Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2010-13

Common name:

Eastern Phoebe

Scientific name: Sayornis phoebe
Date: April 19, 2010
Time: 6:25 pm
Length of time observed: 10 minutes
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: ?
Location: North Logan, UT
County: Cache
Latilong: 3
Elevation: 4600 ft
Distance to bird: 10 to 30 ft
Optical equipment: zeiss 8x20B
Weather: sunny, 75 degrees, no wind
Light Conditions: full sun
Description:        Size of bird: similar to house finch
(Description:)       Basic Shape: flycatcher shape
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: dark above, mostly whitish below
(Description:)            Bill Type: thin in height, wedge-shaped in width
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This medium-sized flycather was dark gray above and whitish below. The tail was medium to long in length. The face was slighly darker, almost black, with an abrupt change to white below the eye. The head was relatively rounded on top. There were no wing bars on the dark wings. The undersides from the lower face through the throat, belly and undertail coverts were white, and when seen from the side and below a darker, but thinly colored "vest" was ovserved on the breast, nearly separated in the middle of the breast. The tail was dark both above and below, and while the bird was perched, it was nearly constantly flicked downward, then back up (phoebe-like). The bill was all dark, appearing black.
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior: The bird was initially seen perched on a fence; The bird flushed several times and flew to nearby shrubs and two trees. The bird constantly flicked its tail while perched.
Habitat: The fence where initially observed bordered a path along a canal (contained some water) on one side and an open pasture on the other side. There were some cottonwood trees on the opposite side of the canal with open land beyond.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Other Phoebes: Two other phoebe species are found in Utah, black and Say's. Both have tail flicking as seen in this bird, but their color patterns are much different. Black phoebe has a jet black back, head and breast with white only on the belly. Say's phoebe has extensive dark tawny color in the belly and a grayish breast and throat.

Empidonax flycatchers: This bird lacked an eye ring and wing bars found on these species. Also, the abrupt color break on the lower face from near black to white is not found in these flycathers. None (except gray) of these flycatchers are known to constantly flick their tail downward.

Western (and eastern) wood-pewee: These birds are a bit greener in color, don't have the abrupt color break on the lower face, have a pale lower mandible, can have a peaked appearance to the back of their head, and don't constantly flick their tails downward.

Olive-sided flycatcher: This species appears a bit greener, does not have the abrupt color break on the lower face, has a much more extensive "vest" on the breast, has a much shorter tail, has a peaked appearance to the back of the head, and does not constantly flick its tail downward.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen many Eastern phoebes in the eastern US (particularly Michigan). I have also recorded one in Logan, UT in April, 1983.
References consulted: Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America (2003), National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of Western North America (2008)
Description from: From memory
Observer: Ron Ryel
Observer's address: 1649 N 1000 E, North Logan, UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: none at the time of sighting
Date prepared: April 20, 2010
Additional material:  
Additional_Comments: Time of year is consistent with the early migration by this species. Another eastern phoebe was reported on Antelope Island about 10 days prior to this observation.