Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 13-2001

Common name:


Scientific name: Philomachus pugnax
Date: September 23, 2001
Time: 1330 to about 1400, and again 1430-1500
Length of time observed: about an hour total
Number: 1
Age: juvenile
Location: west end of Glover Lane
County: Davis
Latilong:  6 (?)
Elevation: 4500'
Distance to bird: approximately 50 feet originally
Optical equipment: Kowa TSN 2, 20X-60X; Zeiss 7x42
Weather: sunny
Light Conditions: mid-day sun, good light on bird
Detailed description of bird: Dana Green and I spotted the bird in the small pond at the west end of Glover Lane and to the north, very near the road. I immediately decided that this bird was something different from the Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs feeding nearby because of its color, size, and unusual feather arrangement on scapulars and back--and then I saw the short, slightly decurved beak and knew it was something not usually seen in Utah. We started noting obvious field marks such as size, color, leg color, and beak and suspected a Ruff but scanned the Sibley Guide to find out for sure. The Ruff was the only bird it could be.

Size: Approximately the size of a Greater Yellowlegs, but with a much bulkier body. I had just seen a Pecotral Sandpiper earlier that same morning in Farmington Bay WMA and knew immediately that this bird was taller, much bulkier, and did not have the streaked chest pattern of a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Beak: dark, short and slightly decurved.

Legs: relatively longer, not short like the Pectoral Sandpiper, and dull yellow; not a more bright yellow like the Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs in the area.

Head: smallish; buff-colored; crown appeared slightly darker; dark eye, with a "smudgy" look behind the eye, lighter above the eye, lending it somewhat the appearance of an eyebrow, but not a definite hard eyebrow. I knew the bird should have a post-ocular eyeline according to the Sibley's that we were using, but I could never pick up a definite line because the bird was actively feeding and it was hard to get the right angle to be sure it was a line. The best I could tell was a darkness in 
the eye area.

Breast: buff-color extended from head and neck down to the area just above the legs where it became white back through the undertail coverts. In contrast to the Greater Yellowlegs nearby, this bird appeared more buff-cinammon overall and not gray.

Back and Scapulars: The back and scapulars had a most unusual appearance--they appeared to be ruffled up, as if by the wind, but no other birds in the area displayed this appearance. I finally concluded that this must be something unique to the Ruff. The feathers appeared dark with whitish to buff-colored feather edgings, giving the bird a scaly look.

Wings: The bird raised its wings and the underwing linings showed a large amount of white; I did not notice any other color on the wing linings.

Tail: dark feathers, appeared blackish.

Activity: feeding calmly throughout observation.

Song or call & method of delivery: None 
Behavior: Feeding calmly throughout observation, probing in shallow water at edge of pond, walking back and forth.
Habitat: shallow pond and mudflat, although the bird stayed in the water the entire period of observation
Similar species and
how were they eliminated:
Pectoral Sandpiper: I had just observed a Pectoral Sandpiper earlier the same morning at Farmington Bay WMA, and I have observed Pectorals in the past. This species is much shorter and has a relatively dark, streaked breast that ends in a very difinitive line across the breast. Although the birds both have short, slightly decurved bills, they were not otherwise alike. The Ruff's breast was not streaked at all and was not near as dark, it was buffy. The Ruff is a much bigger, taller and bulkier bird. 

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: The Buff-breasted Sandpiper has a totally different look to its face: sort of open; the beak is not decurved. Although both birds have extensive buff coloring on breast down towards belly, they give a decidely different appearance; the Buff-breasted Sandpiper is not as bulky, it seems more slender.
Previous experience with this & similar species: None
References consulted: Sibley's Guide on site at first observation; later at second observation consulted Birds of Europe that David Wheeler had.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Julie Van Moorhem
Observer's address: 1322 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified
this bird:
Mark Stackhouse, David Wheeler
Date prepared: September 24, 2001
Additional material: Mark Stackhouse took pictures.

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