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Top Ten Utah Birds pt. 1 - The Runners Up

posted by matthew pendleton at
on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 


The top ten are in, thank you for everyone who participated. We had 63 entries which made a good enough sample size for us to be really excited about how it turned out. 174 different bird species were represented across the many lists. The variety was fun to see.

Scoring was done by giving a first place vote ten points. The second place vote received 9 points and a third place vote 8 points. All the way down to a tenth place vote receiving 1 point. If there was a tie then the bird with more total votes was bumped up.

There were so many good birds that did not make the top ten but deserve a mention that I decided to give 20-11 first.  Here are the good birds that didn't quiet make the final ten, along with some of the things everyone said about the birds they chose and why.

#20 - Steller's Jay

"Our neighborhood scrub jays rule the feeders, scare away the cats and scream at me to hurry up loading the feeders.  It's a tossup whether the raccoon that vandalize the yard by night or the jays by day are the more arrogant.  I miss the Steller's Jay--I haven't seen them down in the valleys in years."

• • •

#19 - Western Scrub-Jay
by Shyloh Robinson

"Having spent my first 37 years in The Great Northwest, and not actively birding, I figured the list of Utah birds and my favorite birds wouldn't be hard to separate.  I have seen the vast majority of my favorites here.  But as I started paring down I realized that although they aren't my all-time favorites the finished product are birds that ""feel"" Utah to me.  Birds like the Red-Winged Blackbird and the Western Meadowlark who in a few notes ground me solidly in my new home. I can't imagine a spring without their soul stirring songs.  The Common Raven, a bird more common in forested mountains back in Seattle is suddenly seen everywhere here.  A clear indication that I truly am in a new place - the Ravens outnumber Crows.  There are birds that I had no idea existed and would never have known, except that I was trying to learn about this new environment.  The Northern Harrier, and Common Nighthawk will always be Utah to me because it was here I discovered them first.  After a few accidental discoveries I started to seek specific birds out.  The American Kestrel was my first true goal.  A few amazing experiences with this bird locked it into my heart forever.  Then the Mountain Bluebird!  Dreams of childhood were fulfilled when I saw my first ""true"" bluebird!  As a small child in Seattle I called Stellars Jay's ""bluebirds"". After being informed of my mistake I spent the next 30 years hoping to see a ""real"" one.  Altamont Utah poured flocks of bluebirds into my world.  The Tundra Swan.  Magnificence personified.  One of the few beings that make hard winters not just tolerable - but anticipated eagerly.  I believe this may be the most uplifting bird I have ever experienced.  The feeling of gratefulness upon seeing flocks of swans, and the spiritual lift they give with their hardiness and beauty is unmatched in this world."

• • •

#18 - Black-capped Chickadee

"I'm a CA transplant (6+ years) and these are the birds that, to me, epitomize my birding experience in UT. These are the "reliable" birds I'm always happy to see (well, maybe not always the Magpies!). My favorite would, of course, be last year's SNOW in Cache Co, but not really a Utah bird."

• • •

#17 - Black-billed Magpie


"What a hard list to create, a list that could alter tomorrow, but that is finally an amalgam of birds loved because of familiarity or accumulated memories or their particular subtle beauty, loved because they tug at my heartstrings in some known and yet unfathomable way. Robins lead my list in part because their quality of "commonness" has made them only more precious to me. I listen for robin calls throughout the winter, when so many other birds are absent or silent. I follow their voices to the big blue spruce up the street where I watch them join chickadees and juncos, waxwings and finches, deep inside the branches of their nightly roost--a chatter of sounds as birds arrive, a talking tree that falls silent as the birds settle into the cold and darkness. I listen for their early morning singing in the spring, when I think of them as my matins singers. I love their evensong, as they sing into the twilight, an avian vespers to end the day. They add delight to my days, connecting me to wonder, and they speak to the sky of the holiness of wild things--all because they are robins and they do robin things."

• • •

#16 - Eared Grebe
by Shyloh Robinson


"When I think of Utah birds on a broad scale, two major habitats come to mind: Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. Birds...Black-necked Stilt is a common Utah bird, especially on the GSL. And the Black Rosy-Finch is about as close as Utah has to an endemic species. Of course I could have added another 2-3 dozen species that are common/characteristic to Utah. Fun to think about."

• • •

#15 - Canyon Wren
by Tim Avery

"Although these birds occur across the western US and are common, when I think of birds in UT, I think of these birds, because they are either frequent visitors to my yard or because I associate them with AI and the AIC, which is one of my very favorite places.  I love going to AI in February to listen to the Meadowlarks sing.  It is such a lovely break from the dregs of winter.  There are many others that belong on this list too... Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes, Snowy Plovers, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Sage Thrush, California Quail...... the list could just go on and on and on.  We are so very fotunate to have the diversity of species we have in UT."

• • •

#14 - Mountain Bluebird

"Ranking is difficult because the best birds change for me depending on where I'm birding and who I'm introducing to birding in Utah. I tried to simplify this by ranking birds based on what someone from the eastern half of the US might see as a "western" or "Utah" bird. My list will likely be different every time I'm asked. I'm very interested in seeing the results."

• • •

#13 - Ferruginous Hawk
  
"The State is dominated by the Great Salt Lake and it's surrounding habitat. This is why my list is heavy with waterfowl and shorebirds. 75% of the world's population of Cinnamon Teal nest in the Great Basin and over 45% of North America's Pintails migrate through. The reason Chukar in #1 is that most birders you run into while out of state always ask about the Chukar. It is the Utah bird that is tops in their mind, it's the one they feel Utah is the best chance of adding it to a life-list. The southern Utah specialties are from too small of an area."

• • •

#12 - Golden Eagle

"We found a Golden Eagle nest and watched it for a couple of months until the two eggs hatched, and then as the two eaglets grew up. The greatest sight was watching the four Golden Eagles flying free across the desert and safe at the end of the nesting season. We spotted a Prairie Falcon swoop and dive to get a meal once out in the desert. It was the year of the Western Tanager invasion. The falcon got one in an explosion of yellow and orange feathers. We scoped it as it ate its meal. It was raw nature at its finest.

• • •

#11 - Lazuli Bunting

When I asked my birding instructor to name his favorite bird, he replied "I can't do that, but I can tell you that that bird is in my top 500."  It has become my favorite response when asked the same question.  On that note and as a part-time Utah resident, my list includes birds that my visitors would want to see--for the most part, birds that can't be easily found in the eastern part of the country.  An exception is the Wilson's Snipe.  Normally elusive, I love to see them perched on fence posts in Heber and Kamas in the summer.
Whew, that was hard. I finally ended up listing the ones who come before my eyeballs the most, with a million other ones left off of the list, and no nods to the everyday birds like Magpie, Crow, Robin, Starling, etc. When I think of Utah, I think first of the birds of prey.

Top Ten soon to come! Sorry you will have to be patient.

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4 Comments:
Blogger Tim Avery said...

Oh man, Canyon Wren and Mountain Bluebird are such "Utah Birds"--bother were in my top 10. I have some comments I will save till after the top 10 are revealed, but some of the top 20 are really intriguing to me--like 3 corvids making the list!!! Can't wait to see the rest! Great work Matt!

December 11, 2013 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger CarlIngwell said...

Many of my top 10 made the runner up list.

December 11, 2013 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Kenny Frisch said...

None of my top 10 made this list. Either that is really good or really bad.

December 11, 2013 at 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Glenda Cotter said...

So many blue birds in the second ten. I'm looking forward to the top ten!

December 11, 2013 at 5:32 PM  

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