Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2008-12b

Common name:


Scientific name: Caprimulgus vociferus
Date: 19 Jun 2008
Time: 10:20 PM
Length of time observed: about 70 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: Green Canyon
County: Cache County
Latilong: : 3. Logan
Elevation: 6110 feet
Distance to bird: 40 yards at first, later moved to within about 20 yards
Optical equipment: None. Audio recording equipment: SanDisk Sansa e260 MP3 player and recorder
Weather: Cool and breezy, upper 50s F, no clouds, Wind was strong at the bottom of the canyon but was much less here, ranging from still to maybe 15mph, but usually closer to still.
Light Conditions: Dark. Moon nearly full but not yet risen over the Bear River Range to the east (i.e., no direct moonlight).
Description:        Size of bird: (not seen)
(Description:)       Basic Shape: (not seen)
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: (not seen)
(Description:)            Bill Type: (not seen)
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This bird was identified by sound only, and was not seen. See next field for description.
Song or call & method of delivery: The bird was singing it's "whip-poor-will" song repeatedly from close distance for over an hour, and was still singing as we left, only pausing every five or ten minutes, usually for less than a minute. The song was given at a rate of roughly one complete phrase per second. After listening to recordings of this species online after hearing this bird, I think this was a Mexican subspecies bird, based on its slightly slower cadence and burrier last note than eastern birds. Hopefully the recordings can speak for themselves in this regard.
Behavior: Calling actively from trees. Moved closer to us on two occassions during the period of observation.
Habitat: Green Canyon is a mix of dry scrub with some Douglas fir stands on the north-facing slopes, sagebrush and juniper on the south-facing slopes, and box elder and other deciduous trees in the canyon bottom. We heard this bird from a grassy field but the bird was in an adjacent stand of trees and shrubs. I have not been to this location in the daytime so I cannot speak to the immediate habitat beyond the scope of our headlights.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Common Poorwills were heard from several points in the canyon. They have a three-syllable song with emphasis on the second syllable, "poo-JEE-wup". Chuck-Will's-Widow has a four or five syllable song, "Chck-wee-WEE-o" or "Chck-wee-o-WEE-o". In contrast, this bird had a three or four syllable song, "Whp-prr-WHEEo".

It may also be important to rule out the possibility that someone else was playing recordings of this species in this relatively heavily birded canyon. This possibility can be eliminated for two reasons. First, the bird was heard nearly continuously for over an hour, much longer than most recordings that birders broadcast. Second, the bird moved several times during the period of observation. At this close range, a person carrying a speaker would have been audible moving in the brush, but we heard no footsteps.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have heard this species on several occassions in New Hamphshire, where I lived for four years, and on one occassion earlier this year in SE Arizona.
References consulted: Online recordings of Whip-poor-wills from YouTube were used to try to distinguish subspecies by sound. Recordings on were used to refresh my memory about other nightjar's songs.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr., Logan UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Ron Ryel found the bird and notified myself, Craig Fosdick, and Stephanie Cobbold when we passed on the road as we were heading up to the same spot. All four of us heard the bird.
Date prepared: 20 Jun 2008
Additional material: Two digital recordings
Additional Comments: