 

Shape: Very plump with a fairly long tail. 

Bill: Straight and fairly slender, curved at the tip. 

Color: Gray-brown upperparts, rusty orange breast.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands, farmlands, urban parks and lawns. 

Migratory, breeds north across Alaska and Canada. Resident in most of the United States (lower 48). Winters in the United States, Mexico, to central America. 

Hops on your lawn turning head this way and that looking for food. Their caroling song is one of the early signs of spring in the north.

Food and feeder preference: American Robins eat earthworms and other invertebrates in the lawn. May eat fruit from a tray feeder or the ground. Eat small berries from trees and bushes.


2. House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

These are one of the most common backyard birds in the United States. There are other red finches, but these are the ones most likely in residential areas.


Photo of a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: House Finches are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 6 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Larger than goldfinches and chickadees. Smaller than a White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Medium build with a medium-long notched tail. Round head. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Brown and gray above with streaks on the sides of the pale underparts. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

Habitat, range & behavior: You'll find small flocks on wires, in short treetops and in bushes. Originally deserts and grasslands. Rural areas and towns are where they're now most common. 

Formerly found in the western United States and Mexico. Then introduced into the northeastern United States, but now found in nearly all of the lower-48 states and extreme southern Canada. Rare in plains states (Dakotas to Texas) and southern Florida. 

House Finches are not territorial, but males sing throughout the year--a lively, wiry song ending in a couple of buzzy notes.

Food and feeder preference: House Finches love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting House Finches.


3. European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Introduced to North America in the late 1800's, they crossed the continent, often to the detriment of native cavity-nesting birds. The prime example of an invasive species.


Photo of European Starling
European Starling. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: European Starlings are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. 

Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. 

Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. 

Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. 

Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. 

Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. 

In winter they can form into flocks of tens of thousands.

Food and feeder preference: European Starlings eat primarily insects when available, often feeding on the ground. Discourage them from your backyard hopper and tray feeders by never feeding birds table scraps (including bread or meat). They have weak feet and do not perch well on tube feeders. A cage mesh around smaller hopper feeders may keep them out.


4. Black-billed Magpie

Pica hudsonia

This large flashy bird with a long tail is a ranchland bird in the West. The only similar bird in North America is the Yellow-billed Magpie of the Central Valley of California.


Photo of Black-billed Magpie foraging on the ground
Black-billed Magpie. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Black-billed Magpies are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of an American Crow, but with a longer tail. 

Shape: Thick neck, large head, strong legs. A very long pointed tail: the distance from the base of the tail to the tip of the tail is nearly as long as from the base of the tail to the tip of the bill. Wings are broad and rounded at the tips. 

Bill: Stout, nearly as long as head. 

Color: Black head, breast, back. White shoulders and belly. Wings black above with bluish or greenish sheen; most of the primaries are white. Tails is blackish with an iridescent blue-green sheen.

Habitat, range & behavior: Magpies are found in dry open country, ranches, farms, scattered open pine lands and riparian thickets. 

They are residents from southern Alaska to the Great Basin and Great Plains to the Dakotas and south to New Mexico. 

Fly with slow wing beats and deep wing strokes displaying large white wing patches. Social. Perch on fence posts. Forage on ground. Calls are noisy, raspy, querulous "yak?"

Food and feeder preference: Omnivore as crows, eating carrion, berries, seeds, nuts, human garbage, pet food. Birders generally don't want this species at their bird feeders. Locals often view these birds as pests.


5. Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

Colloquially called "snowbirds," they often arrive in backyards in winter from nearby mountain forests or more northern climes.


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on a railing
Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Dark-eyed Juncos are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: Small birds about the size of a House Finch. 

Shape: Round body, short neck, round head, fairly long square-ended tail. 

Bill: Short, pointed, conical, pink. 

Color: Eastern birds are a darker all-gray with white belly. Western birds (those breeding in California and pictured above) have jet black hood over their head, brown back, white belly and pink sides. Females paler.

