Birds

A large, stork-like bird known as a great blue heron stands on rocks in a river. It is holding a fish with its beak.
A great blue heron holds the results of a successful fishing attempt on the banks of the Green River.

NPS/Dan Johnson

 
Birds are endothermic (warm-blooded) vertebrates that lay eggs and have beaks, feathers, and a lightweight skeleton. Visitors are often surprised to learn that Dinosaur National Monument is home to living dinosaurs, too. While the big ones died out long ago, most paleontologists believe birds are actually direct descendents of theropod (meat-eating) dinosaurs. As such, birds are the only members of the dinosaur lineage alive today. Over 200 species of birds have been confirmed in Dinosaur National Monument, with over one-third of them detected in the pinyon-juniper woodlands. While some birds are part-time residents, others live here year-round.

For a complete list of all the bird species found in Dinosaur National Monument, use the NPS Species tool. A bird checklist for the park is available upon request at the Visitor Centers.
 

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Abundance Key

Learn more about a few of Dinosaur National Monument's birds below. Keep in mind the following definitions regarding bird abundance:

Abundant -- usually observable on any day in suitable habitat
Common -- fairly certain to be seen in suitable habitat
Uncommon -- present but not as likely to be seen
Occasional -- seen a few times during the season
Rare -- seldom seen
 

Year-round Residents

Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) Uncommon
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Rare
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Common
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) Common
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) Common
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii) Common
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) Common
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) Common
Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) Common
 
A male greater sage grouse in full mating plumage, with a brown body, white collar, fanned tail like a turkey, and small patch of yellow above the eye.
Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocerus urophasianus) Male in mating plummage

USFWS / Jeannie Stafford, CC BY 2.0, no changes made

Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)
Uncommon
This is the largest grouse in North America. They are a bit smaller than a goose in size, with chubby bodies, mottled brown feathers, and black bellies. Males have a white ruff about their necks while females have white markings around the eye. During the mating season, between March and May, males puff up yellow air sacs on their chest and fan their tails into a starburst shape to attract females. They remain inconspicuous for the rest of the year, eatings forbs and insects in spring and summer, and sagebrush buds in winter. The sagebrush steppe is their home.
 
A male wild turkey walking in the grass. Brownish body with iridescent feathers, tan and white tail, small featherless head with blue skin around the eye and red skin on the neck.
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), Male at Dinosaur National Monument

NPS / Dan Johnson

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)
Rare

This well-known bird is one of only two domesticated birds native to the Americas (the other is the muskovy duck). Wild turkeys are large, round birds with brown iridescent feathers and long legs. They have small featherless heads covered in blue and red fleshy parts called "waddles." Wild turkeys generally travel in flocks, searching through wooded areas for insects, snails, nuts, and berries. During courtship, males lift their tailfeathers in a round fan and make a distinctive throaty call, called a "gobble."
 
View from below of a red tailed hawk soaring in a clear blue sky. The bird has a dark head, a mix of brown and white barred feathers, and a noticeable reddish-brown tail.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) at John Muir National Historic Site

NPS / Jessica Weinberg McClosky

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Common
In Dinosaur, red-tailed hawks are most often seen soaring in the sky. While there are several different kinds of raptors (predatory birds) in the monument, red-tailed hawks are easily recognized from below by their reddish-brown tailfeathers. They have broad wings with brown backs and mottled white-and-tan underbellies. They mainly eat small mammals and rodents. Whether or not you have heard a red-tailed hawk in the wild, chances are, you already know what they sound like. Movies often play the red-tailed hawk's shrill cry when a bird of prey appears on screen, even if a different species is shown.
 
View from below of a golden eagle soaring in a blue sky. The bird is brown in color, with golden feathers around the neck and base of the tail, and yellow feet.
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Adult at Dinosaur National Monument

NPS / Allen

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Common
Named for the golden sheen of feathers on the back of their necks, golden eagles are one of the largest birds in North America. They nest in remote cliffs and feed mainly on small mammals, including rabbits and prairie dogs. With a wingspan of about 6 feet (2 meters), adults are all brown in color. Juveniles have patches of white in their wings and at the base of the tail. Golden eagles can look very similar to juvenile bald eagles in appearance. However, juvenile bald eagles have more mottled underbellies and slightly larger beaks than golden eagles.
 
A bird of the woodpecker family perches on the side of a tree. It has a grayish brown back, white belly, black spots, and a red streak coming from its curved beak.
Red-shafted Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), Male at Dinosaur National Monument

NPS / Molly Swindle

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
Common
This unusual species of woodpecker is often found on the ground, digging for bugs with its slightly curved bill. Northern flickers are typically light brown and gray in color, with black spots and a black U-shaped patch on the breast. Northern flickers in the West are usually red-shafted. Red-shafted flickers, like those found at Dinosaur National Monument, have wings with reddish undersides. Males also have a "whisker" of feathers extending from the beak down the neck. The Eastern variety are yellow-shafted, with males having a black whisker, and both sexes possessing a bright red patch on the nape of the neck.
 
