Utah Birds, Utah Birding, and Utah Birders. Promoting the sharing of information, and the conservation of habitat for birds in Utah and elsewhere. We are a group of people who want to share what we know, and create a positive birding experience in Utah.


a blog by and for Utah Birders

Announcing the 2011 Park City CBC

posted by Tim Avery at
on Monday, November 28, 2011 

Utah Birders Park City Christmas Bird Count 
Sunday, December 18, 2011
8am - 5pm

We are pleased to announce the first ever Utah Birders Park City Christmas Bird Count and invite you to participate! The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a census of birds performed annually in December and January by volunteer birders. The purpose is to provide population data for use in science, especially conservation biology--though many people participate just for fun.

The 2011 Park City CBC will take place on Sunday, December 18, 2011 starting at 8am and going until 6pm (or until there are not more birds to be seen). We will split up into several teams to cover areas from Jordanelle north to Jeremy Ranch and from Summit Park east to Rockport and Peoa.

We will begin meeting at 7:30am in Park City at the Whole Foods at 1748 West Redstone Center Drive If you take exit 145 (Kimball Junction) on I-80 then go south the store is just east of hwy 224 just south of the interstate:


The Whole Foods will be providing a fruit tray for us to snack on before we head out for the day--you can also purchase other items for breakfast while we chat before heading out.  We will hand out checklists, maps and any other materials as well as breaking into teams if needed.

Each team will be led by a member of the Utah Birders that will help identify the species encountered and share some information about the birds along the way. For those interested we will meet at 6:00pm after at a location TBD to compile all the checklists and share stories from the day. 

The cost to participate is $10 per person or $25 for families of 3 or more. $5 will go to cover the cost from the National Audubon Society. From that you will receive a copy of the report the following spring detailing findings form CBCs across the country. The other $5 will go to our local charity that the Utah Birders sponsor. 

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at utah.birders@gmail.com or call Carl at 801-688-5017, Jeff at 801-842-4013, or Tim at 801-440-3035.

We hope to see you on the 1st ever Park City CBC!
The Utah Birders

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A quiz again

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, November 21, 2011 

Just another quiz for anyone who is interested in responding....

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Pointed wings

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Friday, November 18, 2011 

Of course, most people know this, but its always good for a reminder during the hawk migration season (even though its winding down in some areas). Many birds show pointed wings in certain poses, not just falcons. None of the birds above are falcons, (top photo) from upper left to lower left in clockwise order the birds are: Swainson's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk. Of course, some Kites are very very falcon-like but lots of other species show pointed wings when gliding, flapping, or going away, these are just a few examples. The bottom photo of a Bald Eagle shows how "birds can change shape as they change postures."

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Annotated List of Birds of Utah-1874

posted by Anonymous eBirder at
on Thursday, November 17, 2011 

I know I said I'd post this a long time ago, but I put it on a shelf and forgot about it for a few months.

I've rescanned (which made it slightly better) the 1874 bird checklist that I had found in Back of Beyond Books in Moab Utah.

A few friends and I were on vacation in Moab; one rainy night, after dinner, we ducked in the bookstore for a little bit to dry off and warm up before our walk back to our condo. I found this checklist on sale for 15$, which I thought was a steal. As far as I know, this is an original copy of THE first bird checklists that was ever made in the state of Utah.

What an antique for a birder to stumble across. This checklist was printed on very heavy paper with a string binding. The binding is wearing out a bit, but otherwise the checklist is in great condition.

One of the other reasons I've posted this is that we now reach a wider audience than we ever have before, and I'd like to share this with as many people as possible. If you've seen this checklist before, I'm sorry for the repeat :).

Annotated List of Birds of Utah-1874

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Cameras for the non-photographer

posted by Anonymous eBirder at
on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 

This morning I saw an interesting thread on UBIRD. Norm Jenson was discussing cameras that were a bit smaller and user friendly, that could more easily be carried around while birding, but were still capable of taking decent bird photographs.

I wouldn't call myself a photographer in any sense of the word, but I do enjoy photographing my travels and experiences. I've always been looking for the perfect camera that is versatile enough to cover my wide variety of needs, while being small enough to lug around with me, and also one that fits my limited budget.