Habitat, range & behavior: Breed in coniferous forests. Winters widely. Avoids heavy brush, preferring widely spaced bushes. 

Breeds across most of Canada, Alaska, and the western half of the United States. Winters from southern Canada and all of the lower 48-states to extreme northern Mexico. 

Spend much of their time hopping and feeding on the ground.

Food and feeder preference: Dark-eyed Juncos eat mostly seeds, also insects in summer. Readily feed at backyard feeders on mixed seeds on hopper or tray feeders and ground.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Dark-eyed Juncos.


6. House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Like the starling, this is another bird introduced from Europe in the 1800's. This sparrow is commonly found in cities and farmlands. It is considered a pest in most areas where it has been introduced.


Photo of House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow. Greg Gillson


Range in Utah: House Sparrows are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: The size of a House Finch or Dark-eyed Junco. 

Shape: Chunkier than native North American sparrows with large head, barrel chest, short neck, medium tail, short legs. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Males are brown and gray with a black mask. Females lack the black and are tan and brown with a pale line back from the eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cities and farms. 

Range in North American from southern Canada through Central America. In summer northward through Canada to southern Alaska. Originated in Middle East and spread to most of Europe and Asia. Introduced in South America, Africa, Australia--nearly anywhere there are people and cities. 

They tend to be messy... and have a good appetite and may occur in large noisy chirping flocks. They are aggressive toward other feeder birds.

Food and feeder preference: They eat grain, seed, and insects. To discourage them from your hopper and tray feeders do not feed birds human food scraps. They have a bit of difficulty eating from tube feeders.


7. Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Mourning Doves are the most widespread and most frequent backyard bird in the Lower 48 states of the United States.


Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 12 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About same size as Northern Flicker. Larger than American Robin. Slightly smaller than domestic city pigeon. 

Shape: Very plump with a small round head. Tail is long and pointed. Legs are short. 

Bill: Small and rather slender. 

Color: Pale brown-pink body, darker wings and tail. White edges on side of tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Semi-open areas such as urban areas, farmlands, woods. Often seen perched on wires, fences. 

It is a resident across the lower-48 states and Mexico, with some movement out of northern areas in winter. 

Their mournful cooing is a familiar spring birdsong.

Food and feeder preference: Mourning Doves eat seeds almost exclusively. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds on a large sturdy tray feeder or on the ground.


8. Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

This is a common backyard bird in the northern half of the United States.


Photo of Black-capped Chickadee on bird bath
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson


Range in Utah: Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents in northern and eastern Utah, absent in southwestern Utah.

Identification: 

Size: Chickadees are small birds, the same general size as an American Goldfinch. 

Shape: Round body, big round head, long tail with rounded tip. 

Bill: Short, straight, stout. 

Color: Gray above, buffy below. Black cap and bib with white lower face. White edges on wing feathers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous and mixed forests. 

They range from the northern half of the United States, southern half of Canada, and most of Alaska. 

Small flocks flit actively from tree to tree acrobatically gleaning insects from twig tips. In winter chickadees make up the core of mixed-species flocks also containing nuthatches, kinglets, creepers, woodpeckers and others.

Food and feeder preference: Seeds, insects, berries. They eat at tube, hopper and tray feeders. They love black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Black-capped Chickadees.


9. Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

These noisy flocking birds are most often found in marshes. But in winter they are found in backyards.


Photo of singing Red-winged Blackbird
Male Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Photo of female Red-winged Blackbird in tree
Female Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Red-winged Blackbirds are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird.

Size: About 8-3/4 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Northern Cardinal. Smaller than an American Robin.

Shape: Pot-bellied with a longer bill and flat forehead. Tail average.

Bill: Long and sharp pointed.

Color: Males are black with red and yellow shoulder patch. Females are streaked brown and rusty (sparrow-like but pointed bill and flat forehead).

Habitat, range, and behavior: Cattail marshes and wetlands are their summer habitat. In winter they feed in grain fields.