A jay with a blue head and back, gray belly, and a radiating "necklace" of white feathers running down its neck perches in a snow-covered pine tree.
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)

NPS / Capitol Reef National Park

Woodhouse's Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
Common
In 2016, the Western scrub jay was split into two species: the California scrub jay and the Woodhouse's scrub jay. Only the latter can be found at Dinosaur National Monument. This bird is similar in appearance to another bird found in the monument, the mountain bluebird. However, the Woodhouse's scrub jay is larger, with a longer beak. It also has a "necklace" of white feathers running down the front of the neck. These beautiful jays can be found in montane woodlands with pinyon pines, where they use their bills to extract pine nuts.
 
A flying bird with a black head, white belly, long black and blue tail, and white wings with black tips soars over green bushes.
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) at Denali National Park and Preserve

NPS / Claire Abendroth

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)
Common
Easterners are often mesmerized by these beautiful, but common, Western birds. Black-billed magpies are easy to identify by their long tails and distinctive coloring. They have black heads, white chests, and white primary wing feathers with black tips. When the light is right, their tails and the dark parts of their wings shimmer with an iridescent blue-green color. As members of the corvid family (which includes ravens, crows, and jays), magpies are inquisitive. They eat a variety of foods, including grains, insects, small mammals, fruits, and even carrion (dead animals). They make large stick nests in trees.
 
A small, chubby bird with a gray back and belly, a white and black head, and black legs perches in the snow.
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) at Yellowstone National Park

NPS / Jim Peaco

Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)
Common
These little songbirds live year-round in Montane forests, where they use tree cavities for nesting. Mountain chickadees have large black-and-white heads with adorable white "eyebrows." Their bodies are round, with light-colored bellies, gray backs, rounded wings, and a narrow tail. They have teeny tiny black beaks, which they use to eat insects. Ever the acrobats, mountain chickadees can perch on small twigs or even hang upside-down from pine cones. They tend to hang out with other small birds, like kinglets and nuthatches, and can often be seen together, flocking between trees.
 
A small, round bird with a grey-brown head and back, white throat, and reddish belly standing on a rock.
Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

NPS / Gary Linquist

Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus)
Common
This small, pot-bellied bird is rusty red with a white throat. They have a long, thin, slightly curved bill that's perfect for fishing insects out of hard-to-reach places. Canyon wrens are well-adapted to arid environments. They are not known to drink water, likely getting most of their hydration from the food they eat. Given that these birds typically live in rocky slopes and canyons between 1,000 to 6,000 feet (305 to 1829 meters) in elevation, Dinosaur National Monument provides ideal habitat for them. They are occasionally spotted clinging to rock walls, climbing even the steepest places with ease.
 

Summer Residents

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) Common
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) Abundant
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) Uncommon
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis) Uncommon
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) Common
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) Common
 
A bird similar to a duck swimming in greenish water. The bird has pale gray back feathers and a reddish-brown head with feathers fanning off the back of it. The chest and chin are stark white.
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), Female or nonbreeding male

NPS / Jake Frank

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
Common
Members of the duck family, common Mergansers are adept swimmers. Females usually nest in tree cavities. In summer, the chicks will leave the nest within a day or so, already able to catch their own food. They start off with insects, and at around 12 days old, graduate to fish. With their bright pink bills, common mergansers are so good at fishing that they're occasionally followed by other birds, such as gulls and eagles, who may try to steal their prey. Males have a mostly white body with a dark back, and a smooth green head. Females are mottled gray with white chins and rust-colored heads that are sharply contrasted with the lower neck.
 
A large, dark colored bird with light brown primary feathers soars in a blue sky. The bird's head is featherless and pink, with a white-tipped beak.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

NPS / Allen

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Abundant
Turkey vultures are often seen soaring in the sky, teetering on the wind. While they're brown up close, they often appear black from a distance, with very tiny heads. When flying, they can be identified by their wings, which fan out at the ends and have silvery flight feathers when seen from below. Turkey vultures are thought to locate food by scent. They eat mainly carrion (dead animals), and have incredibly strong stomach acids to kill harmful bacteria. Because they lack a syrinx (the bird version of a voice box) their vocalizations are limited to grunting and hissing. While their habits may seem gross, these scavengers serve an important role as part of nature's clean-up crew.
 
