What kinds of birds can you find in Capitol Reef National Park?
This question is hard to answer because of the vast number of birds found in the park. Did you know there have been over 175 species recorded here? As you can imagine, there was no way to include this many birds in the below article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
Below I have listed the TEN birds you are most likely to find while visiting Capitol Reef.
#1. American Robin
- Turdus migratorius
- A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
- Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
- Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.
American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in Capitol Reef National Park!
They inhabit a wide variety of habitats. These thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see.
American Robin Range Map
Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit.
These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs. American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)
Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”
#2. Wild Turkey
- Meleagris gallopavo
- Wild Turkeys are large and have dark body feathers.
- Adult males sometimes are called toms or gobblers and have a large, featherless, reddish head.
- Female birds, known as hens, have feathers that are duller overall, in shades of brown and gray.
Everyone knows what this popular bird looks like in Capitol Reef National Park!
Wild Turkeys can’t be confused with any other animal. Many people even think they look like little dinosaurs as they strut around.
To find Wild Turkeys, wake up early in the morning, and you will often find them foraging in clearings and along roadsides. Luckily, they typically aren’t shy and are often spotted while driving.
Wild Turkey Range Map
Believe it or not, despite their hefty size, Wild Turkeys can fly! It surprises many people when they come across them roosting high in a tree. In addition, these talented birds can also swim by folding their wings, extending their tails, and using their legs to propel themselves.
Interestingly, only male turkeys make the famous gobble call. This sound is used to announce themselves to females while competing with other males for the ladies’ attention. LISTEN BELOW:
#3. Common Raven
- Corvus corax
- Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
- The bill is hefty and thick.
- In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.
Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Capitol Reef National Park!
Their intelligence makes them efficient predators, and it’s common for ravens to team up to get food, such as stealing eggs from nests or attacking larger prey.
Common Raven Range Map
Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in many habitats in Capitol Reef. Look for them living near the edges of towns. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.
Common Ravens are impressive vocalists that make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound you will hear in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch.
Interestingly, they can mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if raised in captivity.
#4. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
- Aphelocoma woodhouseii
- Long bird with a long tail and stout bill.
- Both sexes are light blue and gray on top, have a grayish belly, and a white throat.
You will find these birds in Capitol Reef National Park in woodlands of pine and juniper or dry shrublands.
Woodhouse Scrub-Jay Range Map
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are known to stand on the backs of mule deer. They do this to help the mule deer by picking ticks and parasites and eating them. The mule deer don’t mind and will stand still and put their ears up to assist in their efforts.
Males and females both sing light, pleasant songs lasting up to five minutes. Listen below.
#5. Pinyon Jay
- Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus
- Medium-sized jay with a long sharp bill. Looks sort of like a blue crow.
- Both sexes are several shades of blue and are duller on the belly.
Pinyon Jays are a very noisy bird in Capitol Reef National Park!
These crestless jays are found in pinyon-juniper woodlands, sagebrush, and pine trees in mountainous regions. This omnivorous species primarily eats pinyon-pine seeds but occasionally eats small animals, snakes, and lizards.
Pinyon Jay Range Map
Pinyon Jays can form large flocks, up to 500 birds that stay together while breeding and foraging year-round. These intelligent birds will come to your bird feeders for a short visit to enjoy some cracked corn, peanuts, sunflower seeds, or suet.
Pinyon Jays make an assortment of calls. Some are incredibly crow-like. Listen below.
#6. Northern Flicker
- Colaptes auratus
Northern Flickers are wonderfully handsome birds and relatively common in Capitol Reef.
To correctly identify one of these woodpeckers, look for a RED mustache stripe, which is found on both sexes. Also, when they are in flight, you can clearly see red-orange feathers on their underwing and tail. Lastly, Red-shafted Northern Flickers have a mostly gray face with a brown crown.
