Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2021-18

Common name:

Thick-billed (McCown's) Longspur

Scientific name: Rhynchophanes mccowni
Date: January 24th and 25th, 2021
Time: 11:30 am
Length of time observed: 30 Minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male; transitioning into non-breeding plumage
Location: Antelope Island State Park – Road to Garr Ranch
County:  Davis
Latilong: 40.986163, -112.188709
Distance to bird: Approximately 20 meters
Optical equipment: 10x42 Nikon Monarch Binoculars, Swarovski 20x60 spotting scope, Canon 7D w/ 100-400mm lens.
Weather: Overcast, intermittent snow flurries.
Light Conditions: Good lighting, sun blocked by clouds.
Description:        Size of bird:  
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  
(Description:)  Overall Pattern:  
(Description:)            Bill Type:  
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Non-breeding male in transitionary plumage feeding with 750+ Horned Larks on the playa. Noted wide, conspicuous pale supercilium and throat, wrapping into auriculars. Plain, pale grayish collar. Tan auriculars contrasting with throat, eyebrow and collar. Thick, pink bill; much larger than Lapland in same flock. Relatively plain upper parts with distinctive rusty median coverts. Black chevron on upper breast. Grayish/white lower belly and flanks.

Distinct, inverted black “T” in tail, with extensive white outer tail feathers. Thin black border along bottom edge of the tail and dark central vein extending up vertically into rump (see photos).

eBird Checklist:

(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Bubbly, “Pip-Pip” flight calls and short, 3-4 note rattles. Syllables of rattle calls spaced out further than Lapland and more musical. Heard well on several occasions as the flock swirled around us. Better audibles the following day with James Loveless and Terry Reid.
Behavior: Foraging with large flock of Horned Larks.
Habitat: Pickleweed/Short-grass Playa and mudflats.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Lapland Longspur: Shorter primary projection, rusty median wing coverts, thick pale pink bill, paler and more plain overall plumage, extensive white in tail.

Chestnut-collared Longspur: Black “T” in tail, black in underparts limited to upper breast, thick pale pink bill, rusty median coverts.

Horned Lark: Not a Lark.
References consulted: Quite extensive experience gained this winter with McCown’s, Lapland, and Chestnut-collared Longspurs this winter. Have seen Lapland most frequently and am familiar with their call varieties. Have seen McCown’s during a handful of past winters in Utah and on their breeding grounds in Montana and the Dakotas; have seen Chestnut-collared on breeding territory in Montana and the Dakotas as well.
Observer: Kendall Watkins
Observer's address: 2622 W Dry Creek Drive, Riverton, 84065
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Quinn Diaz, James Loveless, Terry Reid.
Date prepared: March 10, 2021
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: