Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2013-62

Common name:

Least Bittern

Scientific name: Ixobrychus exilis
Date: 6/18/2013 – 7/12/2013; also 7/29/13 sighting by Christian Edwards
Time: Morning (various times, 0640-0930 MDT)
Length of time observed: Observations ranged from 3 to 15 min
Number: 1 bird observed 6/18/2013 – 7/12/2013; 2 birds observed by Christian Edwards on 7/29/2013
Age: Adult(s)
Sex: Unknown
Location: Virgin River at St George
County: Washington
Latilong: *Withheld* due to sensitive nature of site
Elevation: 775 m
Distance to bird: 15 m
Optical equipment: Swarovski 8x30 binoculars
Weather: Multiple observations on calm, warm mornings, clear and cloudy.
Light Conditions: Observed under a variety of light conditions, from direct (no shade) early and mid morning sunlight, to shaded conditions under cloudy sky.
Description:        Size of bird:  
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  
(Description:)  Overall Pattern:  
(Description:)            Bill Type:  
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
On 6/18/2013 I flushed a single bird, observing it in flight at a distance of approximately 20 m. In flight, it appeared generally similar in size to Mourning Dove, which I observed just prior at approximately the same distance. At this time, pale buffy/orange neck and upperwing coverts were apparent. Buffy/orange upperwing coverts contrasted with dark primaries/secondaries and dark back in flight.

On 6/19/2013 I (briefly) broadcast song playback in an attempt to document the bird. One bird responded by perching 3-4 m up in Phragmites and singing 8-10 times. Song was a low, guttural “coo-coo-coo.” I took photos and made voice recordings at this time, under clear early morning conditions. Dark cap, buffy/orange neck and sides with low-contrast white streaking on breast, and orange upperwing coverts were noted (see photos).

On 7/12/2013 I observed the bird perched in partial shade, under cloudy conditions. The same field marks were noted as described above.
Song or call & method of delivery: Gave typical low, guttural “coo-coo-coo” song in response to playback, while perched up in Phragmites (photographed and recorded at that time)
Behavior: Initially observed in flight after being flushed (6/18/2013); subsequently observed perched up in Phragmites (where photographed, 6/19/2013) and perched on woody perch at ecotone between marsh and mixed willow-tamarisk forest (7/12/2013).
Habitat: Marsh dominated by cattail and Phragmites in Virgin River floodplain; also at ecotone between marsh and tamarisk/coyote willow-dominated, partially flooded forest.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Green Heron superficially similar, in that it is also a small heron. Green Heron is significantly larger than Least Bittern and has very different plumage coloration. Unlike Least Bittern, which is pale, buffy orange on neck and breast, Green Heron is darker overall with dark chestnut neck and sides, strong chestnut-white streaking on breast, and dark green on back.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have extensive experience with this species in my home state of Louisiana; also the West Indies and, most recently, along the lower Colorado River.
References consulted: None
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Robert Dobbs
Observer's address: 641 N 175 E, La Verkin, UT ZIP: 84745
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Rick Fridell, Christian Edwards, Kevin Wheeler
Date prepared: 1 Aug 2013
Additional material: Photos, Audio Tape