Since water is a scarce resource in the high desert, birds are found in abundance where it does occur. Many small ponds and lakes formed by spring rains and snow melt provide temporary homes for a surprising number of waterbirds, such as ducks, geese, shorebirds, herons, and gulls. Even swans are sighted regularly during the spring migration north to Canada. A few small riparian areas and aspen clumps provide shelter for warblers, vireos, catbirds, orioles, woodpeckers, and more. Small marshes on the northern edge of the lava flow attract blackbirds, wrens, and herons.
Much of the park is covered by shrublands and many specialist species can be found here. Birds such as Brewer’s Sparrows, Sage Sparrows, Sage Thrasher, and Sage Grouse, are found in much higher numbers than in similar areas with more human activity. Limber pine, rocky mountain, and Utah juniper stands growing in cinder gardens and kipuka areas offer habitat to woodpeckers, flycatchers, chickadees, nuthatches, warblers, sparrows, and finches. These patches of trees in the midst of a vast sea of shrublands and barren lava flows are a beacon to many migrating birds, such as warblers, sparrows, and flycatchers, which reside here for brief periods in the spring and fall.
Even the seemingly barren lava flows provide shelter for Mountain Bluebirds, Violet-green Swallows, and Rock Wrens. During the long, cold winters that are characterized by blowing snow and temperatures well below freezing, birds are still found at Craters of the Moon. Ravens, nutcrackers, and chickadees live here all year. Mountain and arctic birds that stay for the winter include Black and Gray Crowned Rosy-finches, Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Shrikes, Snow Buntings, and in some years even Snowy Owls or Gyrfalcons.
Did You Know?
Craters of the Moon is a HUGE national park! It is over 1,100 square miles (over 750,000 acres) which is roughly the size of Rhode Island. The young lava flows that make up the bulk of the Monument and Preserve can clearly be seen from space.