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Pitta Nature Tours
Sage & Juniper Specialists

Perhaps the most interesting niche habitats in the Mountain West are the Sagebrush Sea and Pinyon & Juniper (PJ for Short) Woodlands. Both hold a small number of unique and drab birds that can be found just 60-minutes from Salt Lake City.

Upcoming Tour Date(s)


Up to 7 Spaces available per tour!


Itinerary subject to change due to weather, birding conditions, and other factors out of our control.

Juniper Titmouse

Overview Pickup from SLC and drive to the West Desert

Salt Lake City provides one of the best options available in the United States to quickly visit two unique habitats with a number of specialty birds that prove quite difficult to find elsewhere.  Just a 60-minutes drive from our international airport sits a mature tract of Pinyon-Juniper woodland flanked by an expansive Sagebrush desert. Leaving SLC an hour before sunrise, we arrive as the sun starts to peek over the tops of the mountains to the east, and the chorus of drab specialty birds welcomes the day.

This tour is offered between May and August, and sticks to a specific itinerary due to the nature of the birds we are searching for. Each tour includes a boxed breakfast to enjoy en route to our destination or while birding.  We generally wrap things up and are back in Salt Lake City no later than 11:00 AM.  

Gray Vireo

Juniper Woodlands A dense and dry forest, surprisingly full of bird life.

Arriving in the "forest" at dawn we'll depart the vehicle and take a short hike in the direction of whatever we hear.  Typically some of our target birds are singing as we arrive and we will focus on the hardest to get or number one target first--the Gray Vireo.  As we hear birds we will attempt to track them down and quite often we end up finding a number of our target species during this short hike.  Gray Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Bewick's Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Ash-throated Flycatcher are the main species we'll be on the lookout for.

We'll continue the morning driving through the forest and stopping at several other points to look for birds, and find anything we may have missed earlier. With any luck, we may also find things like Bushtit, Lazuli Bunting, Common Nighthawk, and early or late in the season, migrant Western Tanager.  Several unpredictable juniper specialists have shown up from time to time on this tour, with Pinyon Jay being possible after particularly wet winters, Black-throated Gray Warbler typically in the early season, and Scott's Oriole a possibility on any trip (albeit very rare).

Sagebrush Sparrow

The Sagebrush Sea Far from empty, those who look closely will discover an ecosystem full of birds.

As the morning warms up and we've crossed most of our juniper specialists off our list, we'll descend out of the forest onto a large sagebrush plain.  Here the trees fade to knee-high gray-green brushes as far as the eye can see--and with the strange environment come a handful of birds that rely on a healthy sage ecosystem to thrive.  The main target here is the locally common but difficult to find Sagebrush Sparrow.  This impeccable songster perches at the tops of the highest brushes--blending into its drab surroundings quite easily.  Other sparrows more common on these flats include Brewer's Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, and Lark Sparrow and we'll focus on tracking each down while here.

A number of other species call this dry environment home, and it's not uncommon to see Western Meadowlark, Northern Mockingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, and Common Raven while we make our way through the habitat.

Swainson's Hawk

Agricultural Areas Still a crucial habitat for the birds that have adapted to live here.

By late morning we should have exhausted most of the birding opportunities in the juniper and the sage and will start making our way back towards Salt Lake City.  But the birding isn't over.  Sparse agricultural land on the fringes of the desert creates food and habitat that attracts some of the more common desert birds.  Horned Lark, Sage Thrasher, and American Kestrel are typical in this area.  Overhead we may get lucky and find a Ferruginous Hawk or Golden Eagle--while more likely to see several Swainson's Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk. As our morning adventure into this fascinating habitat comes to an end, we'll send you on your way for your next birding adventure!

2023 Pricing

Private Tour

You’ll have van to yourself, and up to 6 friends. Perfect for families or small groups!

Max Participants: 7
$300 + $75/person
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Looking for something else?

Want to combine this tour with a visit to the mountains? What about seeing the sage and juniper specialists of Utah's West Desert? Or an evening of Flammulated Owling? The Best of Utah Summer Tour might be perfect for you! Or check out all our Utah Tour options.

What's Included & What to Expect

What to Expect on Your Tour

On the day of our tour we will provide pickup from local hotels and/or one of our set departure locations.


During the tour, we will travel in our comfortable 12-person Transit Van (aptly named Otus).  Since this tour caps at 7-people, that means each of our 3-rows in the back has just 2-people, with the 7th passenger riding shotgun.  Lots of room to stretch out with your gear and not feel like a sardine in a tin.

We provide a step stool for easy access in and out of the van and ice-cold water is available whenever you need from the back of the van with a custom tour water bottle provided for you to keep at the beginning of the tour.


Morning tours include a boxed breakfast.


The pace of the tour is steady. Not too fast and not too slow--just right!


This tour is not physically demanding. We may do several short strolls, but nothing requiring too much physical activity.

Weather and Temperature

When we arrive in habitat, it may be slightly chilly early in the morning earlier in the season, and generally warm later--but temperatures quickly rise and it becomes hot by mid-morning.

Insects, Snakes, and Predators

Oh my!  Mosquitoes can be found at most places we will be visiting from spring through fall, so protective clothing or repellent is highly recommended.  While there are other biting bugs, most are not problematic.  There is one species of rattlesnake in the Great Basin, but we have not encountered them on any tours.  With that being said, please be aware it is possible to encounter them.  And lastly, there are both Black Bear and Cougar in the Mountain West, but in 13 years of guiding I have never encountered either during a tour!

Non-bird Highlights

  • The Sagebrush Sea
  • Utah Juniper Berries
  • Pronghorn

What's Included

  • Professional Guide Service
  • Transportation from SLC
  • Boxed Breakfast
  • Spotting Scope while Birding
  • Water for Refreshment
  • Birds—we’ll find some birds
  • Some Flammtastic Tour Swag
  • Delightful Conversation about Birds
  • A Thoroughly Enjoyable Time!
We also include SFW dad jokes, witty bird puns, and the occasional commentary on things non-bird related!

What's Not Included

  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Binoculars
  • Cameras and Lenses
  • Bug Spray
  • Jackets or Sweaters
  • Shoes and Socks
  • Flights or Transportation to Utah
We highly recommend all of the above ;)

Still have questions? Ready to book a tour? Either way tapping the buttons below will put you in touch with us!

Past Sage & Juniper Specialists Tours

July 2019
Sage & Juniper Specialists Read Recap

Recent Photos from this Tour

Still have questions? Ready to book a tour? Either way tapping the buttons below will put you in touch with us!

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