where, when, and what to find

Salt Lake International Center

posted by Tim Avery at
on Sunday, March 9, 2014 

Amelia Earhart Drive from Google Street View

With a checklist of around 190 species the Salt Lake International Center is the premier birding location in Salt Lake County--which before September 2007 was rarely visited by birders.  That all changed when two birders stopped in and found and out of place PROTHONOTARY WARBLER in September of 2007.  Ever since it has become a must visit fall locations for birding in Utah. The large business park sits just west of the Salt Lake International Airport, on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake.  When planners built the center they also planted lots of trees and bushes that turned this location into a giant migrant trap during the fall.  The main east west streets are Harold Gatty to the North and Amelia Earhart through the center.  5600 West and Wright Brothers Drive are the major north-south routes through the complex which has numerous side streets, and smaller roads connecting various points.  There are two large man-made ponds in the south-central portion of the complex that attract waterbirds.  There are several canals--one in the northeast, and another in the southwest that also provide habitat with a water component.  Most of the property is private, so be careful of where you park, and make sure to be respectful of property owners if they ask you to leave.  There are plenty of public areas to park, and all the streets are public as well, so there is no shortage of birding habitat!

Tim Avery has created a detailed map of the places to look for birds here.

The central area of the SLIC, or the IC (for short) at the corner of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh is where most birders start, working their way outward.  This are has been one of the best areas historically to bird and tends to get more activity for whatever reason.  This area has great under story along the ditches, as well as great tree lines that go east-west and north south. The pines here are good for TOWNSEND'S WARBLER late in the fall--whilst empids are often seen flycatching.  The ditches occasionally have MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS or thrushes in them, and various other migrants can be found skulking here. Following this south to the south end of the IC where you will find more great dense under story.  One of the best finds here was a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER--the second one of three seen at the IC in just 5 years.  Both HARRIS'S and WHITE-THROATED SPARROW have been seen in the thick brush on the south end of the road here.  The ponds have attracted various waterfowl including ROSS'S and SNOW GEESE, as well several shorebirds.  MEW GULL have been reported in the winter, and large flocks of swallows forage here during migrations.  Back on Amelia Earhart, working either east or west there are several open areas where large flocks of sparrows show up in the fall.  The flocks of predominantly Chipping and Brewer's Sparrows have also included at least 5 CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS making it the most reliable spot to try for this species in Utah.  Several INDIGO BUNTINGS have also been mixed with the flocks.  The real attraction of the IC those is the warblers.  From September into October just about anything can show up here, and to date 19 species of warblers have been reported here including some big names like: PROTHONOTARY, CAPE MAY, MAGNOLIA, BLACKBURNIAN, TENNESSEE, and BLACKPOLL. The northwest corner of the IC has a row of pines that run east to west for about a block.  This dense thicket of trees has been very popular being the first line of trees migrants headed south see.  LEAST FLYCATCHER and WHITE-THROATED SPARROW have been seen here, and empids are often found along the fence line darting in and out of the trees.  Other species of not observed here include SABINE'S GULL, SCARLET TANAGER, a very cooperative BALTIMORE ORIOLE, and a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL one fall.  There is no right or wrong way to bird the IC--it's just a matter of putting in the time and checking many different streets, and stretches of trees.  Following a big storm or heavy night of migration this place can keep you busy for an entire day.

From I-80  west of Salt Lake City, take Exit 113 and turn left at the end of the off ramp.  Follow this north to the first light.  Turning right here will take you into the heart of the IC.  From Salt Lake City and points north and south, take I-80 west bound form I-15 to exit 113.  Follow the exit onto Wright Brothers Drive, taking a left on Amelia Earhart.  This will take you into the middle of the IC

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