The area included in this Important Bird Area is the acreage within the Wellsville Mountain Wilderness Area, which is managed by the Logan Ranger District of Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The Wellsvilles are an exceptionally steep, isolated ridge oriented in a north-south direction. Agriculture is the dominant land use in the expansive valleys below. The Great Salt Lake lies 31 km to the southwest. The ridgetop supports few trees, with primary vegetation along the ridgetop consisting of grasses and low desert shrubs. Consequently, the lookout affords exceptional unobstructed views in all directions.

Many factors make the Wellsville lookout ideal for observing consistent fall flights of migrating raptors. Several ridges to the north serve as "leading lines" funneling migrating raptors into the Wellsvilles. In addition, the Great Salt Lake and Great Salt Desert to the west probably serve as barriers to migration. Most species of raptors prefer not to fly over large expanses of water and inhospitable habitat such as deserts. Accordingly, most raptors navigating toward the Great Salt Lake from the north likely divert their migratory flight around either side of the Bonneville Basin, with the Wellsville range the first ridge encountered at the northeast edge of the lake. Migrating raptors find consistent updrafts along steep slopes such as those in the Wellsvilles because ridges deflect winds upward. These updrafts, combined with rising thermals from the plains below, provide lift that the raptors use to reduce the need for powered flight. By reducing the amount of flapping flight, birds may migrate great distances while minimizing energetic output. A more complete description of this site is available at www.hawkwatch.org. Also, additional information can be found by going to www.wilderness.net. A hard copy topographical map of the area is available with the nomination.

Ornithological Summary

Migrating raptors find consistent updrafts along steep slopes such as those in the Wellsvilles as the ridges deflect winds upward. These updrafts, combined with rising thermals from the plains below, provide lift that the raptors use to reduce energy needs for flight. By reducing frequency of wing beats, birds migrate great distances while minimizing energy output.

This site easily meets the criteria of avian congregations with over 1,000 raptors using the site during fall migration season. Begun in 1977, but with a gap in coverage from 1980?1985, the HawkWatch International (HWI) Wellsville Mountains study was one of the first standardized raptor migration counts initiated in the western U.S. The project now runs from 27 August through 31 October each year, with annual counts typically ranging between 2,400-5,600 migrants of up to 17 species. Species whose counts have exceeded 400 individuals in a single season include: American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper?s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Swainson?s Hawk and Golden Eagle. The area also qualified as an IBA based on the Northern Goshawk, which is on the State Sensitive Species list. Since 1977, the high count for Northern Goshawks was 74 in 1992 and the low was 8 in 1987 and 2006.

Ownership

Public lands managed by Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The IBA covers the entire 22,986 acres of the designated Wellsville Mountain Wilderness Area.

Habitat

The habitats dominating the ridge top area are alpine and rock. Other habitat types in the IBA include mountain riparian, mountain shrub, mixed conifer and aspen.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.