Utah County Birders Newsletter
photo by Ryan Houston
by Tom Williams
In his book Wild America, Roger Tory Peterson notes that although the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) had become common in the U.S. by 1954, only a few years earlier he had gone hundreds of miles out of his way to see one on a trip to Africa. The first U.S. record is dated 1941 but by 1953 these small herons, native to Africa and Asia, had begun breeding here. There are now breeding records in almost every state although the birds are most common in the gulf coast states and the southeastern coast states. In Utah, it is a common summer bird.
The Cattle Egret is in one of some 20 genera in the family Ardeidae, which includes bitterns, egrets, and herons. It is the only species in the genus Bubulcus.
Its name is derived from its practice of following cattle (and sometimes horses or tractors) to forage on insects disturbed by their passage. Indeed these birds may sometimes be seen perched on the back of grazing cattle. According to Birds of North America Online in many places
the “common name is Cow Crane, Cow Heron, or Cow Bird or [the bird] is named for the wild grazing animal with which it usually associates – e.g., Elephant Bird, Rhinoceros Egret, or Hippopotamus Egret. . . . Other names involving the word tick, such as Tick Bird refer to the erroneous belief that Cattle Egrets pick attached ticks from grazing animals; most Cattle Egrets’ prey, however, are insects disturbed by the cattle’s grazing.
At 18 to 22 inches tall and with a wingspan of 35 to 38 inches, the Cattle Egret is one of the smaller U.S. herons. The sexes are similar, with all-white plumage most of the year but with buffy coloring on the head, breast and back when the birds achieve full alternate plumage.
These birds are not difficult to identify but they can be confused with the somewhat larger Snowy Egret. The buffy coloration is a good distinguishing mark but cannot always be relied on since it is present only during the relatively brief period of full alternate plumage. Other clues include habitat and the size, shape, and color of unfeathered portions of the bird.
While the Snowy Egret is mostly commonly found in or near water, the Cattle Egret is more likely to be seen in open habitat such as fields or pastures. The Cattle Egret has a sturdy yellow bill which helps distinguish it from the Snowy Egret with its darker, more slender bill. Also, the legs and feet of the Cattle Egret are uniformly dark, while the Snowy Egret has dark legs with bright yellow feet.
Cattle Egrets are known to nest in large colonies with other Ardeidae, sometimes
using abandoned nests. Thus if you find a large colony of waders, it might be
worth your while to scan the entire colony rather than assuming that it is made
up of a single species.
Utah County Birders in Payson Canyon -
11 July 2007
UCB at the Purple Marten Aspens
- 11 July 2007
Field Trip Report
Payson Canyon - 11th July 2007
by Tuula Rose
Our monthly meeting took the form of an evening field trip, this time to Payson Canyon. Eric Huish was our leader .We had a good sized group showing up at the Payson Park & Drive when the skies to the south turned murky and a strong wind and dust storm was threatening to cancel the plans. However, the canyon turned out to be out of the reach of the storm and very pleasant.
The birds were scarce at first until we got up higher to a small wetland place where several Lincoln sparrows were giving us good looks. Yellow warblers were singing. Mountain and black-capped chickadees and chipping sparrows were also seen. Our target birds were the three-toed woodpecker and the purple martin. Merrill pointed out the tree trunks where the three-toed had been chipping the bark off in search of grubs. No luck on catching the birds in action though. We had better luck with the martins and saw three or four flying around with many tree swallows. One even stopped on top of a dead tree to pose for great looks through the scopes.
The long drive down the canyon in the dark was a bit nerve wrecking because of multitudes of deer browsing on the sides of the road, crossing in front of cars.
Participants: Eric Huish, Milton Moody, Matt Mills, Leena Rogers, Tuula Rose, Carol-Jean Nelson, Bonnie Williams, Yvonne Carter, Robin Tuck, Merrill Webb, Larry Draper, Bill Slater, Sylvia and Bert Cundick, Leila Ogden and her neighbor Bobby. Ned Bixler unfortunately had to stay behind after he discovered a flat tire in the parking lot in Payson.
Field Trip Report
Escalante - 13th & 14th July 2007
by Lu Giddings, fieldtrip leader
A small but enthusiastic group of Utah County Birders traveled to Escalante late yesterday afternoon. Stops were made at Koosharem Reservoir, at several points along Highway 12 from Torrey to Boulder to Escalante, and in Boulder. Yesterday evening's weather was cool and wet as thunderstorms pounded the area both before we arrived and after sunset. This morning was clear, dry, and began warm and wound up hot by noon. We birded in Escalante from 7 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m. After lunch, we decided to make the trek directly home, rather than stop at Bryce Canyon.
Birds looked for but not seen include:
- vermillion flycatcher
- indigo bunting
- painted bunting
- greater roadrunner
Trip highlights include, in no particular order:
- seeing both an acorn woodpecker and a Lewis's woodpecker at the acorn woodpecker tree 5.5 miles north of Boulder on Highway 12
- wild turkeys seemingly everywhere in Escalante. Yesterday evening a flock of 13 hens and two toms approached with 10 yards of our vehicles as we sat quietly at the edge of field, watching them. Once we drove on, another flock of at least a dozen birds was seen disappearing into the brush along the creek in the field immediately to the east of the one we had just been watching. And a third large flock was seen in a field near the sawmill just a few minutes later.
- Wide Hollow Reservoir was alive with black-throated gray warblers this morning. There seemed to be hundreds of them, in the cottonwoods, in the willows, in the junipers and sage. At one point I had six of them in one binocular field of vision at a distance of less than 50'.
- Wide Hollow Reservoir was alive with many other birds as well. An osprey was seen diving at American coots. There were several hundreds of ducks, mostly in the shallows at the far ends of the reservoir. Most seem to have begun the molt into their dreaded, bland standard plumage but a few cinnamon teal were still sporting breeding plumage, as was a wood duck. One distant beach was occupied by 11 turkey vultures and 7 great blue herons, all within about 50' of each other. Chipping sparrows were nearly as numerous as black-throated gray warblers.
- young western scrub jays were seen begging from their parents this morning. And young pinion jays were observed in town, from a very near distance, also begging from their parents.
Also of note: we received a report of a painted bunting sighting. The young lady told us it could be seen in the shrubs and trees around her house in Boulder for several days during the Spring, several years ago. The young lady had not known what the bird was but her father told her he used to see them all the time when he grew up in Texas. She described the bird pretty well for a non-birder; I thumbed through a copy of the National Geographic Field guide with her, looking at various possibilities, and she was confident that the painted bunting was her bird. For what it's worth. . . .
84 trip species; 58 species seen in Escalante
Total Count: 84
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Backyard Bird of the
Steve Carr - Holladay
Bullock's Oriole - Short stop at the watering pan.
Harold Clayson- Salem
Black-headed Grosbeaks - I got a bag of sunflower seeds for Fathers Day and it's kept them around.
Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Western Screech-Owl - Saw a couple owlets while I waited for the fireworks to start on the 4th.
Milt Moody - Provo
Rufous Hummingbird - as aggressive as ever.
Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Painted Bunting - (OK, so I cheated by a short little 125 miles!!!)
Alton Thygerson - Provo
Rufous Hummingbird - guarding the feeders.
Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Bullock's Oriole - I've been hearing it but I finally saw it this month.
We would like you to share your favorite backyard bird each month. Please send your favorite bird at the end of the month to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-8777. If you would like a reminder at the end of the month e-mail the above address.