Short Trips for Target Birds Series

UTAH & NEVADA: Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill & Flammulated Owl

Viewing Snowcock


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2022 :: July 27 - July 31
2023 :: July 27 - July 31



From: $1,250 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Salt Lake City, Utah. (SLC)


2 - 7 Participants


2021: FULL [waitlist]
2022: 7 spaces available
2023: 7 spaces available


This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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Highlights of UTAH & NEVADA: Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill & Flammulated Owl

  • Himalayan Snowcock in the Ruby Mountains
  • Cassia Crossbill; a newly-described species!
  • Flammulated Owl, Black Swift, Ferruginous Hawk
  • Great Salt Lake & Great Basin birding


Description of UTAH & NEVADA: Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill & Flammulated Owl

This short target trip to Utah, Nevada, and Idaho is designed to find sought-after species in the right place and time of year. Our main targets are Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill, and Flammulated Owl – but we’ll seek additional regional specialties including Black Swift, Chukar, Common Poorwill, Black Rosy-Finch, and Gray Partridge.

The Himalayan Snowcock, successfully introduced to mountains in northern Nevada, presents one of the greatest challenges of any resident bird in North America. Though they are as large as our largest grouse, the snowcock can be difficult to find, camouflaged amongst rocky cliffs of some of the most rugged and remote mountains in the lower 48 states. Considerable physical effort is required to trek up steep, rugged trails for an opportunity to tick them.

Trekkers are rewarded with not only a chance to see this spectacular bird, but also some of the most stunning scenery anywhere. Other high elevation species include Black Rosy-Finch, Dusky Grouse, and Lewis’ Woodpecker, as well as nimble mountain goats and endearing ground squirrels.

We’ll search for Cassia Crossbill, a newly-recognized species, in the South Hills of southern Idaho. This habitat-specific endemic is found only in this small geographical area having evolved in these lodgepole pine forests notably absent of red squirrels!

Within northern Utah’s premier birding locations – the Wasatch Mountains, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and Antelope Island – we’ll target other goodies: Black Swift, Flammulated Owl, Common Poorwill, and Chukar. Shorebird migration will be in full swing with thousands of phalaropes and Eared Grebes on the Great Salt Lake, a true spectacle!

Length of Tour


Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Mid-day arrival in Salt Lake City; Wasatch Mountains

Day 2 – Pequop;  South Fork Reservoir; Elko

Day 3 – Ruby Mountains; South Hills

Day 4 – South Hills; Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Day 5 – Great Salt Lake; Antelope Island;  Afternoon departure SLC

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in SLC; Wasatch Mountains

Mid-day arrival in Salt Lake City. During the afternoon we will explore the foothills and canyons of the Wasatch Mountains. At Little Cottonwood Canyon we’ll look for our first target, Black Swift, though it is getting late in the season for them. We’ll encounter American Dipper, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Red-naped Sapsucker, Olive-sided and Hammond’s Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, MacGillivary’s Warbler, Band-tailed Pigeon, California Quail, Evening Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Stellar’s Jay, and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. At dusk we begin our search for Flammulated Owl and Common Poorwill. Night in Salt Lake City, UT.

Day 2 – Pequop Mountains; South Fork Reservoir

We leave Salt Lake City and head to Elko, Nevada, about a 3-hour drive, which we’ll break up with several birding stops along the way. We pass through good shorebird habitat along the salt flats of the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, possibly picking up Baird’s Sandpiper and Snowy Plover. In the Pequop Mountains, ridges covered with pinyon-juniper woodlands, host Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Gray Flycatcher and other birds of this specialized habitat, including the recently split Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.

