Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2015-52

Common name:

Yellow-billed Loon

Scientific name: [Gavia adamsii]
Date: 12/26/2015
Time: 9:45am
Length of time observed: 1 1/2 hours
Number: 1
Sex: unknown
Location: East Canyon Reservior
County: Morgan
Distance to bird: 500 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon 10x42 Monarch Binoculars, Cannon Power Shot SX50HS camera, and ZEISS Victory DiaScope 85T* FL spotting scope with 20x to 60x eye piece
Weather: very cold and sunny with some fog or steam rising from open water
Light Conditions: very sunny/bright
Description:        Size of bird: large loon larger than Common Goldeneyes near bye
(Description:)       Basic Shape: loon
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: gray and white
(Description:)            Bill Type: large sword
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I went up to East Canyon looking for birds to add to the Morgan CBC count week as this was the last day. Upon arriving at the reservoir (about 9:45am) which was now about half iced over and the open water had water vapor rising creating a foggy look. I along with my wife noticed a non-breeding plumage loon swimming near the south shore at about the middle of the reservoir were it splits into two arms. When I first got my binoculars on the bird I thought of the Red-throated Loon seen recently on Rockport, as this bird was very light and was swimming with its bill at an upward angle. I then noted it was way to big for that and the bill looked very light, also it had a very flat head and with a very steep forehead. I put the spotting scope on it and noted that its back had very defined streaking on it, look to have dark only down the back of its neck with some faint mottling on the sides and in the face, not the dark jagged neck Common Loons have that I am used to seeing. The loon quickly swam out into the fog. I stuck around until the sun had burned most of the fog off and I could try getting some photos. After noting what I had saw I open my Sibley and decided this bird looked the closest to the Yellow-billed Loon on the loon species page. I then called some the nearest birders as I could not stay any longer.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior: swimming and diving for long periods
Habitat: reservoir/lake
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Common Loon has darker bill, darker jagged neck, not as flat of forehead, and generally holds head with bill level when swimming where as this bird seem to had bill at a slight upward angle
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
seen one on Rockport ten or so years ago, Common Loons every spring and fall at this and other reservoirs
References consulted: Sibley field guide to birds of north america
Description from: Notes taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Weston Smith
Observer's address: 1375N 6800E Croydon, Utah 84018
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Billy Fenimore and Mike Hearell
Date prepared: 12/26/2015
Additional material: Photos