Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2006-23

Common name:

Clay-colored Sparrow

Scientific name: Spizella pallida
Date: 04/09/06
Time: 6:00 pm ?
Length of time observed: 30 mintues
Number: 1
Age: n/a
Sex: n/a
Location: In Cottonwood Wash just north of the town of Bluff. One can reach the area by Traveling north from Highway 191 in Bluff on 4th West. The road curves to the right slightly after a block and a half. Turn right here and follow the road north till you come to the gate and fence. Park her but do not block the gate. You can go under or over the gate, or squeeze through the right side. From here walk north on the road about 1/4 mile till you come to the trees on your left. There is a pond here. The bird was seen near the big boulder 75 feet south of the pond on the slope. It moved to the west side of the pond, and foraged its way through most of the area.
County: San Juan
Latilong: 37*17’52.74” N 109*34’02.61” W
Elevation: 4300 feet
Distance to bird: 15 – 50 feet
Optical equipment: 10x42 Nikon Premier Binoculars
Weather: Clear Blue Skies
Light Conditions: Early evening light, still light, but no direct sunlight.
Description:        Size of bird:  5-6” in length
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Sparrow Shaped
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Drab gray and buffy. Also black and white and various other shades of gray.
(Description:)            Bill Type: conical
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
See Attached Images. The bird was a fairly typical Clay-colored not quite out of its winter plumage yet. It showed an obvious dark crown with a light median stripe. The auriculars were bordered with an all dark line that continued to the eye. The bird lacked this dark spot in front of the eye, diagnostic for this species. The head stripes were light gray and matched the light gray nape. There bird also showed a distinct mustache.
The wings were dark, with light brown edges on the primaries. There were 2 light wing bars, both buff in coloration. The back was streaked brown/buff and black. The body was buffy overall in coloration with a little gray as well
Song or call & method of delivery: none heard
Behavior: actively feeding on the ground and low lying brush
Habitat: Desert Wash, some low sage, and other brush sparsely covering the base of a red rock hill side. There was also a pond within 50 feet of the bird the entire time.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Brewer’s Sparrow: This bird is very drab and doesn’t show the kind of distinct marking the CCSP shows. Generally this species is almost “colorless” and unmistakable for how plain it is.

Chipping Sparrow: A juvenile bird could match but would lack the buffy coloration of the bird we watched

Other Sparrow’s: No other sparrow’s exhibit all the field marks described on the bird we viewed.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have seen all on numerous occasions. Dealt with 100’s of both Brewer’s and Chipping of all ages on a daily basis while conducting point counts in Southwestern Wyoming in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Have seen CCSP on several occasions in the Midwest and once in Wyoming.
References consulted: Sibley’s (both the original and 2nd edition because the CCSP plate has distorted color in the 1st edition). Lu also had a guide to Sparrow’s we looked at briefly afterwards.
Description from: Notes made shortly after the sighting.
Observer: Tim Avery
Observer's address: 1754 Garfield Avenue, Salt Lake City, Utah 84108
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Lu Giddings
Date prepared: 06/05/06
Additional material: 2 images posted at my website:
Additional comments: I originally filled out a report form within a week of the sighting, but it was never received by Milt due to system problems. Milt asked me to resubmit the sighting so I am.