Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2007-18

Common name:

Scarlet Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga olivacea
Date: 7/24/07-7/25/07
Time:  24th: 8:30pm, 25th: 10:30am
Length of time observed: About 5 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Ad.
Sex: F
Location: Thomas Ranch picnic area, Fish Springs NWR.
County: Juab
Latilong: 9
Elevation: About 4300 feet
Distance to bird: <35 feet
Optical equipment: Binoculars
Weather: 24th: Overcast, light rain 25th: Sunny, warm, calm.
Light Conditions: 24th: Fading, 25th: Ideal.
Description:        Size of bird: A medium-sized passerine, smaller than the surrounding Western Kingbirds
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Med-sized compact passerine, short tail.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Greenish -yellow body, dark brown wings.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Long, thick, that of a tanager.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I first spotted this bird on the evening of July 24th AFTER I'd seen a Painted Bunting in the same tree. It flew a short distance out of a tree and then back in, and I saw a flash of pale yellow
body and darker wings. There were several (up to 6) Western Kingbirds here and at first I thought it was another kingbird as they also flash yellow and darker wings. When it landed I got a clear look of most of the bird (some obscured by foliage) and thought "oh a female scarlet tanager", but being from Ontario, Canada where they are common I wasn't sure how rare they were in Utah. The bird disappeared and when I realized later how rare it was I figured it must have been a Western Tanager, as two rarities in the same tree struck me as improbable.

Anyways, enough story telling, I returned the morning of the 25th and located the bird in the same area, almost in the exact same place as it sat calmly in the sun and moved about foraging. I was able to get clear prolonged views of the entire bird. The bird was pale greenish-yellow
underneath with entirely dark brown wings. The bill was dark grayish-black and slightly paler towards the middle. It was smaller than the numerous western kingbirds but larger than the painted bunting. In the morning sun it was as stunning bird.
(see photos by Colby Neuman)
Song or call & method of delivery: No call notes heard.
Behavior: Foraging and moving about high in the trees, about 3/4 of the way up.
Habitat: In a small stand of trees in a large wetland complex. The area is surrounded by desert.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
At the time I felt the only two candidates were Western Tanager and Scarlet Tanager. The fact that the bird was still in the exact same place two successive days and did not show signs
of tending a nest suggested to me that it was a vagrant. There is only one other stand of trees for miles (around the visitors center of the refuge) so a stray scarlet tanager would likely limit itself to these two areas.

Randy Larsen commented about Summer tanagers, which I have never seen, and that would seem to be more likely than a Scarlet Tanager, but the females don't show as much contrast between body colour and wing colour.

From female Western Tanager by the lack of wingbars (not even faint ones were seen) on this bird. Female western scarlet tanagers would typically have 2 yellow wingbars on each wing. The bill was also fairly grayish, perhaps brighter towards the center, but not orange at all. I have
seen 1 female western tanager before in Ontario - a vagrant,
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen many in southern Ontario during migration and breeding season.
References consulted: Sibley field guide.
Description from: From memory
Observer: Matthew Mills
Observer's address: 1565 N. University Ave. #30 Provo, UT 84604
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Later seen by Colby Neuman.
Date prepared: Mostly July 27th, finished up on July 29th.
Additional material:  
Additional Comments: Colby Neuman was able to obtain some photos.