Elko, Nevada Wildlife Viewing

Nevada wildlife viewing is a rewarding experience because it offers visitors the rare opportunity to truly meet the “locals.” By locals, we’re talking about the bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer and birds that dwell in Elko and Northeastern Nevada.

After all, Nevada is a state of striking geological features and equally striking wildlife. There are more than 300 named mountain ranges with elevations ranging from 2,000 feet to over 13,000 feet that are home to species such as the Himalayan snowcock. A land of stark contrasts, Nevada is home to a wide variety of other wildlife and birds. With more than 85 percent held in public ownership, a majority of the state remains accessible to all of us and enhances our opportunity to enjoy bird and other wildlife viewing in Nevada.

We’ll walk you through some of our favorites here.

Photo by Sydney Martinez | Travel Nevada

Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge

This 37,632 acre refuge offers a full day of wildlife viewing. A fresh water bullrush marsh, open ponds and grassy uplands are home to an amazing variety of birds, fish and animals.

Distance from Elko: 65 miles (104.7 km)

Services Along Route: None available

Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway

Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway runs 12 miles/22.3 km through this U-shaped, sheer-walled canyon that is home to Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, Himalayan snowcock and a variety of peak-dwelling birds.

Distance from Elko: 25 miles (40.3 km)

Services Along Route: Limited services available in Lamoille (13 miles)

Photo by Sydney Martinez | Travel Nevada

Angel Lake Scenic Byway

A gorgeous little lake high in the East Humboldt Range. Angel Lake is the only alpine lake accessible by paved road in the area. Seasonally a visitor can view bighorn sheep, deer, mountain goats and many types of alpine birds.

Distance from Elko: 62 miles (103.5 km)

Services Along Route: All services available in Wells (12 miles / 21 km)

Birds of Northern Nevada

Birding is about patience. Some areas of Nevada seem barren, but nature camouflages very well and challenges you to look very hard for birds common to that area. Other locations will overwhelm you with an abundance of birds.

Water is essential both for birds and bird watchers. Always carry water! If you travel on unimproved roads, carry a shovel. Temperatures rise and fall very rapidly in the desert and mountains. These temperature changes affect when and where you will find birds. Because the temperature can change by 40 or more degrees in just a few hours, wear layers of clothing to protect yourself. A hat and sunscreen are very useful. If you are not used to the elevation, take your time.

Above all, remember that rattlesnakes and scorpions hide under rocks and logs. Gloves will protect your hands from unintentional encounters. Snakes are vital to the desert habitat so please give them a wide berth.

Here is a partial list of the birds found in Nevada, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife:

  • American Avocet
  • American Bittern
  • American Coot
  • American Crow
  • American White Pelican
  • American Wigeon
  • Bald Eagle
  • Bank Swallow
  • Bell’s Vireo
  • Bendire’s Thrasher
  • Black-Chinned Sparrow
  • Black Rosy-Finch
  • Black Tern
  • Bobolink
  • California Quail
  • California Spotted Owl
  • Canada Goose
  • Canvasback
  • Cassin’s Finch
  • Chukar
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Common Raven
  • Dusky Grouse
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Gadwall
  • Gambel’s Quail
  • Golden Eagle
  • Greater Sage Grouse
  • Greater Sandhill Crane
  • Greater White-Fronted Goose
  • Green-Winged Teal
  • Himalayan Snowcock
  • Hungarian Partridge
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Mallard
  • Mountain Quail
  • Morning Dove
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Pinyon Jay
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Redhead
  • Ring-Necked Duck
  • Ring-Necked Pheasant
  • Roos’s Goose
  • Ruffed Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • Sooty Grouse
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Tundra Swan
  • Western Burrowing Owl
  • White-Winged Dove
  • Wild Turkey
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Wood Duck

Wildlife Viewing Tips

Wildlife viewing is best in the early morning and early evening. Cloudy days are also good. Viewing locations change during the year. In the summer, look for animals in higher, cooler mountains. During winter, be alert in the lower, warmer elevations. Your vehicle serves as a “blind” which can be used to mask your presence. Use binoculars or spotting scopes to view from a distance safe for both the wildlife and you. Note: when an animal changes its behavior due to your presence, you are too close.

Nevada Department of Wildlife, Elko

Officially, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), which covers the Elko region, has listed 456 bird species for the state of Nevada. Many of the state’s parks, wildlife management areas, local parks and local facilities have bird lists and trail guides. Learn more on the NDOW website.