This past week, we traveled to Provo, Utah for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. I’ve made countless trips to Utah since the time my parents moved there in 1977. While my parents have been gone for many years, we have kept their home in the family.
Four generations of Moores have lived in the family home — my parents, my siblings and myself (when I attended college), my wife and I with our children, and even one of our grandchildren has lived there. Even now, our son, Travis Jay, (the namesake for Jay’s Bird Barn), lives with his wife in the family home.
As usual, it was a quick trip. We drove up Friday, and back on Tuesday. Our tight timeline really didn’t give me any free time to go birding, but as you might imagine, I don’t have to ‘go’ birding to bird. I am constantly birding, no matter where I am.
There were the usual backyard birds that I saw every day, such as Woodhouse’s scrub-jays, California quail, black-capped chickadees, American Crows, American Robins, black-chinned hummingbirds and lesser goldfinches, to name a few. However, I did have a surprise sighting on Saturday. We were out in the backyard setting up for the big family Fourth of July celebration when I started to hear the high-pitched calls of a bird of prey. Looking up, I saw two ospreys flying directly over the backyard.
Wow — what a surprise! We see gulls every day from the yard— but in the 40-plus years I have been visiting the property, I have no recollection of ever seeing an osprey there. Why would I see gulls daily, but never an osprey? Gulls, in most areas where they are found, have adapted to the urbanization of America.
Where there are large bodies of water, it is not unusual to find gulls in the adjacent urban areas. In my opinion, gulls are what I would refer to as a ‘parking lot’ bird. Gulls — like crows, ravens and pigeons—are very much at home scavenging for a handout, whether it be a left-behind French fry or part of a hamburger bun. Such items would rank high on the wish list of any respectable gull!
Bordering the western edge of Provo is Utah Lake. Utah Lake is 23 miles long and encompasses 150 square miles. This is the reason I see gulls throughout the day, every day, in Provo. In Utah, the most common gull species in summer is the California gull. Ring-billed gulls are the most common gull species in winter.
We typically think of gulls as being ‘coastal,’ or at least associated with a saltwater environment. However, there are many fresh-water gull species, such as the ones that pass through the Prescott area in the spring and fall as they make their way north and south seasonally.
Gulls were in Utah long before the early Mormon pioneers arrived in 1847. Gulls are also credited with saving the pioneer’s crops in 1848 by devouring the locusts that were destroying the crops. The urbanization of Utah has only helped this ubiquitous species prosper and proliferate. Truthfully, there isn’t anywhere in the Provo/Orem area you can go without seeing gulls. They are probably more abundant than crows, ravens and pigeons combined!
The definition of ubiquitous is “existing or being everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered, widespread.” This definition is very apropos, as there are some bird species that are ubiquitous throughout many parts of the United States including pigeons, crows, gulls, grackles and house sparrows. These species are highly adaptable, and thrive in the urban areas we have created.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott, Arizona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.