Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2006-53

Common name:

Eastern Phoebe

Scientific name: Sayornis Phoebe
Date: October 15, 2006
Time: 8AM – 3PM
Length of time observed: ~5mins x 5 times
Number: 1
Age: Adult/AHY
Sex: unknown
Location: Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge – Headquarters Area
County: Juab County
Latilong: unknown
Distance to bird: ~5-10m at closest
Optical equipment: 10 x 42 Leica Binoculars
Weather: Full to part sunshine during entire day, ~70F for a high and a low at ~40F, light southerly winds.
Light Conditions: Sunny, many minutes of study with sun behind the observer.
Description:        Size of bird:  
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  
(Description:)  Overall Pattern:  
(Description:)            Bill Type:  
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This bird was observed several times during the course of the day at the residential area in/around the Siberian Elms. A number of characteristics were noted in the field (written field notes were taken immediately after my first encounter) and this report was written from those notes. After my initial observations I consulted a Sibley Field Guide to check for additional field marks that could be used to confirm identification.

1. The overall shape of the bird was that of an Eastern/Black/Say’s Phoebe. (Sayornis spp.). Slightly larger than the numerous Dark-eyed Juncos also present in the area.
2. The feathers of the head, face, wings, and tail were relatively uniform and dark gray towards black. The sides of the head/face and wings were slightly darker than the back and a slight contrast was noted.
3. The eye was dark. No eye-ring was present.
4. The legs were black.
5. The tail was proportionately long, square-tipped, and it was moved in a dipped/circular pattern; quite characteristic of this species.
6. There were no obvious wing bars.
7. The bill was medium-small and ALL black.
8. The throat, breast, belly, lower flanks, and undertail coverts were a creamy white with only the outermost upper breast feathers showing a wash of warm gray – “smudged” as called in Sibley’s Guide. Overall the ventral side of bird was clean and white.
Song or call & method of delivery: unknown
Behavior: The bird was observed resting (wagging/dipping its tail) and sallying for flying insects, usually finding a new perch after each capture and occasionally returning to its original perch. The bird was relocated several times during the day. It was actively pursuing and feeding on flying insects. Several times the bird was observed flying up to and against the walls of buildings in pursuit of its prey.
Habitat: An oasis of trees and water in an otherwise dry, desert habitat – migrant trap. The immediate area where this bird was found (residence area of headquarters) contains a number of mature Siberian Elm and Russian Olive trees. Several of the residences have green lawns. There are some planted low juniper species.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Say’s Phoebe: from SP by lack of cinnamon on the flanks and undertail coverts, no light gray on throat and breast, no light gray on the head and face, and did not show strong contrast of black tail with light gray back, head, and wings.

Black Phoebe: from BP by lack of black throat and upper breast.

Olive-side Flycatcher: from OSF be smaller size, much smaller bill, all black bill, and lack of olive wash “vest” pattern on upper chest.

Empidonax spp. (I have identified Cordilleran, Dusky, Gray, Hammond’s, and Willow Flycatchers at Fish Springs NWR during 2004-2006; Three of the five species above have been mist netted): from Empidonax by larger size, lack of eye ring, no yellow on lower mandible, dark gray towards black plumage on head, wings, tail, and back - no olive tones.

Western Wood Peewee: from WWP by larger size, no wing bars, no extensive olive wash on throat and belly. No yellow on lower mandible.

Myarchus spp.: from Myarchus Flycatchers by smaller size, no yellow on belly, darker gray/black plumage on back and wings, no rufous in tail or wings, and a much smaller bill.

Eastern Kingburd: from EK by smaller size, no white tipped tail feathers, smaller bill, behavior.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This species is fairly common in Minnesota and New York, two states that I have lived and birded extensively in during the late 70’s – early 80’s (Minnesota) and 1995-2001 (New York). I’ve observed at least hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals of this species in those states. I’m still an active member and contributor to the Buffalo Ornithological Society (Buffalo, NY).

Say’s Phoebes are summer residents at Fish Springs NWR and I’ve observed a number of individuals there and elsewhere in the state. I’ve identified a number of Black Phoebe individuals in SW Utah (Washington County) since moving to the state.
References consulted:  
Observer: Jack Skalicky
Observer's address: 178 N. Main #55, Salt Lake City STATE: Utah ZIP: 84103-2075
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Dennis and Bryan Shirley were at the refuge and both identified this bird. Dennis posted this sightings on October 16. The Refuge Manager Jay Banta also confirmed the ID.
Date prepared: October 16-17, 2006 and e-mailed on October 19, 2006
Additional material:  
Additional comments: