Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 201

Common name:

Common Redpoll

Scientific name: Acanthis flammea
Date: 8 December 2012
Time: 9:30 am
Length of time observed: 1 minute
Number: 16
Location: Spanish Fork Canyon - Diary Fork WMA
County: Utah
Elevation: 5900 feet
Distance to bird: maybe about 40 feet.
Optical equipment: 8x42 Binoculars
Weather: cold
Light Conditions: Fair
Description:        Size of bird: Small
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Small finch
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: streaked gray-brown
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small, thick and short
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Small bright red caps on the very top of the head, small pale bills, contrasting black chins and black around the base of the bill , brownish streaky bodies similar to a pine siskin in color but a little cleaner. - We were somewhere around 2 miles up Dairy Fork road when a flock of small finches flew in. A few landed up in the trees and a bunch landed down in the willows by the stream. We didn't see every bird in the flock well, only the ones that perched out in the open. The one that gave us the best view was a beautiful male with lots of rosy color on the chest. They were only there for about a minute then they flew off up the road (south). We took a count as the flock flew away and tried to watch where they would land next. I believe the entire flock were redpolls. In flight all the birds in the flock looked the same size and color and we didn't hear any goldfinch or siskin calls. All the birds we could see while they were perched were redpolls. KC saw a few up in the tops of the cottonwoods that I didn't see. I saw a few pop up out of the willows before the flock flew off that KC didn't see. I would estimate that between the two of us we confidently identified about 8 or 9 of the birds in the flock. We searched for them farther up the road but could not relocate them. We didn't have time to get a photo.
Song or call & method of delivery: Quick, short call notes when they were flying. chit - - chit
Behavior: Flew in a flock and landed in some cottonwood and low willow bushes down in a stream bank below road level. A few perched high in the cottonwood tree while most seemed to be out of sight down in the willows. A few popped out of the willows then the entire flock all took off together and headed up the road (south).
Habitat: Narrow riparian habitat along a small stream. Surrounding habitat was Pinyon/Juniper.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Hoary Redpoll - The birds we did see seemed too dark to be Hoary. I feel the one I saw very well was definitely too streaky. We weren't able to check each bird closely but I feel most of these birds were most likely Common Redpolls.

Eliminated Pine Siskin by red cap, red on chest, black around the base of the bill.

Eliminated House and Cassin's Finches by pale bill with black chin and black around the base of the bill. Red on the top of the head was a small round cap. These birds were smaller than House or Cassin's Finches with daintier bills.

Gold Finches don't have brown streaky bodies.

No Sparrows have bright red caps, with rosy red chests. The only sparrow I can think of with reddish color on the top of their heads don't have streaks on their chest and sides.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen a couple redpolls in Utah and several in Idaho. I am very familiar with Pine Siskins, House Finches, Cassin's Finches, American Goldfinches and Lesser Goldfinches. All these birds visit my home feeders often and in large numbers. I am familiar with all of the common Utah sparrows.
References consulted: Sibley Guide
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: KC Childs was with me and got even better views than I did. He is a very good birder and has experience with Redpolls.
Date prepared: 19 December 2012
Additional material:  
Additional_Comments: Redpolls are erupting into Utah this year. There have been more reports and more numbers reported than I have ever heard of since I've been birding. They've been seen in several areas north of this spot for at least a few weeks before this sighting. Large flocks have also been reported. Dave Hanscom reported a "Flock of about 30" in Summit County a couple days after our sighting in Spanish Fork Canyon. Rick Fridell reported a flock of 50 at Antelope Island 4 days after our sighting. Flocks have been reported visiting feeders in Wasatch County. Evanston CBC reported "140 Common Redpolls in 7 different flocks". Most of the redpolls have been reported north of Spanish Fork Canyon but there is 1 report in eBird, with photos, coming to a feeder near the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon a few days before our sighting. And there are a couple of separate reports in eBird from Emery County which is south of here. Most of the area south of this sighting is very under birded.