I currently own a nice point and click that takes pretty good landscape photos, people photos, and my artsy photos. I've yet to find a good point/shoot that does all that as well as taking a few decent nature photographs. My current camera absolutely sucks at nature photography; I either get a poor quality zoomed out photo, or a blurry zoomed in photo.

So, birders, what point and shoot cameras do you use while birding? Norm's suggestion was Canon's SX40 HS, but I'm wondering what other suggestions are out there.

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Ruminations on Murmurations

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Sunday, November 13, 2011 

The video I've embedded below seems to be getting a lot of attention on birding lists right now. It was taken over a river in Ireland. Watch it and be amazed if you haven't already.

There are a few things I find interesting about this video and the Starling murmuration it has captured.

First of all, the science of it is astounding. It is way more than I can grasp, but Wired Science attempts to analyze it HERE.

Secondly, the word used to describe a flock of Starlings: a murmuration. I had actually never heard it before or if I had, it slipped through my memory. In any case, I'll never forget it now. I have to admit as someone who enjoys a good descriptor, murmuration is kind of badass. Of course, I'm not sure anything will ever top the classic 'murder' of Crows, but this is a good one. It inspired me to dig up some of the other group names again. You can just google 'collective nouns for birds' and a whole bunch come up. Here are two links to get you started: LINK 1 and LINK 2. A 'mutation' of thrushes? Weird.

Finally, and probably the part that makes this video so exciting to watch is the awe that it inspires. At the end of the video that sense of wonder is perfectly captured in the giggles shared by the girls in the boat. I run around and make lists of the birds I've seen, but in the end, the part that keeps me coming back for more is to be a witness to something astounding, not unlike this video. Just yesterday I felt this when I was alone at Antelope Island in an early winter storm and all around me coyotes were yelping while a deer walked slowly across the fresh snow. Pretty cool; glad I was there to see it.

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10 Days Chasing Harlan's Hawks

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, November 11, 2011 

It was a strange week. On November 1st I found a Harlan's Hawk in Lehi on the south side of Thanksgiving Point. It was the first day in some time I hadn't brought my camera to work--a costly mistake in the photo department. What would have been a great photo opportunity instead turned into an obsession--one that took 10 days to satisfy and was over 15 years in the making.

Harlan's Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 11, 2011

Harlan's Hawks as I like to call them (as opposed to just Red-tailed Hawk) are a nemesis bird for me. In all my years birding I had only seen a handful. For someone who had seen 1,000's of Red-tailed Hawks and spent plenty of winter days birding across northern Utah it was strange that for the most part this species had eluded me. Not terribly rare in Utah it was the type of species you would expect to encounter each winter--at least if you spent a few days wandering around locations that had concentrations of raptors. When I spotted that black looking hawk perched on a fence post just off the road, the thick white streaks on the chest caught my attention. When the bird flew showing off its tail and wings I was excited to have gotten such great looks but befuddled that I didn't get a picture. I decided that my goal for the coming few days was to relocate and photograph the bird so I could have so nice pictures for my website.

The following day with camera in hand I headed back to the spot I found the bird--nothing. I decided to expand to the south and west and shortly thereafter found what I thought was the bird perched in a tree to south of 2100 North in Lehi. But this one lacked the thick stripes on the chest, and only had a couple white marks. I snapped plenty of photos but every single one was back lit and nothing that I was really happy with. The bird flew off to the south and I gave up the search.

Harlan's Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 2, 2011

The next two days I birded the same area and found nothing. On that 4th day I headed east across the interstate and found the raptor mother load. 13 Red-tailed Hawks in a mile stretch of road--no Harlan's but plenty of birds to keep me interested in coming back to try again the following Monday. Over the weekend a local birder named Jeff Cooper birded the area finding not only a Harlan's Hawk, but also getting amazing photos of a couple Prairie Falcons (check out his pictures). His photos got me excited to get back out and looking. On Monday I found the Harlan's Hawk, but it was sitting over 150 yards out and I didn't get any photos. I did however manage a pretty cool picture of an interesting juvenile Red-tailed Hawk with a single reddish tail feather (check out Jerry Liguori's post about this bird).

Red-tailed Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 7, 2011

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday came and went without another Harlan's. But the varied and beautiful Red-tailed Hawks (by the dozens) kept me busy with great photo ops.

