Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2007-18a

Common name:

Scarlet Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga olivacea
Date: 7/25/07
Time: ~6:15-8:15PM
Length of time observed: ~ 2 hours
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Female
Location: Location: Fish Springs NWR picnic area
County: Juab County
Elevation: ~4250ft
Distance to bird: varied between 10-75ft
Optical equipment: B&L Elites
Weather: Temp in upper 70's...had rained...mostly cloudy...sun stayed behind clouds for most of the observation
Light Conditions: Varied, but pretty good for the most part
Description:        Size of bird: Smaller than robin, bigger than finch
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Tanager
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Greenish
(Description:)            Bill Type: Tanager - similar in size to nearby Western Tanagers
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
As for the Scarlet Tanager, the bird was a fairly uniform greenish color overall. The bird appeared to be slightly more gray towards the undertail coverts and in particular the belly. The
brownish wings contrasted nicely with the overall greenish color of the back and bird overall. There was no sign of any wing bars. The bill was similar to nearby Western Tanagers in size.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: The bird did give a call note on several occasions. I'm absolutely terrible at describing calls, but I think I would qualify it as being lower in pitch than the Western double call note call...and I'm not sure I would say it was really even analagous to the Western double note call. Anyway, I haven't heard a Summer and in particular Western Tanager give such a call.
Behavior: Foraged all over. It flycatched often except that it rarely went back to the same perch. It did fly down to the ground on several occasions to forage. It allowed relatively close approach during these instances, but I wasn't able to get any in focus, good light and good position of the bird shots.
Habitat: Bare dirt to low vegetation to live/dead cottonwoods.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Western Tanager - did not have any wing bars, the wings were brownish, which contrasted nicely with the overall color of the bird, the back was a dull green, the call note it gave was something I've never heard a Western Tanager give. 

Summer Tanager - bill too small and not long enough, the brownish wings contrasted too much with the overall color of the bird, I can't remember off the top of my head, but the greenish-gray underparts, particularly on the belly, doesn't fit well with Summer?

Hepatic Tanger - no dark cheeks, more greenish/gray on the underside whereas the hepatic is more an orangish/yellow, the bill wasn't the right size as well, the brownish colored wings, etc.

Female bunting sp - size, bill shape, brownish colored wings contrasting with greenish bird are not right

Some fall warbler sp. - size, bill shape, etc.

Previous experience with
this & similar species:
 I've seen dozens - unfortunately, I could not definitively say the call was a Scarlet at the time of the observation, which was disappointing.
References consulted: Sibley at time of observation...none when writing this up.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Colby Neuman
Observer's address: 139 S 1200 E Apt #1 Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Matt Mills and Randy Larsen - original observers - not present when I observed the bird
Date prepared: 7/26/07
Additional material: (photos downloaded from website)

Video on YouTube
"... scarlet tanager call note, which can be heard (although it's definitely not easy to hear over the background noise)...just ignore the fact that I put up the binocs to the camera b/c I wasn't able to find the bird in the camera during this movie...i realized trying to get a recording of the call note was probably the most important thing."

Additional Comments: I honestly believe this is the 'rarer' of the two's one thing to have a male that's already deciding to head south in late July, but for there to be a female in Utah this 'early' in the fall is
intriguing...presumably the bird must have had little in the way of breeding success this season and decided to head south, west, or who knows where really, early...