Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2017-15

Common name:

Alder Flycatcher

Scientific name: Empidonax alnorum
Date: sept. 13, 2016
Time: 9:40 a.m.
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 1
Sex: unknown
Location: Salt Lake International Center 40.7717257,-112.0115992
County: Salt Lake
Latilong:  6
Elevation: about 4300'
Distance to bird: 25'
Optical equipment: binoculars and 500mm camera lens
Weather: 63* and partly cloudy
Light Conditions: good
Description:        Size of bird: looked typical for an Empid. Hard to judge the exact size on a lone bird.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: flycatcher
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: olive, brown, and white
(Description:)            Bill Type: wide convex and longish
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This ID is 4 months in the making and I believe would be a first state record. In the field my impression was Willow Flycatcher but the eye-ring did not look right. Eye-ring much to pronounced. The bird also seemed more colorful than what I remembered for any Willow. My doubt caused my to put the binoculars down and go to the camera. After loosing the bird across the street I started to study the few photos I had captured. I didn't know what to think but I have seen many many Willow Flycatchers over the years and I was feeling it wasn't a Willow. After consulting the books in my car I played with the idea that it fit Alder really well. I called Bryant Olsen and told him I had a possible Alder Flycatcher. He couldn't come right away but he went in the afternoon and captured a few photos of what looked like the same bird but his photos were from a lot further away.

The next 2 weeks or so became a debate by email. Bryant also sent the photos to a number of people. Together we settled on Yellow-bellied Flycatcher for all the reasons that were stated in the record Bryant submitted last fall. I had no positive feed back on my Alder Flycatcher ID and since there are no Utah records I easily gave that up. I have no experience with Eastern Flycatchers. Willow was suggested by some but the eye-ring is to pronounced and the green is to vibrant so I was not willing to call it that.

Fast forward to present. Kenny Frisch received this comment from Tony Leukering at ebird central, -"Alder Fly -- the bright white throat rules YBFL out in every plumage; tail is wide-based, upper parts are quite green; mandible is entirely yellow-orange -- there's really nothing else that it can be"

This was the first anyone had agreed with my initial impression in the field. I know this is a tough ID and my experience is seriously lacking with Alder flycatchers. My lack of confidence on this is very high so I have tried to rely on others who may have more experience with the Empids we don't see often in Utah. But I do feel strongly at this point that I finally got this one right. Hopefully this is a first state record.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior: Flycatching
Habitat: Austrian Pines, Russian Olives, and Cottonwoods over wet weedy half kept lawn.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
All Empids lacking the all yellow lower mandible were eliminated. Willow eliminated because of eye-ring, color, and broad tail. Color, eye-ring, and primaries don't fit the western flycatchers. Yellow-bellied eliminated because even though in rare cases a photo or two on the ebird library did fit it, namely some appear to have the white throat, that ID may have been a bit of a stretch and forced. The white contrasting throat, pattern and color do fit Alder better.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
 I have a lot of experience with the ID of the Empids we more regularly see every year and migration here in Utah. I have no experience with Alder Flycatchers.
References consulted: NG birds of Western NA, Sibley second edition, Peterson Advanced Birding, and Kaufman Advanced Birding. Internet Empid ID documents. 100's of online confirmed ID photos.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Matthew Pendleton
Observer's address: 12043 Bluff View Dr. Sandy 84092
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 2/6/2017
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: I will email photos to Milton.