Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' loon watch is set for Saturday, April 21, 2018, at Steinaker State Park near Vernal.

VERNAL — The Division of Wildlife Resources' loon watch is set for Saturday, April 21, at Steinaker State Park.

The free event runs from 9 a.m. to noon. The park, which includes Steinaker Reservoir, is just off U.S. 191, about 5 miles north of Vernal.

Five loon species are found in the world. The second largest, the common loon, migrates through Utah on its way north in the spring and on its way back to coastal destinations in the fall.

"Common loon calls are often what you think of while watching a movie set in the northern territories of Canada," says Tonya Kieffer, regional conservation outreach manager for the DWR. "They have a wailing, yodel-like call that echoes in the wilderness."

Kieffer says the watch will take place at one of the highway's pullouts on the east side of the reservoir. "We'll have binoculars and spotting scopes available to help you see, learn about and enjoy these unique birds," she said.

Named for their awkwardness while walking, or for their calls (after an old Norse word meaning "to moan"), loons are at home on or under the water.

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"They're superb swimmers with torpedo-like bodies that are designed to catch fish," Kieffer said. "Due to the placement of their feet, they can't walk well, so they only use land during their nesting season. They require lakes with enough surface area for their erratic flapping-and-running takeoffs across the water. You'll likely see birds take off during the event."

While the event is free, participants are encouraged to register online at wildlife.utah.gov. Completing the form will help the DWR make future events even better.