Frontal view of a flying falcon with a dark face, yellow beak, white chest, and brown barred feathers on its wings and tail. It is carrying a small bird in its yellow talons.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) carrying a small bird at Pinnacles National Park

NPS / Gavin Emmons

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Uncommon
Peregrines are a medium-sized bird of prey, roughly the size of a crow. While both sexes are identical, the female can be a third larger than the male. Like many raptors, these previously-endangered birds suffered from the the effects of pesticides in the 1900s. Today, they're widespread, but generally uncommon. Peregrines prey mostly on other birds, such as doves and pigeons. They hunt by catching birds midair, in a spectacular dive, called a "stoop." During stoops, peregrines can reach speeds up to 200 mph (322 kph). They nest on high, remote cliff ledges in Dinosaur's canyons. To protect them, several places in the monument are closed to visitors during nesting season. See the Superintendent's Compendium for more information.
 
A dry crop field with many long-necked birds standing in it. Each bird is a crane, with a gray back, long neck, and a golden eye surrounded by a patch of in dark red feathers.
Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) near Dinosaur National Monument

NPS / Dan Johnson

Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
Uncommon
While sandhill cranes are uncommon throughout the monument, they're often spotted along the road leading into the Utah side of the park. Visitors typically hear their loud trilling calls more often than seeing the birds themselves. They're easily recognized by their large size, long necks, and beautiful gray feathers, which droop around the rear to form a "bustle." Adults have golden eyes, white cheeks, and a crown of red skin on the head. Sandhill cranes prefer open fields, grasslands, prairies, and wetlands for both breeding and foraging. These migratory birds mate for life, and court their partners with elaborate dance routines during the mating season.
 
A small brown bird with a thin, pink beak, and white belly with brown spots perches on a branch near water.
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) at Ninety Six National Historic Site

NPS / Rusty Wilson

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
Common
This is the most widespread breeding sandpiper in all of North America. They're about the size of a robin, with a white breast, brown back, and orange bill. In winter, the breast is plain white, but during the breeding season, it's spotted. While many spotted sandpipers have only one mate, sometimes the females will breed with several males and lay eggs for each of them. Males do the bulk of the parenting, while females establish and defend territory. These shorebirds prefer wetlands, and are most commonly found in riparian areas and along the rivers in Dinosaur National Monument.
 
Two small birds are sitting on a branch. The one on the left is a fledgling mountain bluebird, with brown feathers. The one on the right is an adult male mountain bluebird with blue feathers on his back and a pale gray belly.
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides), Adult male (right) with fledgling (left) at Mount Rushmore National Memorial

NPS / Larry Putnam

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)
Common
These gorgeous birds add a pop of color to Dinosaur's arid landscape. Male mountain bluebirds are a vivid blue that gradiates to white where the legs meet the body. Females are gray, often with a few blue feathers in the wings and tail. Mountain bluebirds are insect eaters. They traditionally nest in tree cavities, but also take kindly to backyard nesting boxes. Females often overlook a male's appearance and singing ability, choosing a mate based solely on the location and quality of his nesting habitat. They prefer wide open landscapes, like prairies and sagebrush steppe, so the monument provides ideal habitat for them.
 

Winter Residents

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) Occasional
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Uncommon
 
A colorful bird with a light brown head, black eye stripe lined in white, yellow belly, gray wings with a red patch, and a gray and black tail, tipped with yellow. It's perching on a branch.
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

NPS / Jeff Zylland

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Occasional
These handsome birds are especially partial to berries. With so many juniper trees in Dinosaur National Monument, it's no surprise that cedar waxwings come here to munch on juniper berries. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing, though. Some cedar waxwings have actually gotten drunk or even died from eating overripe berries that have started to ferment. In summer, these birds are lean, supplementing their diet with insects. In winter, they rely on fat stores to help them survive. Cedar waxwings look similar to bohemian waxwings. However, cedars have yellow bellies, and lack the brown bottoms and white-tipped primary coverts that bohemians have.
 
A large bird of prey with a yellow beak and legs, dark brown body, and a white head and tail sits in a leafless tree.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Adult

NPS / Dinosaur National Monument

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Uncommon
This large raptor is the national bird of the United States, but it has been important to many Native American groups for far longer. Despite the name, adults have white-feathered heads with yellow bills, a brown body, and a white tail. Juvenile bald eagles are mottled brown, closely resembling golden eagles. However, they have more sporadic mottling under their wings, whereas golden eagles have more localized patches of white. Like other raptors, bald eagle populations declined in the 1900s due to pestisides thinning their eggshells. Thanks to nationwide conservation efforts, they've made a comeback. Today, they're sometimes seen around the monument, looking for meals to scavenge.

Last updated: March 20, 2022

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