Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-3a

Common name:


Scientific name: Spiza americana
Date: 28 Jun 2011
Time: 11:25 AM
Length of time observed: 1.5 hours
Number: 1
Sex: Male
Location: Farmington
County: Davis
Distance to bird: Down to 20 ft.
Optical equipment: Nikon Monarch 10x42 binoculars, Nikon D90 with 80-400mm lens.
Weather: ~85 degrees F, sunny with intermittent clouds, breezy.
Light Conditions: Mix of direct overhead sunlight and diffuse sunlight through thin clouds.
Description:        Size of bird: Large sparrow
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Sparrow/grosbeak shape
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: See details below
(Description:)            Bill Type: Thick, pointy bill; similar to Blue Grosbeak's proportions but somewhat longer and a little less thick.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Sparrow/grosbeak-shaped bird. Generally grayish with rufous shoulder, yellow breast, black throat, white chin, yellow and white malar, and yellow supercillium. Details: Bill bluish at base of lower mandible and otherwise gray. Crown yellowish gray. Supercillium yellow, extended from lores to nape. White below eye in a broad eyering. Gray cheeks. Malar was white where it met the bill, then yellow, and returning to white around the neck. Chin immediately below bill was white, but throat was black. Black throat was bordered by a yellow breast that extended down the keel of the breast to the upper belly, with grayish white on the flanks and belly. Black throat extended into yellow breast in a few black spots. Primaries appeared dull brown. Greater coverts where brownish with pale tan edging. Median and lesser coverts were rusty rufous. Upper back was streaked blackish and tan, fading quickly into a grayish rump. Legs were gray.
Song or call & method of delivery: Sang periodically from near the tops of hemlock and from a fencepost. Refer to recording of song.
Behavior:  Singing in weedy field. Hard to locate between bouts of song - presumably took cover in the weeds?
Habitat: Weedy field.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Distinctive species in breeding plumage. Western Meadowlark has pattern of black on yellow breast, but has a much longer bill and lacks distinct rufous patch on coverts. I think the most similar species to Dickcissel is the Dead Sea Sparrow, which has not been recorded outside the Middle East, and which has black, not yellow or white, lores, and lacks the extent of yellow reaching the belly (being present only at the side of the throat).
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I am very familiar with all of the expected species in this area. I have seen Dickcissels in their more typical range on only three other occasions, in Colorado and Iowa.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to Birds, Pyle's Identification Guide to North American Birds.
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: First reported to birding hotlines by Tony Jones on 26 June 2011 (first observed by him at least 24 June). Subsequently seen by many observers as reported to the Utah Birdtalk/Birdnet hotlines. No one else was present when I observed the bird.
Date prepared: 28 Jun 2011
Additional material: Audio recording (mp3)