Late afternoon we’ll bird in the Elko area, exploring rolling sagebrush-covered hills, looking for Sage Thrasher, Brewer’s Sparrow, and other sagebrush inhabitants. A visit to South Fork Reservoir will yield an amazing variety of waders, waterfowl, shorebirds and terns. We’ll retire fairly early, to prepare for tomorrow’s early start. Night in Elko, NV

Day 3 –  Ruby Mountains; South Hills

Today we look for Himalayan Snowcock, requiring a 3:00 am start for the 45-minute drive to Lamoille Canyon in the heart of the Ruby Mountains. Our hike begins in pre-dawn darkness, ascending about 2,000 feet along a narrow path for 2 miles. We’ll eat breakfast snacks at the trailhead and along the way). We aim to reach Island Lake and the cirque by daybreak, for the best chance to see our target. Most of the morning will be spent in the cirque, scanning towering rocky cliffsides for Himalayan Snowcock and Black Rosy-Finch, and enjoying the many other birds and spectacular scenery of this alpine area. Pika and Mountain Goat are often seen in the cirque. We’ll descend back to the trailhead in late morning, birding along the way for Rufous and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Dusky Flycatcher, Mountain Bluebirds, and possible Dusky Grouse. On our way back to town we’ll stop at the mouth of the canyon, where a grove of large cottonwoods is home to a colony of Lewis’s Woodpeckers, and other birds such as Chukar, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee, and Lazuli Bunting are possible.

This afternoon we drive northwards into Idaho. We’ll spot a variety of raptors along the way – Ferruginous Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Golden Eagle, and possible Prairie Falcon. Time permitting, we’ll make our first search for Cassia Crossbill. Recently split from Red Crossbill, Cassia’s is the ABA’s newest species, found only in the South Hills of southern Idaho. While most crossbills are nomadic, Cassia’s are sedentary, residing within lodgepole pine forests that are absent of red squirrels.  They share habitat with Western Wood-Pewee, Mountain Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Western Tanager, MacGillivray’s Warbler and others. Night in Twin Falls, ID.

Day 4 – South Hills; Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Depending upon our finds from yesterday, our itinerary is flexible this morning. We may return to the South Hills for Cassia Crossbill, or search nearby grasslands for Gray Partridge and other local birds.

We return to Utah, where we will visit Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, perhaps Utah’s most famous birding location. Huge numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl congregate at this time of year. A lot depends upon water levels but we should come across Western and Clark’s Grebe’s, American White Pelicans, California Gulls, Cinnamon Teal, White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwits, Solitary Sandpipers, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilts, Caspian and Forster’s Terns, Marsh Wrens and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Night in Layton, UT.

Day 5 – Great Salt Lake; Antelope Island; Afternoon departure

We spend our final morning at Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. Along the edge of this vast inland sea, we’ll witness one of the west’s greatest migratory spectacle, where hundreds-of-thousands of Wilson’s Phalaropes, Red-necked Phalaropes, and Eared Grebes congregate during the peak of migration. Along the 7-mile causeway that connects the island and mainland, we’ll stop to watch Franklin’s Gulls and Long-billed Curlews ceaselessly chasing millions of brine flies along the water’s edge. On the island, we’ll explore different areas for Black-chinned Hummingbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl, Western Meadowlark, Lark Sparrow, Wilson’s Warbler, and more. The island also hosts populations of Bison, Pronghorn, Mule Deer, Coyote, as well as myriad snakes, butterflies, and other wildlife.

The trip ends mid-day at Salt Lake City Airport.


Cost is $1,250 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Salt Lake City, Utah. (Airport code SLC).
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code SLC).

Cost Includes

Cost includes airport transfers, all ground transportation, accommodations, entrance fees and services of your professional leader(s).

Cost does not Include

All meals, flights to/from destination city, trip insurance, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants registered the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $200 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

4 nights accommodations in standard motels, all ensuite and comfortable. Wherever possible, we support establishments that implement eco-friendly practices.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

This trip includes some long driving periods as well as an early morning (pre-dawn) hike for Himalayan Snowcock. We’ll climb 2000 feet, beginning at an elevation of 8000 feet along a rugged, narrow trail for 2 miles. You must be physically fit to make this trek.

Recommended Field Guide

Sibley Birds West (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)
by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds is also available as an App


Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Location Map