They breed across most of the North American continent. In winter they withdraw from most of Alaska and Canada.

They are found in colonies in summer and large flocks in winter.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects in summer. In winter they eat grain and seeds. They visit feeders, more often in large winter flocks, and eat most seeds and suet.


10. Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.


Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Song Sparrows are year-round residents throughout most of Utah, absent in southeastern Utah.

Identification: 

Size: A smaller bird, similar in size to House Finch and juncos. Larger than chickadees and goldfinches. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Plump with round head, long rounded tail. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Highly variable in darkness and color saturation across its range (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range & behavior: Thickets, especially near water. Backyard shrubbery. 

Resident in western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, northeastern US. In summer also moves into mid-Canada and northern half of US. In the winter found in most of the US lower-48. Also, a population in central Mexico.

Forages on ground, never far from low cover to which they fly if startled.

Food and feeder preference: Song Sparrows feed on seeds and insects near the ground. Will visit hopper and tray feeders for mixed bird seed.


11. Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

This ant-eating woodpecker spends a lot of time hopping and probing on the ground. This behavior confuses many beginners who don't know what to make of the long bill, red wing linings, and white rump. When the males drum loudly on their downspouts at dawn in spring, then they know it's a woodpecker!


Photo of Northern Flicker on stump
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Mourning Dove. Larger than a robin. 

Shape: Stocky with short legs, short tail, big head. 

Bill: As long as head, thin, slightly curved. 

Color: Back is brown with black bars. Under parts pinkish with black spots. Undersides of black wing and tail feathers are bright salmon red (West) or yellow (East). Head gray (West) or brown (East) and males with red (West) or black (East) whisker marks and nape marks (East). Black crescent across chest. White rump seen in flight.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in woodland edges and forests. 

Year-round resident from extreme southern Canada, across all of the lower-48 states and in the mountains of Mexico and Middle America. In summer breeds northward well into Canada and Alaska. 

Frequently noted hopping on ground pecking in the ground for insects. In late spring, males proclaim their territory by rapid pounding on a hollow tree branch, though the ringing of metal downspouts at dawn is louder and carries much farther, to the exasperation of anyone trying to sleep inside!

Food and feeder preference: Ants and beetles are their primary foods. Will eat black oil sunflower seeds and are attracted to suet.


12. Eurasian Collared-Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

These large pale pigeons have only been in the United States since invading Florida in 1983. But they have taken over much of the continent.


Photo of Eurasian Collared-Dove on shepherds hook
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Eurasian Collared-Doves are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification:

Size: Large pigeon. Larger than Mourning Dove. Same size as domestic pigeon.

Shape: Full plump breast. Round head. Long square tail.

Bill: Small, blunt.

Color: Cream-colored, may be slightly warmer brown on back or, conversely, may be nearly white. Black hind neck mark. Broad white band at end of tail. From underneath when perched on wire, note the black base to the underside of the tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: These pigeons are found in residential areas and farmlands. Look for them perched on electric lines or in trees.

They are year-round residents in residential areas throughout almost all of the United States, except rare in the Northeast.

A pair of birds nest in one area nearly year-round, then build in numbers over a couple of years. Then several birds from the group fly up to 500 miles and set up a new colony. In this way this species took over much of Europe in the last century, and most of North America, starting from Florida in 1983 (from birds escaped from or vagrant in Bahamas).

Food and feeder preference: Eat grain. Will eat all seeds at bird feeders. Large, hungry, and often visit feeders in groups.


13. White-crowned Sparrow

Zonotrichia leucophrys

A common winter visitor to backyards throughout the United States.


Photo of White-crowned Sparrow in Douglas-fir
White-crowned Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: White-crowned Sparrows are year-round residents in central and northern Utah, winter visitors throughout.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 7 inches. A large sparrow near size of Spotted/Eastern towhee. Larger than House Finch. Smaller than Starling or Red-winged Blackbird. 

