Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 201

Common name:

Northern Parula

Scientific name: Setophaga americana
Date: 18 December 2012
Time: 1:45 pm
Length of time observed: 15 Minutes
Number: 1
Age: 1st year?
Sex: Female?
Location: Provo City Cemetery
County: Utah
Elevation: 4600
Distance to bird: 20-45 feet. Very close at eye level for the first few moments. Way up at the top of a large pine tree most of the time.
Optical equipment: 8x42 Binoculars
Weather: Snowing hard
Light Conditions: Poor to okay depending where the bird was.
Description:        Size of bird: Small Warbler sized.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Warbler Shaped
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Blue-gray top, yellow and white below.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small and pointy. Warbler shaped.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Blue-gray upperparts (head, wings and tail), green patch on back (mantel), yellow throat and chest, white belly and undertail coverts, two bold white wingbars, white above and below eye, darkish line through eye. The white area above the eye was a little more of a stripe than an arch so I think this may have been a female. The yellow on the chin and throat contrasted sharply against the gray cheeks. I only saw the bird at eye level for the first few moments of the sighting. I didn't think to check if the bill was bicolored or look at foot color. I really wasn't expecting to see a parula. The rest of the time the bird was up in the canopy of a tall pine tree and I was looking almost straight up at the bird. I could tell the lower mandible was pale but couldn't make out the upper mandible. The bird was small for a warbler with a short tail and its body was fluffed up against the cold. I think I glimpsed this bird the day before but when I couldn't find it again I convinced myself that I just saw a super bright kinglet. There were lots of kinglets around.

[I found the bird again on the 21st and got much closer and longer views. Additional notes from Dec 21st sighting - dark upper mandible and yellow lower mandible. Dark legs with yellow feet.]
(see photos)

Song or call & method of delivery: None that I could link to this bird. There were several other small birds with it.
Behavior: Gleaning the smaller branches and at the base of pine needle clusters in a large long-needled pine tree. The Parula was hanging out with a mixed flock of kinglets, nuthatches, chickadees and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It seemed a little more closely tied to the kinglets. I'm pretty sure I got a very brief glimpse of this bird the day before, in with the same flock of birds.

[additional note from Dec 21st sighting - The wingtips were held slightly away from the body and were often flicked outward as the bird moved around.]

Habitat: City Cemetery with lots of large conifer trees. Pines, spruces, cedars, etc.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Eliminated Tropical Parula by white around eyes.

The combination of face pattern (white above and below eye and dark eyeline), green mantel with yellow chest and throat and white belly and undertail coverts with no streaks or stripes on the chest or sides eliminated other warblers.

Eliminated Ruby-crowned Kinglets by shape, behavior, the contrast between the yellow throat against gray cheeks and the contrast between the bright yellow chest and the clean white belly.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen a few Northern Parulas. I saw one Tropical Parula many years ago. I have lots of experience with all of our common Utah warblers.
References consulted: The Sibley Guide to Birds App in field.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Eric Huish
Observer's address: 850 E 100 N Pleasant Grove, UT
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: It was seen later that same day by Mark Thal.
It was seen again on Dec 21st by Matt Pendleton, Eric Huish, Alton Thygerson and Merrill Webb.
Date prepared: 19 December 2012
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Photos are poor. They were taken by holding my cell phone up to my binoculars. It was snowing and the lighting was bad. If I, or someone else, gets better photos I will try to added them to this record.