Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2018-48

Common name:


Scientific name: Calidris pugnax
Date: 10/1/2018
Time: ~9:30 AM
Length of time observed:  ~ 10 seconds
Number: 1
Age: Juvenile
Sex: Female or Satellite Male
Location: Bountiful Pond
County: Davis
Distance to bird: Tough to judge as they were directly overhead against a gray cloud. All three birds could be seen easily with the naked eye and some semblance of structure could be seen. So naked eye they were dots with structure. So not that close
Optical equipment: 8x42 Leica Ultravid HD
Weather: High, broken clouds calm winds
Light Conditions: Good neutral light. No glare from any direction
Description:        Size of bird: Wing length and total length similar appeared similar to the LEYE but noticeably more heavily built than the yellowlegs so it appeared larger
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Stocky, shorebird with oddly broad-based wing, obvious head projection well in front of the wings, feet visibly projecting beyond the somewhat broad tail.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Much paler than the LEYE. Seemed to be all tan and white. The bright white secondary underwing coverts with a narrow but strongly contrasting black tips to the trailing edge of the wing. The breast appeared pale tan grading into white on the lower belly vent but not the obvious flashing white of the underwing.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Bill was virtually invisible but obviously not long or prominent in any way
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Most sandpipers have parallel-sided inner wings, the leading edge of the and the trailing edge are almost perfectly parallel and there is no expansion where the wings meet the body. On this bird the wings obviously expanded so the base of the wings was clearly broader than the majority of the inner wing. The inner wing also tapered slightly along its length to the wrist joint. The outer wing was swept back but not as strongly as most sandpipers and while the outer wing also tapered but not as much as many sandpipers while the wing tip was a bit blunter than other sandpipers. This wing shape is really unique and a big part of the identification. The bright white secondary coverts is something I've noticed a number of times on Ruffs and the combination of clean, bright white underwings and projecting feet is unique. The overall tan and white appearance is typical of late fall juvs, the color of the chest and the extend of the coloration and how it faded into white on
the lower half of the body is typical of late fall juv Ruffs. The wingbeat is actually an important trait, hard to explain but something I've seen a lot and recognized on this bird. It was as close to a picture perfect Ruff as you could have given the utterly crap situation.
Song or call & method of delivery: No Vocs
Behavior: Flying strongly and directly showing obvious migratory behavior however the wingbeats still had the cadence of a Ruff. They tend to have sort of floppy, vaguely pigeon-like wingbeats with a bit looseness to the wingtips very unusual among sandpipers which typically have very stiff, crisp wingbeats.
Habitat: Air
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
 The ability to directly compare it to the LEYE gave excellent info about the size and structure of the bird. The broad wings that expanded as they met the body so the they were exceptionally broad at the base is a trait virtually limited to Ruff among sandpipers, it is most noticeable in males but still very apparent in females. It is something I've noted on Ruffs in flight many times. It was a combination of the cadence of the wingbeats, the breadth and shape of the wings, and the obvious bright white underwings allowed me to recognize it as a Ruff. After I recognized it I then checked the size which was consistent with Ruff, the projecting feet, and the breast color which was also consistent with a worn juvenile Ruff and then started rechecking all the traits I could see consciously. In the brief moment I saw it I went through the line of thought 'That's looks like a Ruff! It can't be a Ruff. Everything I can see look perfect for a Ruff. Crap I don't wa
nt to report a flyover Ruff". The clean white underwing and clear projection of the entire foot beyond the tail is unique. Many species have white underwings, though even most of those don't seem to gleam the way juv Ruffs do, RUTU and REPH both show this trait even more strongly but neither match in size or structure. Similarly Mountain Plover is similar in color pattern but completely wrong in size, wing shape, foot projection, flight style. Buff-breasted Sandpiper also lacks the wing shape, foot projection, and has obvious dark crescent on the wrist that this bird lacked. Stilt Sandpiper often flies with LEYE and I've seen them in comparison in flight many times, The lack the clean white underwing, are slighter than LEYE, always appearing slightly smaller. Ruff is just such an outlier among sandpipers than there is no truly similar species.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Most of my experience with Ruff comes from the St Paul Island in Western Alaska where I spent two falls including last fall. Dur August it was not unusually to see juv Ruffs daily, often multiple daily allowing comparison of the size and structural differences between the sexes and to compare them to a wide variety of other shorebirds as they often were in mixed flocks. We found birds by walking and flushing them out of the vegetation so I have a lot of experience IDing Ruffs in flight, studying them in flight from all angles. I've probably seen 20-30 juvs on St Paul, many of which I saw over and over as they would often stay on the Island for multiple days, as well as a handful of adults in Spring, 10 in the Lower 48, and several hundred in Spain and Morocco several years ago. It is one of my favorite birds and I've always taken extra time to watch this species when I've had the opportunity. There is no species of North American shorebird or regular Asian vagrant that I don't have extensive experience with.
References consulted: In most cases I don't consult references when writing a bird report but in this case I consulted The Shorebird Guide, the old Hayman SHorebirds, and Message and Taylor Shorebirds of North America, Europe, and Asia to be sure there wasn't some other shorebird in the world that I was forgetting about that might display the combination of traits I observed on this bird.
Description from: From memory
Observer: Cameron Cox
Observer's address: 1479 S 35 E, Farmington UT 84025
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: There was a woman with me named Karen that observed the birds with me. I immediately said to her that was a Ruff that flew over and lamented the fact I hadn't taken photos of it. She had seen the bird but was unable to identify it. At the moment I wasn't planning on reporting it because of the lack of photos. But changed my mind once I had confirmed with a bit of research that the traits I had observed could only belong to a Ruff. I hate being 'Reports flyover Ruff with no photos Guy" but in this case I'm confident in what I saw.
Date prepared: 10/2/2018
Additional material: No_additional_Materials
Additional comments: I really hate report this kind of thing with no photos and don't plan on making a habit of it.