This hotspot on the Great Salt Lake attracts pelicans, cranes, and avocets in spring, gulls and terns in fall, and Tundra Swans and Bald Eagles in winter.
By Lu Giddings | Published: 4/22/2011
The Great Salt Lake provides essential habitat for millions of migrating and breeding birds. At Farmington Bay, we birdwatchers can see many of them and often in substantial numbers. More than 200 species have been seen in the area, and nearly 60 are known to nest here.
I enjoy visiting during the cold months. Utah provides a winter home for hundreds of Bald Eagles, and many of them congregate in the area. Despite few trees, I have seen more than 70 eagles in one morning, most of them standing on the ice eating dead carp, while ravens and Black-billed Magpies squabbled for the leftovers. I also love to visit in December and early spring when Tundra Swans pass through in the thousands, the air crowded with flight after flight of the magnificent birds.
Spring is a great time for waterfowl, waders, shorebirds, and raptors. To protect nesting birds, a significant portion of the WMA is closed in spring and summer. But the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, to be held this year May 12-16, offers a behind-the-gates opportunity to visit the sensitive off-limit areas. — Lu Giddings
Lu Giddings is a chemist and a teacher. He is the secretary of the Utah Birds Records Committee, and he has led dozens of field trips for bird clubs and birding events across the state. He blogs at AudubonGuides.com.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, mudflats, open salt water, dirt roads, and dikes.
Mostly flat, but irregular on roads and dikes. Deep mud can be a problem if you stray off paths. A 1.5-mile trail at the nature center is wheelchair-accessible.
Winter: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Tundra Swan, and nearly 30 other waterfowl species, Eared Grebe, American Pipit, American Tree Sparrow. Spring: Western and Clark’s Grebes, American White Pelican, White-faced Ibis, Sandhill Crane, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Snowy Plover. Summer: Western and Eastern Kingbirds, six swallow species, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Western Meadowlark. Fall: Franklin’s and Bonaparte’s Gulls, Forster’s and Black Terns, migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and waders.
When to go
Restrooms at the main entrance and at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center.
State wildlife management area. No fees. Open year-round from 8-5, but access to substantial sections is limited from March 1 to September 15. Some portions are closed to motorized vehicles but remain open to foot and bicycle traffic, while other areas are closed to all access.
Spotting scope strongly suggested. About 0.65 miles east of the road to the main entrance is an unnamed county road that travels south, roughly paralleling the area’s eastern boundary. It can be difficult to drive when wet, but the views it provides make it a worthwhile sidetrip.
For more info
Antelope Island Causeway
Less than 20 miles from Farmington Bay; take exit 332 off I-15 and go west seven miles. Open terrain is great for shorebirds.
Pineview Reservoir and Huntsville
About 30 miles northeast of Farmington Bay. Fox Sparrow, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat, and migrating Calliope Hummingbirds.