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Wild About Utah: Shorebirds

Sandpiper shorebirds at Utah Lake.
Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah

Shorebirds in August? I’d been told there was a robust migration during
that time, but hadn’t tested the validity of such until a week ago.

Three other young ladies joined me to do a count at the Salt Creek
Wildlife Management Area near Tremonton Utah. And boy did I need their
younger eyes and energy as we were inundated with shorebirds- avocets,
stilts, curlews, greater and lesser yellowlegs, dowitchers, marbled
godwit, western sandpipers, killdeer and a flock of small peepes (short
for small sandpipers).

Myriad other magnificent migrants joined the mixed flock- numerous
duck species, juvenile black crown night herons by the dozens, herons,
egrets, ibis, terns, etc., but they don’t qualify as shorebirds, so we
enjoyed their presence, but they didn’t make the list.

A few other non-migrants were noteworthy- a burrowing owl that posed
beautifully on a fence post emitting constant chatters, and a very fat,
mature western rattler with many buttons on its tail.

The Salt Creek WMA is a jewel that gets few visitors given its “out there” location
competing with the 80 thousand acre Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
next door, which boasts an outstanding visitor center, offering many
resources and educational programs.

This was the first official fall shorebird survey conducted in 30
years at roughly 200 sites across 11 western states. These surveys fill a
critical three-decade data gap in our understanding of migratory
shorebird populations and their distribution.

The results will inform management and policy efforts to ensure there
are resources to support birds and the places they need during their
migratory journeys.

The survey was organized by the Sageland [Collaborative]
organization, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and several others,
conducted by volunteers and biologists via airplane, vehicles, ATVs,
boats and on our feet.

This survey will occur for the next three years, during the same week each
spring and fall, to coincide with the peak shorebird migration across the region.

We’re part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, whose wetlands support
nearly one-third of the global population of Wilson's phalaropes, more
than half of American avocets, 37 percent of black-necked stilts and 21
percent of the North American population of snowy plovers.

Shorebirds are a diverse group of birds including sandpipers,
plovers, avocets, oystercatchers and phalaropes. There are
approximately 217 recognized species globally, 81 of which occur in the
Americas for all or part of their lifecycle with 52 species breeding in
North America, many of whom visit Utah.

Shorebird are the endurance marathoner winners, some migrating 20,000
miles a year. Their remarkable hemispheric travels coincide with peak
abundant food.

In their global pursuit of food and breeding grounds,
home is nowhere, yet everywhere. As a result, shorebirds are difficult
to track, monitor, and protect.

Shorebirds are among a few groups of birds showing the most dramatic declines.
Their decline began in the 1800s, in part due to market hunting. As humans have
continued to alter the landscape, shorebird populations have further decreased,
with declines increasing rapidly in recent decades.

Jack Greene for BAS, and I’m Wild About Utah’s wild Shorebirds!


Image: Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Used by permission,

Audio: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly,

Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Van Tatenhove, Aimee, The Quiet Importance of Brine Flies, Wild About Utah, Nov 15, 2021,

The Sageland Collaborative,

Migratory Shorebird Survey, The Sageland Collaborative,

Statewide shorebird surveys restarted after 30-year hiatus; over

84,000 shorebirds counted during spring survey, Utah Division of

Wildlife Resources, June 2, 2023,

Salt Creek Wildlife Management Area:

Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area, Utah Outdoor Activities,

Salt Creek WMA, UtahBirds, Utah County Birders,

1999-2001 Great Salt Lake Waterbird Survey: (Salt Creek is #33 under Survey Areas)

Salt Creek Habitat, GeoData Archive, Utah Geological Survey, Utah Division of Natural Resources, State of Utah,