Bird Watching at Death Valley National Park

Around 3.3 million acres of the Mojave Desert in eastern California form the largest national park south of Alaska, Death Valley National Park. Located towards the west-northwest of Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park lies adjacent to the CaliforniaNevada border. The expansive grounds include Death Valley, the northern portion of Panamint Valley, the southern part of Eureka Valley, and the majority of Saline Valley. Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the national parks in the United States offering diverse habitats to the flora and fauna including salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. The park boundaries include the second-lowest point in the whole western hemisphere, Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level.

Major Attractions at Death Valley National Park

The park itself is a popular tourist hotspot. Death Valley is known for its extreme climate while being North America’s driest and hottest region receiving less than two inches of annual rainfall and record high temperatures of 134°F. The park also features the lowest elevation on the continent. Despite the adverse weather, the park extends a great diversity of life.

The different views featuring dunes, salt flats, mountains, and craters account for some of the most dramatic scenery in the Southwest. Among the various attractions, hordes of photographers rush to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in the morning and evening to capture the moment the sun rays hit the sculpted dunes. Badwater Basin attracts the fascination of people for being the lowest point of land in the western hemisphere at 277 feet below sea level. The
racetrack is a huge area covered in dried mud beds where stones of different shapes and sizes can be seen with long tracks trailing behind them. Other popular attractions in Death Valley National Park include Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Twenty Mule Canyon, Furnace Creek, Desolation Canyon, Artist’s Drive, Devil’s Golf Course, and Natural Bridge.
People frequent Death Valley for sightseeing, camping, hiking, backpacking, backcountry driving, biking, and birdwatching.


Bird Watching at Death Valley National Park

Among the different national parks of the United States, Death Valley is one of the most impressive ornithological hubs. Despite the prevailing extreme climatic conditions that exist in some areas of the park, it offers a wide diversity of habitats that results in a high variety and number of bird species as well. From the valley desert to the canyons, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and the high boreal peaks- the change in climate and vegetation becomes apparent.

The park list estimates roughly 349 bird species visiting throughout the year. The population is made up of migratory birds and rare, casual, or accidental. However, 20 species are considered to be common during the summers. 105 species have also been reported during all four seasons, including Grebes, Herons, waterfowl, Rails, and shorebirds, which is a surprisingly high number for the park.

Over a span of a couple of weeks in the spring and again in the fall, several hundreds of species pass through the desert area each year. Spring migratory birds traveling over the eastern edge of Sierra Nevada are often drawn to Death Valley National Park to stop and rest at desert oases. The first flocks of warblers reach the park in about mid-April. The netting period stretches from mid-February and lasts through June and July. Southbound fall migratory birds are seen by early August.

Besides the seasonal varieties, some resident park species that are suited to the desert climates can be spotted by eager birdwatchers like the Greater Roadrunner, Phainopepla, and Cactus Wren.

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American Crow

American Crows are a common bird found throughout the United States. They are not at risk of being endangered. American Crows are an all-black bird. They live on farms, fields, or near the shore. American Crows usually feed off of the ground, but will eat anything from insects to garbage! Their nests are a basket shape and they lay 4 to 6 eggs. American Crows are not migratory birds.

  • American Crow

European Starling

European Starlings are an all-black bird with short tails, a pointed bill, and triangular wings. In the winter, they are covered with white spots. They are the most numerous songbird found throughout North America. European Starlings are not considered endangered. They live in parks, farms, and in open groves. These Starlings are sometimes viewed as aggressive as they run along the ground. They eat seeds, berries, and insects. On occasion, they will visit a bird feeder or flowers for nectar. They lay 4 to 6 eggs and will make their nests in odd places. European Starlings that reside in the north migrate south in the fall.

  • European Starling

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are black and white with two white stripes on their head. They are found throughout North America. They have declined in their population, but are still fairly common. These Woodpeckers make their habitat in forests, shade trees, and river groves. Hairy Woodpeckers eat insects, but can be found eating sunflower seeds in backyard feeders. Hairy Woodpeckers are permanent residents, but those that live in the north move south for the winter.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are brown and gray with a white underside and black wingtips. They also have a white patch on their tail at the base. The face of a Northern Harrier is similar to an owl. Northern Harriers are found throughout North America. Their population is declining; however, they are still common. They make their homes in marshes, fields, and prairies. Northern Harriers eat small rodents and birds. The ones found in the south are permanent residents, while the ones found in the north migrate in both fall and spring.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunners have a dark brown body with a deep blue-black crest. They can grow to be two feet tall. They can be hard to find as they travel in the open country and desert of the southwest. Greater Roadrunner’s population has declined, but they are not at risk of being endangered. They make their homes in the desert and near scattered brush. Greater Roadrunners are born to run and can out run a human! They eat insects, rodents, birds, and reptiles. The lay 3 to 5 eggs and defend their nesting area all year long. Their nests are built from leaves, sticks, feathers, snakeskin, and
sometimes pieces of manure. Greater Roadrunners are not a migratory bird.

  • Roadrunner

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shovelers are brown and white with green necks and bills, while females have orange bills. Their bills are shaped liked shovels, which help them eat. They are beautiful ducks found throughout North America. They are common and widespread and not at risk of being endangered. Northern Shovelers reside in shallow marshes and wetlands. The build their nests on the ground near water. They lay 9 to 12 eggs. Northern Shovelers migrate in flocks in late spring and again in early fall.

  • Northern Shoveler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are black and white with a bright red chest and thick bill. They are found throughout eastern North America. Their population is currently stable and have no risk of endangerment. They make a happy song with sweet whistles. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks make their homes in orchards and groves and enjoy wintering in the tropics. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks eat insects, seeds, and berries. They migrate at night late in the spring and early in the fall.

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhees are black with bright white spots on their wings and back with orange sides. They are found in western North America. Their population is common and widespread. They make their homes in open woods, undergrowth, and brushy edges. Spotted Towhees mostly stay on the ground, but will climb into lower branches for insects and fruit. They lay 3 to 5 eggs and build their nests on the ground or low in a tree. Spotted Towhees in the north migrate, but the birds in the south are permanent residents.

American Robin

American Robins have a round orange chest and gray-brown feathers. They are found across North America. Their population is widespread and abundant. Their habitat is in cities, lawns, and forests. They lay about 4 eggs and sometimes up to 7. The eggs they lay are a pale blue color and is often referred to as “robin’s-egg blue”. They enjoy eating earthworms right out of the ground in the morning and fruit in the afternoon. American Robins migrate in flocks during the day.

  • American Robin

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows have vibrant blue and brown colors. They are found throughout North America. Barn Swallows are abundant birds and are not endangered. They make their habitat in open fields, near water. They fly low just a few inches above the ground or water searching for flying insects to eat. Barn Swallows are the most common Swallow species in the world. They build their nests under eaves of buildings, in cliffs, or on bridges. They lay 4 to 5 eggs. Barn Swallows migrate south in flocks in mid-August.

  • Barn Swallows

Final Thoughts

The best spots for bird watching at Death Valley National Park are Furnace Creek, a developed area with many trees and thickets around the camping grounds and edges of golf courses to look for hummingbird feeders, and roadrunners. Mesquite Spring provides water, welcoming birds to rest in the hot desert. Salt Creek stream and saltmarsh with its boardwalk loop trail attract many birds, too.


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing birds at Death Valley National Park is the 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

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