Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # O_2012-03

Common name:

Western Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga Ludoviciana
Date: March 03,2012
Time: 3:00 PM
Length of time observed: One hour
Number: One
Age: Adult
Sex: Female
Location: Cottonwood Heights
County: Salt Lake
Elevation: 4860 ft
Distance to bird: 25 feet
Optical equipment: 8X Vortex binoculars and Sony camera with 12x zoom
Weather: Overcast
Light Conditions: Horrible- Quite dark and dreary and backlit
Description:        Size of bird: Larger than a House Finch,smaller than a Robin
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Songbird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Gray and yellow
(Description:)            Bill Type: similar to robin or blue bird
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The Crown and Nape were mostly gray with a tinge of olive green. The Mantle and Back were gray. The wingbar on the Median Coverts was yellowish gray while the wingbar on the Greater Coverts was white. The three bars on the Tertials? were white. The Breast and Belly were yellow gray. The tail was darker gray with olive green. The Undertail Coverts were bright yellow. The Orbital feathers were white giving a fairly pronounced eye ring.
The bill was two toned with the lower mandible and lower part of the upper mandible orange. The top of the upper mandible closest to the head was quite dark probably gray.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None
Behavior: Eating sunflower seeds at the feeder. The bird chased away several house finches and a lesser goldfinch.
Habitat: Urban:Deciduous and evergreen trees in front yard.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
My first thought was that it was an American Goldfinch but the bill was entirely wrong for a goldfinch. That was when I went for the binoculars and camera.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
We have a summer home in Clayton Idaho and toward the end of May each year we have flocks of Western Tanagers show up. I have had as many as 20 in the yard at one time. They feed on the suet feeders that are hanging in the evergreen trees. I have never seen a tanager eat anything except insects or suet until I obseerved this bird eating seeds.
References consulted: Stokes Field Guide to North Americn Birds, Sibley Guide to Birds,
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Phil Helsley
Observer's address: 7777 Biscayne Dr. Cottonwood Heights, Utah 84121
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Mary K Helsley
Date prepared: March 5, 2012
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: I am submitting this record report because I believe this sighting is completely "Out of Season". I think it may be the earliest sighting in the State of Utah for a Western Tanager.I went back several years in the ebird records and late April to early May were the earliest sightings reported.