Northern Flicker Range Map
To find a Northern Flicker, you should look on the ground! These birds are unique and don’t act like typical woodpeckers. They spend a lot of time searching for ants and beetles on the ground by digging through the dirt! They hammer away at the soil just like other woodpeckers drill into trees.
Northern Flickers are fairly easy to identify by sound! Listen for a loud ringing call that sounds like a piercing “wicka-wicka-wicka.”
#7. Spotted Towhee
- Pipilo maculatus
- Chunky body, short neck, and rounded tail.
- Males are mostly black with white spots on the wings and a white belly with rusty-colored sides.
- Females are similar-looking but are mostly grayish brown.
Spotted Towhees are often fleetingly seen in Capitol Reef National Park while flying between patches of cover. You can also look for them hopping around on the ground, close to cover, foraging for food. They use the double scratch technique to find seeds and insects in the soil.
Spotted Towhee Range Map
This species is found mainly in dense, shrubbery habitats near the ground. They like to eat seeds on the ground under bird feeders when they’re not too far from cover.
Some Spotted Towhees have a song mixed with buzzy notes and a trill, while others only have a trilling song. Listen below.
#8. Rock Wren
Rock Wrens are pale brown birds that have a long tail and thin bill. If you look closely, you can small white speckles on their back and wings. Males and females look similar. Behavior-wise, it’s common to see them quickly bobbing up and down.
These birds are naturally found in rocky, arid areas, which is why they love Capitol Reef National Park.
Rock Wren Range Map
Incredibly, Rock Wrens are not known to drink water. Instead, they get all of their moisture from their food, which consists of insects and spiders. They mostly hunt on the ground, probing around and under objects for prey with their thin bill.
Rock Wrens are prolific singers! They have a large repertoire of songs, which can consist of 100 or more tunes! Interestingly, they can learn new sounds from other individuals. Listen for a mixture of buzzing trills and other musical phrases. When they are not singing, you may hear their common call, which sounds like “tic-keer.”
#9. Mountain Bluebird
- Sialia currucoides
- Males are covered with beautiful sky-blue feathers on their heads, back, and wings.
- Females are a bit trickier since they are primarily gray-brown, with tinges of blue on their tails and wings.
There are not many things more beautiful than seeing one of these birds while hiking in Capitol Reef National Park. 🙂
In Utah, look for Mountain Bluebirds in open areas. As their name suggests, Mountain Bluebirds are observed at elevations up to 12,500 feet during the breeding season. However, once winter arrives, they typically fly down to lower elevations.
Mountain Bluebird Range Map
Mountain Bluebirds feast on insects during warm months and switch their diet to primary berries in winter. But unlike other bluebird species, they are excellent aerial hunters and routinely grab insects out of mid-air!
Finding a suitable nesting location is crucial for female Mountain Bluebirds; they rarely care about anything else. She chooses her mate almost solely based on the quality of his nesting cavity, ignoring things like looks, singing skills, and flying ability!
Next time you are in a mountain valley or meadow, keep your ears open and listen for a Mountain Bluebird! Press PLAY below.
#10. Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawks are one of the most prevalent birds of prey in Capitol Reef National Park!
These large raptors are often seen soaring in the sky or perched on a fence post. The color of a Red-tailed Hawk’s plumage can be anything from nearly white to virtually black, so coloration is not a reliable indicator. The best way to identify them is by looking for their characteristic red tail. 🙂
Red-tailed Hawk Range Map
These hawks are highly adaptable, and there is no real description of their preferred habitats because they seem to be comfortable everywhere.
Red-tailed Hawks have impressive calls that are easily identified.
In fact, people are so enamored with their screams it’s common for directors to use the sounds of a Red-tailed Hawk to replace Bald Eagles that appear in movies. In case you have never heard one, Bald Eagles don’t make sounds that live up to their appearance (putting it nicely!)
Which of these birds have you seen before in Capitol Reef National Park?
Leave a comment below!
To learn more about other birds that live in Capitol Reef National Park, check out these guides!
The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!