Shape: Longer plump body, round head, long tail. 

Bill: Short and conical. 

Color: Brown back, wings, tail, gray under parts, black-and-white striped crown. For their first year immature birds have tan and reddish-brown striped crowns.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open and shrubby areas. 

Various forms breed across the Arctic Canada and Alaska and in mountains in western Canada and the United States. 

They sing in spring migration as they move northward. Different populations have slightly different songs.

Food and feeder preference: White-crowned Sparrows eat weed seeds, grain, insects. Eat black oil sunflower seeds and other seeds on hopper and tray feeders.


14. Lesser Goldfinch

Spinus psaltria

This bird replaces American Goldfinch in drier parts of the southwestern US.


Photo of Lesser Goldfinch in willow
Lesser Goldfinch. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Lesser Goldfinches are summer residents thoughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: A small bird. Slightly smaller than American Goldfinch, but close. 

Shape: Big head, neckless, short forked tail. 

Bill: Short, small, conical. 

Color: Green back, yellow underparts including under tail coverts. Black wings and tail with white marks. Male with black cap on forecrown. Keeps the same bright yellow plumage year-round, unlike American Goldfinch.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open scrubby woodlands of oak or other trees, fields, grasslands. 

Found in the western and southwestern US, into the Great Basin in summer. Found southward to Middle America. 

They sometimes gather into flocks of hundreds to feed in weedy fields.

Food and feeder preference: Lesser Goldfinches eat mostly thistle seeds, some insects. At your feeder they will eat black oil sunflower seeds at a tube feeder but prefer Niger seeds in a "thistle sock" feeder.


15. Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

These swallows are widely distributed throughout the world, primarily breeding in the northern hemisphere, and wintering in the mid-latitudes and southern hemisphere.


Photo of a Barn Swallow on a barbed wire fence
Barn Swallow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Barn Swallows are summer residents throughout Utah.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a House Finch but with a much longer tail. 

Shape: Stocky, short necked but with long body and tail. Tail is forked, with very long outer tail feathers. Wings pointed. 

Bill: Short, wide. 

Color: Glossy dark purplish-blue above. Pinkish orange below. 

Habitat, range & behavior: Barn Swallows live in open country, frequently near humans. Farmlands. Nest in barns, under small bridges. 

In North America breed from Mexico to northern Canada and Alaska, wintering from southern Mexico throughout most of South America. 

Frequently seen swooping low over the ground hunting flying insects. Perch on wires, fences. Voice is twitters and chirps with grating sounds. 

Food and feeder preference: Eat flying insects on the wing and are not attracted to backyard feeders.


16. Spotted Towhee

Pipilo maculatus

Look for this bird scratching in the leaf litter under bushes at the edge of your yard.


Photo of a Spotted Towhee on a rock
Spotted Towhee. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Spotted Towhees are year-round residents throughout most of Utah, summer residents only in northeastern Utah.

Identification: 

Size: A large sparrow, slightly larger than a White-crowned Sparrow. Larger than a House Finch. Smaller than a starling. 

Shape: A plump, large-headed sparrow with a full rounded tail. 

Bill: Short, pointed, conical. 

Color: Black above including hood. Variable number of white spots on back and wings depending upon location. White tail corners. White belly. Rusty orange sides. Red eye. Females paler, more brownish.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in brushy areas, chaparral, mountain forest understory. 

Found throughout the western half of the United States, mountains of Mexico. In summer to southwestern Canada. In winter to Texas. 

They scratch for food on the ground, turning over leaf litter under bushes.

Food and feeder preference: Spotted Towhees eat insects, seeds, and berries. At your birdfeeder will eat seeds on ground or platform feeder.


17. Western Meadowlark

Sturnella neglecta

These are beautiful songsters of the prairie grasslands.


Photo of Western Meadowlark on fenceline
Western Meadowlark. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Western Meadowlarks are year-round residents in central and southern Utah, but only summer residents in northern Utah.

Identification:

Size: Bigger than a European Starling, smaller than an American Robin.

Shape: Stocky and pot-bellied, with short tail and flat forehead profile.

Bill: Long, straight, and sharp pointed.

Color: Straw and brown-colored upper parts. Bright yellow below with black necklace. White outer tail feathers. Duller in winter.

Habitat, range, & behavior: Fields, pastures, prairies.

The summer across the West from the Great Lakes to the Pacific, and western Canada to western Texas, and into Mexico. Move out of Canada in winter and spread to Gulf Coast.

Forage on fields and bare grounds, often found with cattle. In flocks in winter.

Foods and feeder preference: Grain and insects. They do not come to feeders.


18. American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in its bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary."


Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson


Range in Utah: American Goldfinches are year-round residents in northern Utah, winter visitors only in southern Utah.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: Very small at about 5 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Similar in size to a chickadee. Larger than hummingbirds. Smaller than juncos and House Finches. 

Shape: Tiny, somewhat plump with larger head and short tail. 

Bill: Short, conical, pink. 

Color: Males in summer are bright lemon yellow with black forehead and black wings and tail with white bars. White under tail coverts. Females are dull olive, wings and tail browner. Winter birds are pale grayish-yellow with tan and brown wings and tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: This species is found in weedy fields and similar clearings with thistles and similar plants. 

It is found coast-to-coast throughout the year across most of the middle lower-48 states. In summer moves north to the Canada border. In the winter found south to the Mexico border. 

The flight is highly undulating, rising and falling as they flap in short bursts. 

Besides a long, sweet lilting song, they call in flight a lilting 4-part: "potato chip!"

Food and feeder preference: Feeds on weed seeds, thistle seed. May eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeder. Love Nyjer seed in a feeder called a "thistle sock."

You may like my in-depth article on attracting American Goldfinches.


19. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma woodhouseii

A scrub-jay of the Mountain West is a bit more shy than other jays. But it still visits backyards.


Photo of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay on ground
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. Veronika Andews. Pixabay.


Range in Utah: Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays are year-round residents throughout Utah.

Identification:

Size: This bird is the size of an American Robin or Northern Mockingbird. They are larger than a European Starling or Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. 

Shape: Strong body, thick neck, big head. Long legs. Fairly long full tail. 

Bill: Medium-long, stout, rather straight. 

Color: Blue-gray upperparts, wings and tail. Gray back. Black bill and mask. Gray under parts.

Habitat, range & behavior: Pinyon pine and juniper, adjacent residential areas. 

Found in the Great Basin mountains south into Mexico. 

They forage on the ground, caching food in fall to save for later winter.

Food and feeder preference: Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays are omnivorous; they eat insects, berries, small animals, bird eggs. At hopper and tray feeders they may harass other birds, and gulp down large quantities of black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts to go bury. Thus, some people put wire mesh cages over their hopper and tube feeders to keep the jays out--smaller birds can get through the mesh.


20. Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata

An abundant winter visitor in California to treetops and weedy areas.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Yellow-rumped Warblers are summer residents throughout Utah, year-round residents in extreme southwestern Utah.

Identification: 

Size: Small, they are a bit larger than chickadees and goldfinches. They are smaller than House Finches and juncos. 

Shape: Plump and neckless with a shorter tail. 

Bill: Short, slender, straight, pointed. 

Color: Breeding plumage in spring is blue-gray on the upper parts, black sides and chest, yellow rump, yellow on sides. Two forms: western form with yellow throat and large white wing patch; eastern and northern form with white throat and two white wing bars. In winter plumage both forms are gray-brown above, pale cream below. Yellow rump and white tail corners in flight.

Habitat, range & behavior: In breeding season mostly in coniferous or mixed forests, in mountains in west. In winter open areas with fruiting shrubs and scattered trees. 

Breed across Canada and Alaska and in conifer forests in the west. Winter along both coasts and the southern states through Middle America. There are also non-migratory forms in Mexico and Guatemala. 

They tend to forage in outer branches about half way up the tree.

Food and feeder preference: Yellow-rumped Warblers eat mainly insects in the summer. They switch to waxy berries and fruit in winter. They are thus able to winter farther north than other warblers. They are attracted to suet feeders.


21. Western Kingbird

Tyrannus verticalis

You may note these birds aggressively and noisily chasing off other birds, such as crows and hawks, from their territories. And other interloping Western Kingbirds, of course.


Photo of Western Kingbird in tree branches
Western Kingbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Western Kingbirds are summer residents throughout Utah.

Identification:

Size: Larger than phoebes. Smaller than American Robins. The same size as Red-winged Blackbirds.

Shape: Long body with heavy chest. Large head with raised hind crown. Large bill. Long full tail. Upright posture.

Bill: Fairly long, but shorter than head, stout and wide at the base.

Color: Gray head, back, and chest. Yellow belly. Brown wings. Black tail with contrasting white outer tail feathers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open country.

Summers in the western half of the United States and adjacent southern Canada.

Perches on electric wires, fence lines. Chases flying insects and returns to perch.

Food and feeder preference: Feeds on flying insects. Does not come to feeders.


22. Black-chinned Hummingbird

Archilochus alexandri

The throat feathers of all male hummingbirds are black. Only when light is refracted at just the right angle do those brilliant gemstone colors appear. For this species, however, the throat appears black all the time, except for some deep purple feathers at the bottom of the gorget.


Photo of Black-chinned Hummingbird on twigs
Black-chinned Hummingbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Black-chinned Hummingbirds are summer residents throughout Utah.

Identification:

Size: Tiny. 

Shape: Round body with large head and not much neck. Tail fairly long for a hummingbird. Long wings don't quite extend to tail tip when perched. Long needle-like bill.

Bill: Long tubular, slightly downcurved.

Color: Green above and crown. White below with dusky green sides. White wraps up part way around neck like a collar, strongly contrasts with dark throat of male. Female has white throat, gray crown.

Habitat, range & behavior: River canyons, arid areas. Sycamores, oaks.

Summer residents in deserts of the West and Southwest from interior British Columbia south through California and Texas.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects and spiders, flower nectar. Readily come to hummingbird feeders.


23. Cliff Swallow

Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

These colonial-nesting birds build gourd-shaped mud nests on cliffs, under the eaves of barns, and under highway overpasses. You will most often notice them in flight.


Photo of Cliff Swallow on fence wire
Cliff Swallow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Cliff Swallows are summer residents throughout Utah.

Identification:

Size: Small birds, smaller than House Finches, larger than American Goldfinches.

Shape: In flight note round head, short square tail, pointed wings.

Bill: Short, wide.

Color: Dark blue back with pale stripes, dark wings and tail. Pale under parts. Large buff rump patch. Crown dark blue. Throat dark rusty. White forehead.

Habitat, range, and behavior: Fly over open country, canyons, farmlands.

In summer they occur nearly everywhere from Alaska and Canada southward through Mexico. Leave entire region in winter.

Fly high chasing bugs, skimming over ponds, trapping them against cliffs. In spring you may note them at mud puddles scooping up bills full of mud to build their nests. In fall migration more likely to be noted on roadside wires.

Food and feeder preference: Feed on flying insects. Do not occur at feeder.


24. Black-headed Grosbeak

Pheucticus melanocephalus

This is the western counterpart of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak that is common in the East.


Photo of Black-headed Grosbeak in feeder
Black-headed Grosbeak. Greg Gillson.


Range in Utah: Black-headed Grosbeaks are summer residents throughout Utah.

Identification:

Size: Larger than Spotted Towhee. Smaller than American Robin. Similar in size to Red-winged Blackbird.

Shape: Kind of a chunky bird with pot belly. Large head. Somewhat short tail.

Bill: Very heavy and stout. Triangular.

Color: Males: black face. Black and orange striped back. Wings black with white patches and spots. Tail black with white corners. Underparts orange, yellow on the belly. Females and young for first year-and-a-half: face striped black and cream. Pale orange and yellow under parts. Striped brown and orange back. Wings brownish with white wing bars.

Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous woods and large shade trees in residential yards.

Breeds in western Canada and western United States. Winters in Mexico.

Males often sing a robin-like song from the top of a large shade tree, such as a big leaf maple.

Food and feeder preference: Beetles, spiders, fruit, seeds, and berries are favorite foods. At backyard hopper feeder they love black oil sunflower seeds.





Common Birds in Utah (Lists of most common feeder birds and most common backyard birds by season)


To determine how common each species is I used the data from actual bird sightings from the citizen science program eBird. Birds are listed by frequency. That is, how often the species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird (a percentage).

When choosing the birds to include in this article I leaned strongly to birds that are present throughout the year in good numbers. Thus, many of the common birds are year-round residents. This means that they live in the same location all year. They raise their young in your neighborhood. They don't migrate. Or if the species does migrate, the ones living in your area don't. If this is the case, some migrants may move into your area during certain times of year, adding to the same species that are in your yard full time.

Some migrant birds visit your yard during the “summer.” Often, they arrive in spring and remain until late fall. They nest and raise their young in your neighborhood. These are the summer residents.

Other migrant birds visit your backyard during the “winter.” Some of these winter visitors may arrive in July and remain into April. Others may only be found in the cold of December or January. They key here is that they nest and raise their young somewhere else. They only visit your yard in the non-breeding season.

Migration is an amazing spectacle. There will be birds that fly through your region in spring or fall (or both). They may visit your backyard only a few days or weeks a year. They aren't regular enough, or stay long enough, to be included in this article. But the number of briefly visiting migrant birds could double the number of species presented here. You may see them over time. Consult checklists in eBird for your county to see what is possible.

I have generally excluded common waterfowl, birds of prey, shorebirds, seabirds, and others that aren't usually found in residential areas. But they may certainly fly over or be seen regularly if your home is on a shoreline, for instance.



Most common backyard birds in Utah throughout the year


The following list is the backyard birds that are, on average, most common throughout the entire year. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Utah, in order, are these:

  1. American Robin (36% frequency)
  2. House Finch (32%)
  3. European Starling (29%)
  4. Black-billed Magpie (28%)
  5. Dark-eyed Junco (24%)
  6. House Sparrow (22%)
  7. Mourning Dove (21%)
  8. Black-capped Chickadee (21%)
  9. Red-winged Blackbird (21%)
  10. Song Sparrow (21%)
  11. Northern Flicker (21%)
  12. Eurasian Collared-Dove (20%)
  13. White-crowned Sparrow (15%)
  14. Lesser Goldfinch (14%)
  15. Barn Swallow (13%)
  16. Spotted Towhee (12%)
  17. Western Meadowlark (12%)
  18. American Goldfinch (12%)
  19. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (12%)
  20. Yellow-rumped Warbler (12%)



Most common backyard birds in Utah in winter


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in winter. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in Utah in winter (December through February) are these:

  1. Dark-eyed Junco (43%)
  2. European Starling (34% frequency)
  3. House Finch (34%)
  4. Black-billed Magpie (32%)
  5. American Robin (26%)
  6. House Sparrow (26%)
  7. Northern Flicker (26%)
  8. Black-capped Chickadee (25%)
  9. Eurasian Collared-Dove (22%)
  10. Song Sparrow (20%)
  11. White-crowned Sparrow (19%)
  12. Red-winged Blackbird (16%)



Most common backyard birds in Utah in summer


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer (June and July). The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in Utah in summer (June and July) are these:

  1. American Robin (49% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (33%)
  3. House Finch (27%)
  4. Barn Swallow (24%)
  5. Western Kingbird (22%)
  6. Black-chinned Hummingbird (21%)
  7. Song Sparrow (20%)
  8. House Sparrow (20%)
  9. European Starling (19%)
  10. Black-billed Magpie (19%)
  11. Red-winged Blackbird (19%)
  12. Eurasian Collared-Dove (18%)
  13. Cliff Swallow (17%)
  14. Black-capped Chickadee (16%)
  15. Black-headed Grosbeak (16%)



How do birds differ between winter and summer?

