Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2010-25

Common name:

Canyon Towhee

Scientific name: Pipilo fuscus
Date: 12, 13, and 14 May 2008
Time: 2:30 PM; 11:00 AM; 12:50 PM
Length of time observed: <5 min each time, three observations
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: unnamed drainage near Fiftymile Creek and Cave Point, Grand Staircase Escalante NM
County: Kane
Elevation: 4200 ft
Distance to bird: ~20 ft.
Optical equipment: Minolta 10x25 binoculars
Weather: Bright and sunny on 12 May, partly cloudy on 13 May, high thin clouds (sun still created shadows) on 14 May..
Light Conditions: Direct or diffuse mid-day light, good viewing conditions.
Description:        Size of bird: Towhee size.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Towhee shape, like a large sparrow with a long tail.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: See details below.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Short, sparrow-like bill.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Like all towhees, this bird was about sparrow-shaped but larger than most sparrows and with a longer tail. The body (including back and wings) was brownish-gray with a long, dark tail. As the bird flew into a shrub, it flashed rufous undertail coverts under the long dark tail. It had a rufous cap and pale patterning in the throat, and short sparrow-like bill.
Song or call & method of delivery: None certain to have come from this bird.
Behavior: When flushed, took cover in a dense shrub.
Habitat: Desert wash. See photo.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Thrashers, including Crissal Thrasher and Le Conte's Thrasher: Eliminated based on the short sparrow-shaped bill of this bird and the presence of a rufous cap.

Gray Catbird: Eliminated based on the short sparrow-shaped bill and rufous, not black, cap of this bird.

Green-tailed Towhee: Eliminated based on the rufous undertail coverts and brown-gray, not green, back and wings of this bird.

Abert's Towhee: Eliminated based on the pale, not dark, throat and rufous cap of this bird.

California Towhee: Certainly the most difficult species to eliminate, but this bird had a pale throat, not reddish as in California Towhee. Also, California Towhees are not known outside of Oregon, California, and Baja California.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen all species of Towhee that occur in the United States on multiple occasions. I've seen Canyon Towhees on 10-20 occasions in Arizona.
References consulted:  
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr, Logan
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None.
Date prepared: 23 Jun 2010
Additional material: Photo of habitat only, no photos of the bird.
Additional_Comments: I originally decided not to submit this report because I thought the liklihood of it being accepted without photos was too low, however a member of the Utah Bird Records Committee convinced me that the observation was worth submitting. Two years have passed since the observations, but the field marks described here were all noted in my field notes at the time of the observations.