Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2018-09

Common name:

McCown's Longspur

Scientific name: Rhynchophanes mccownii
Date: January 23, 2018
Time: 10:00 AM & relocated at 12:15 PM
Length of time observed: Off and on for over 1 hour
Number: at least 3, possible more
Age: varying
Sex: both
Location: Mosida. mm 10 on US68/redwood road
County: Utah
Latilong: 40.098121, -111.959180
Elevation: appx 4500 ft
Distance to bird: as close as about 50 yards
Optical equipment: Swarsovski 10 x 42 binos and Swarsovski 20x60 HD Scope
Weather: a couple of inches of snow on the ground from a large storm on 1/20-21.
Light Conditions: good
Description:        Size of bird: close to the same size as the Horned Larks it was associating with
(Description:)       Basic Shape: sparrow-like
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: see details below
(Description:)            Bill Type: conical, sparrow-like bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I had seen several hundred Horned Larks here on Jun 20 and came out here again specifically hoping to find Longspurs. Conditions were perfect - hundreds of Horned Larks relatively close to the road. While scanning through the Larks I picked out a bird that was obviously different. I admit I wasn't sure what this one was - I was felt confident it was a longspur and was hoping it was a McCown's but was unsure on the species. The shape of the bird was more heavy or stocky compared to the larks. It was overall plain dull brownish but nothing that really stood out. It was finely streaked on the crown and had a broad eyestripe and a light patch on the face. The breast was unstreaked, but not uniform and appeared to be slightly tinged brown. I watched this bird for about 5 minutes through my scope. At this point another bird walked into my scope view and it was immediately obvious to me as a non-breeding male McCown's. Structure was the same as the previous bird,
but this one had a black breast band and a grayish belly. At times I could see chestnut in the shoulder.

After I had more time to watch them and consult my field guides, I am confident that the first bird was a winter plumage female McCown's. I am not 100 percent sure on the total number of males, but at least 2 because I had two males in my scope at one time later in the day. There could have been more though because they were flying around quite a bit with the horned larks
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: n/a
Behavior: Mixed in with a large flock of Horned Larks. Appeared to be picking at seeds in the gravel and bare ground
Habitat: nearly bare ground with almost no vegetation bordering agricultural fields. The area was mostly under snow with areas that the snow had been blown off leaving bare ground.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Different size and structure than Horned Larks, plus the plumage differences (see notes above). After an hour or so of watching the flock of Horned Larks I got pretty good at finding the Longspurs. Even when they had their heads down the back on McCowns appeared much more streaky than the Horned Lark.

The black breast and grayish belly are distinguishing characteristics eliminating other longspurs. Also compared to the other longspurs they showed less contrast in the face pattern and no noticble dark auricular spot. I did also observe a Lapland Longspur in the same flock so it made a good comparison.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Seen multiple times on breeding grounds in Colorado and Eastern WY and probably about half a dozen times in the winter.
References consulted: Sibley's & National Geographic Field Guide
Description from: From memory
Observer: Bryan Shirley
Observer's address: 1465 South 50 West, Payson, UT
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Seen & later photographed with Suzi Holt on the same day. Ebird has reports from David Wheeler, Von Welch, Keeli Marvel, and others between my sighting and January 27
Date prepared: Feb 6, 2018
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: