Alpine birds – those that live at higher elevations in the mountains – are some of the most desirable Utah birds to see, but they are also some of the most difficult to find because of limited accessibility birders have to ideal habitats. Fortunately, a quick, easy visit to Alta in Salt Lake County can bring a wide range of stunning mountain birds into birders’ field of view.
Several bird feeders have been installed in publicly viewable areas in Alta, just yards from Highway 210 in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Hoppers, tube feeders and platforms are kept filled with black oil sunflower seeds to appeal to a wide range of bird species. Different feeders are found in front of the Alta Town Offices as well as the nearby Alta Police Station, and birders are invited to not only watch the feeders, but also to record their sightings on a simple notebook log at the feeding area.
The exact species that may visit the feeders and will perch in nearby trees will vary depending on time of day, weather conditions and season, but birds that have been regularly recorded in the area include:
- Black rosy-finch
- Clark’s nutcracker
- Gray-crowned rosy-finch
- Hairy woodpecker
- Mountain chickadee
- Pine grosbeak
- Red-breasted nuthatch
- Steller’s jay
All of these species are more common at higher elevations, and while they may very rarely be seen in lower areas in Utah County, the drive to Alta is well worth such great sightings in an easily viewable location.
To reach the feeding station, take I-15 to the 9000 South exit and head east up Little Cottonwood Canyon, past Snowbird Ski Resort. Once you have reached Alta, parking is available on the street just past the Deep Powder House Ski Shop (on the right), and the feeders are on the left behind the Shallow Shaft Restaurant. Visitors may walk up to and past the feeders, and going 10-20 yards east of the feeding area leads to a slightly elevated plateau that provides superior views of the feeding area without being so close as to discourage birds. Donations to help keep the feeders filled are always welcome; contact the Alta Town Offices for details.
Have you seen any of these alpine birds in your valley backyard? Share your sightings in the comments!