European Starlings, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-billed Magpies, Black-capped Chickadees are more common in winter.

American Robins, Mourning Doves, Barn Swallows, Western Kingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Cliff Swallows, Black-headed Grosbeaks are more common in summer.





Common Backyard Birds of Salt Lake City, Utah


Photo of a Black-capped Chickadee at a bird bath
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City is in Salt Lake County. I will use the data for Salt Lake County to represent the birds of the Salt Lake City area.

Backyard birds in nearby Ogden and Park City are similar to those in Salt Lake City.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Salt Lake City:

  1. House Finch (47% frequency)
  2. American Robin (45%)
  3. Black-capped Chickadee (41%)
  4. European Starling (40%)
  5. Mourning Dove (35%)
  6. Black-billed Magpie (34%)
  7. House Sparrow (33%)
  8. Dark-eyed Junco (27%)
  9. Song Sparrow (26%)
  10. Northern Flicker (26%)
  11. Lesser Goldfinch (25%)
  12. Eurasian Collared-Dove (21%)
  13. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (20%)
  14. Rock Pigeon (20%)  Learn about this species on eBird



American Robins, House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, European Starlings, Mourning Doves, House Sparrows are more common in Salt Lake City than in the average for the state of Utah as a whole. The residential plantings and water no doubt contribute to higher populations of many bird species there.





Common Backyard Birds of St. George, Utah


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in St. George. The city of St. George is in Washington County. I will use the data for Washington County to represent the birds of the St. George area.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in St. George:

  1. House Finch (37% frequency)
  2. White-crowned Sparrow (31%)
  3. Mourning Dove (25%)
  4. American Robin (24%)
  5. House Sparrow (24%)
  6. Lesser Goldfinch (22%)
  7. Eurasian Collared-Dove (22%)
  8. Say's Phoebe (19%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  9. Yellow-rumped Warbler (19%)
  10. Northern Flicker (17%)
  11. Song Sparrow (16%)
  12. Dark-eyed Junco (15%)
  13. Abert's Towhee (15%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  14. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (15%)  Learn about this species on eBird



White-crowned Sparrows are more common in St. George than average for the state.

American Robins, European Starlings, Black-billed Magpies are less common in St. George than average for the state.





Related: 

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Utah

34 of the most common birds in the United States (with photos)









12 comments:

  1. Thanks for helping me identify the birds flying around our backyard I've been putting bird seed out for them to eat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad I could help! Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. Is there a website that identifies the various bird calls common to Northern Utah?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, indeed, S Brown!

      eBird.org allows you to find common birds in every country, state, and county, as well as individual parks, wildlife refuges, or favorite locale.

      Choose the illustrated checklist and you can see photos of birds taken in those exact locations and their abundance week by week throughout the year.

      Click on the bird name to see other photos and audio recordings taken in the exact location you specify.

      Delete
  3. Great web site. It helped me identify what initially looked like "a sparrow with a red head" nesting in my back yard as a house finch. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for this page and the suggestion of ebird.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this wonderful list and pictures! It helped my daughter identify the Northern Flicker as a bird she saw trying to balance on the bird feeder recently. I would have never known. We learned a lot from this listing. Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love your list of backyard birds in Utah! We loved backyard birding in So. California so it's neat to see we should be able to attract many familiar species, plus a few new ones. Very comprehensive and informative posting. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Susan. And, you visited after I updated it to include about double the number of backyard birds as the original article!

      Delete

Thank you so much for visiting! Would you please leave a comment to let me know what you thought and how I can make this resource better for you?

--Greg--

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