Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2017-57


Common name:

Dusky-capped Flycatcher

Scientific name: Myiarchus tuberculifer
Date: 10/29/2017
Time: 4:10 PM
Length of time observed: 30-40 seconds
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Unknown
Location: Between Docs Pass and Cougar Canyon Wilderness Areas (along remote dirt road)
County: Washington
Latilong: 37.466019, -114.038449
Elevation: 4721 ft
Distance to bird: 20 feet
Optical equipment: Nikon 200-500mm lens
Weather: Mostly sunny, warm
Light Conditions: Late-afternoon light (good light conditions)
Description:        Size of bird: 7-8 inches long
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Shape of mid-sized flycatcher
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Brownish-olive back, yellow belly, brown head, gray chin
(Description:)            Bill Type: Long, relatively thin bill (for Myiarchus flycatchers)
(Description:)                              
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Mid-sized flycatcher with brownish-olive back, brown (dusky) head, and gray chin. Overall dark brown wings, with rufous outer primaries, and (most notably) rusty-fringed secondaries. Wing bars appear relatively inconspicuous (due to lack of white tips).
Upper-side of tail is mostly dark brown, with contrasting rusty outer edges of tail feathers. Upper-tail coverts are also rusty-colored.
Bill was long and relatively thin.
Yellow (not bold but not especially dull) belly. Yellow extends relatively high on breast.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Did not hear
Behavior: The bird appeared in a Gambel oak, then flew to another branch shortly after I first observed it. It stayed in the open for about 25 seconds before flying out of view into some thicker vegetation. When visible, it was fairly cooperative as I snapped some photos but it kept its back turned to me the entire time.
Habitat: Gambel oak/pinyon/juniper woodlands near a perennial stream (Beaver Dam Wash). Large cottonwood trees also nearby.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Ash-throated flycatcher (probably the only other possibility):
Wing bars on ash-throated would show bright/pale tips and would appear more conspicuous. The bird being submitted here has inconspicuous wing bars and rusty-fringed secondaries. This description aligns with dusky-capped flycatcher and appears to be diagnostic.

Both ash-throated and dusky-capped may have rusty on the upper-side of their tail when in juvenile plumage, but dusky-capped shows rusty on the edges of the upper-side of tail. Unlike ash-throated, dusky-capped are known to show rusty in the upper-tail coverts (outer rusty upper-tail feathers and rusty upper tail coverts are visible in the photos submitted).

This bird's bill appears thinner and maybe slightly longer than ash-throated. Perhaps this is not as compelling as the other evidence, but it's another clue that points towards dusky-capped.

Yellow on belly appears slightly bolder than what I have seen on most ash-throated. Yellow also extends slightly higher on chest than what most ash-throated exhibit. However, this may be within the range of "normal" for ash-throated.

Brown-crested flycatcher: briefly considered but ruled out due to very large bill and brighter tips to secondaries (similar to ash-throated)

Great-crested flycatcher: much bolder yellow belly and brighter tips to secondaries

Nutting's flycatcher: ruled out due to overall structure differences (head is smaller in proportion to body), in addition to its much thicker bill, more conspicuous wing bars, and whiter secondaries

Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Dusky-capped flycatcher: have never observed previously
Ash-throated flycatcher: many previous observations
References consulted: Since I do not have previous experience with dusky-capped and this is potentially the first state record, I wanted to strengthen this submission by utilizing a variety of resources. This included sending my photos to other birders online who I knew would have experience with dusky-capped, in hopes of seeking their opinions. (See below)

Photos of this bird were posted on the "Advanced Bird ID" facebook page to seek ID input. Two of the three people who responded identified it as a dusky-capped for the reasons stated above. One person commented and said it looked good for ash-throated, but she later deleted her comment.

Andrew Core: (birder and ebird reviewer in Tucson, AZ) - His opinion:
"I was prepared to write this off as an ATFL, but the more I looked at it the harder it was to dismiss it. I asked Chris Benesh (a Tucson area birding guide) and he said, "Yes. This is a Dusky-capped Flycatcher based on dull wing covert and edging coloration of remiges and tail, as well overall structure (long, thin bill, etc.)."

San Francisco area ornithology professor, Joseph Morlan (I credit him with helping me with the ID. He clued me in on the rusty outer upper-side tail feathers and rusty tail coverts.) His message to me on facebook:
"Both dusky-capped and ash-throated can have rusty on the upperside of tail when in juvenile plumage, but Dusky-capped (northern races) typically show rusty on the edges of the upperside of the tail. Many field guides erroneously show Dusky-capped with no rufous at all on the tail. I agree that when Ash-throated show rusty above it is usually muted and not contrasting. Looking at photos, most Dusky-capped Flycatchers I have seen in California also show rusty-orange to the uppertail coverts. I have never seen this in Ash-throated of any age. Dusky-capped has brighter yellow belly and rusty fringed secondaries (diagnostic) which your bird shows. Here are a couple of links of birds I have submitted in California and which have been accepted..." [contact me to see links he sent with photos]

Numerous other online sources were reviewed, including dozens of online images of dusky-capped and ash-throated flycatchers.

Sibley Western Guide to Birds
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Mike Schijf
Observer's address: 354 Vermillion Ave. St. George, UT 84790
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None
Date prepared: 11/06/2017
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: When this bird was observed in the field, I "dismissed" it as an ash-throated. I took several photos, and later submitted it to ebird as a "rare" (for October 29th) ash-throated. I was soon contacted by Colby Neuman about sending him additional photos of the bird, along with any other additional information. I learned after a couple of email exchanges that he believed it could be a dusky-capped. This prompted me to scour google images for dozens of photos of both ash-throated and dusky-capped, which left me leaning towards dusky-capped but I wasn't yet totally convinced.

It wasn't until I started reaching out to others online who have experience with dusky-capped when I became fully confident in a dusky-capped ID (see References Consulted section).

Although I wish that I got a photo or glimpse of the underside of the tail, I think that the combination of other observations taken from my photos, along with the input I received from some very experienced birders is enough to definitively identify this bird as a dusky-capped flycatcher.