Utah Birds
Photo Quiz Answer

      Quiz # 008  (January 2011)



This month we have 3 birds, 1 in flight and 2 on a fence. If you see brown, streaky birds sitting on a fence in Utah, you should be thinking Emberizidae (sparrows, buntings, etc). This group is well represented in Utah so we have a lot of choices. Other than the emberizids, Horned Larks are also common fence sitters and may be a possible answer.

We can answer this quiz by looking at any of the 3 birds, but letís start with the birds on the fence. Looking at the bird on the right we can see it has a grayish blue bill and it is fairly large (at least compared to some other sparrows like a savannah for example). The color alone eliminates most of the sparrows, but there are a few with grayish bills. Both sitting birds also have very distinct light/dark patterns on their primary feathers. When I was looking at these birds (and more with them) the contrast was very obvious Ė enough so that when I got home I looked it up in a sparrow book to see if any other sparrow showed the contrast that strongly. I donít think so, but it really isnít mentioned very much in the guides. That may because there are much easier things to look for with this bird and 99% of the time you wonít see only the backside.

Letís move on to the bird in flight. I think this one should be the easiest of the three to ID. Black primaries & secondaries with a white patch flashing on the coverts. The tail is also black, with white tips on most feathers. These characteristics eliminate every sparrow except the correct answer. The tail of a Horned Lark is mostly black, but it is brown down the middle. They also donít have white tips, but a white outer tail feather. Lark Sparrow has white tipped tail feathers, but it has a lot more white than this bird, plus the tail and wings arenít black. The Longspur species all show some amount of black & white pattern in the tail, but they arenít white tipped. They donít have black wings either. That leaves us only 1 possibility Ė Lark Buntings.

Lark Buntings are rare in Utah, but they breed (although not every year?) in the far NE corner of the state. They can also be seen during migration, but very rarely. I took this photo south of Wilcox, AZ in November. I probably saw 5000 throughout the day.


Correct Answers (in order received):
  1. Craig Fosdick
  2. Jeffery Saffle
  3. Eric Huish
  4. Tuula Rose
  5. Stephen Petersen
  6. Leah Lewis
  7. Melanie Hoffman
  8. Weston Smith
  9. Dominique Roche
10. Bryant Olsen
11. KC Childs
12. Brandon Percival
13. Ryan OíDonnell
14. Dennis Shirley
15. Jason St. Sauver
16. Jeff Cooper
17. Darren Shirley
18. Steve Carr
19. Cliff & Lisa Weisse
20. Matthew Mills
21. Martha Happ

Other Answers:
     Sage Sparrow - 1
     Lark Sparrow Ė 1
     Lapland Longspur - 1
     Horned Lark - 1