Red-tailed Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 8, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 8, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 11, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 9, 2011

Jeff Cooper had relocated the Harlan's again on Thursday Morning and I couldn't find it when I looked that afternoon. On Friday Morning I met him to look for the bird together. But after an hour in the field, and no Harlan's I took off for work. As I got to the office my phone rang and it was Jeff telling me that 2 Harlan's Hawks had just flown into the area. I couldn't get away right then so had to wait a couple hours before I made my way back and found both birds. I spent a half hour enjoying great looks at one or the other as they circled and made trips out over the fields in the area.

Harlan's Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 11, 2011

The photos still weren't quite what I wanted because the birds didn't work with the lighting. But they were good enough to keep me happy and know that I finally got some decent shots of a really cool bird. It was the week I chased dozens of Red-tailed Hawks and took more than 1500 photos of them along the way. What a great kick off to November, and the winter raptor season.

Harlan's Hawk in Lehi, Utah - November 11, 2011

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Juvenile Red-tail with reddish tail?

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 

A recent discussion prompted me to respond with a blog post. It is in regards to juvenile Red-tailed Hawks with reddish tails. I show this in print, but I wanted to point out the 3 birds in the photo above. Note the juvenile bird on the left (©Tim Avery - November), it has one tail feather (left-center) that is shorter and the black sub-terminal band is slightly broader and bolder. The original feather fell out for whatever reason prematurely and the feather you see is a replaced feather. This newer feather has a bit of red, but is very similar in pattern and color to the rest of the tail. Most likely, this feather came in shortly after the bird fledged.

The bird in the middle (©Vic Berardi - October) has a few reddish feathers on the right-center of the tail. These reddish feathers have replaced a few juvenile feathers that came out for whatever reason (snared in a bush, etc.). However, these reddish feathers are the same color and pattern as adult feathers, meaning they most likely grew in well after fledging.

The bird on the right (©Jerry Liguori - September) has a complete set of juvenile tail feathers that happen to be reddish similar to those of adults. Juveniles of all races can show this, but it most common on borealis (Eastern race - which this bird is), and to a lesser extent Harlan’s. This is the original set of feathers that came in during the nestling stage. The bird is a juvenile since it shows pale primary “panels”, a brown upperside with whitish mottling lacking any rufous tones, a pale eye, and the tail has juvenile-like banding. The underside photos show the plumage of a juvenile as well.

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Hybrid buteo

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, November 7, 2011 

If anyone is interested, below is a link to an article regarding a probable Harlan's x Rough-legged hybrid (photo above). The article has a detailed write-up and many photos.


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Not a pitfall, but interesting Part 2

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 

About the Red-tail I posted a few days ago; most people wondered if it was a plumage thing I was alluding to, its not....its actually a lack of something specific I was getting at. The interesting thing about the bird is that it has a complete set of flight feathers (wings and tail) that are all from this year's molt (summer/early fall molt). Basically, they are all the same age without any flight feathers retained from the previous year. This is not extremely rare, but it is definitely uncommon on Western Red-tails in particular. Most Red-tailed Hawks and larger birds in general, retain a few outer primaries and often a few secondaries (to a lesser extent, tail feathers) in their first adult plumage. What would be ultra rare is to see one set of completely replaced flight feathers on an older adult.

The birds above ("click" to enlarge) show a Red-tail in its first adult plumage (left), and one that has at least molted twice (right). The bird on the left shows retained juvenile primary 7-10 (paler due to fade, lacks the bold banding of the adult primaries), and retained juvenile secondaries 3 and 4 (paler, and the black band at the tip is narrower than the adult feathers). The bird on the right has two ages of adult feathers (all the same pattern but the retained adult feathers from the previous year are faded). Note the eye color on the birds above, the pale-eyed bird is the younger adult (left), the dark-eyed bird is older (right). This is not always accurate for ageing birds on its own, but it a good indicator in most cases.

The bird from the other day lacks any age difference in the flight feathers, they are all new feathers that lack any wear or fade. Obviously, this can be difficult to see in the field, but often it is easy to see on clear photos. Anyway, just thought I would share that.

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Eagle Crashes into Skydiver's Parachute

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 

Check this out!