Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2002-

Common name:

McCown’s Longspur

Scientific name: Calcarius mccownii
Date: 11 September 2002
Time: 9:15am
Length of time observed: 1 minute
Number: One.
Location: just north of Garr Ranch, Antelope Island
County: Davis

Distance to bird: 20 meters.
Optical equipment: Leica 8 x 42 binocular.
Weather: Warm, calm, partly cloudy.
Light Conditions:  
Detailed description of bird: The bird was pale overall, plain faced, with a broad white supercilium, and white malar. Pale black streaks on mantle. The breast was plain; whitish. In flight, tail with prominent black tip and dark central tail feathers contrasting boldly with the rest of white tail, forming a "T."
Song or call & method of delivery:  
Habitat: cow pie on road  -- Jack Hugus and I were driving along the main road toward Garr Ranch on Antelope Island. Just before we arrived at the ranch, I noticed a rather chunky sparrow-like bird sitting on a cow pie on the side of the road. I stopped that car and realized the bird was a longspur; one of the "prairie longspurs" because of the relatively short primary projection. I saw the bird through my binoculars for nearly a minute before it flew into the tall grass about 50 meters off the road.
Similar species and
how were they eliminated:
"Arctic longspurs" eliminated by primary projection, face pattern, and tail pattern. CCLO eliminated by tail pattern, unstreaked breast and bill size and shape.
Previous experience with this & similar species: I see hundreds of McCown’s and Chestnut-collared, and Lapland longspurs each year and have paid particular attention to the "prairie longspurs" in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Arizona and parts of northern Mexico. In the last three years I have seen Smith’s Longspurs on several occasions in Indiana and on one trip to Churchill.
References consulted: Dunn, J. L. and D. Beadle. 1998. Longspurs: distribution and identification in basic plumage. Birders Journal. 7:68-93.
Description from:  
Observer: Christopher L. Wood   Signature:
Observer's address: 8050 Niwot Road, #4, Longmont, Colorado  80503
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified
this bird:
Jack Hugus (Virginia)
Date prepared: 10 December 2002
Additional material: no photos
Additional comments: I thought the observation was particularly odd because of the relatively early date. It is usually a later migrant in my home state of Colorado and Dunn and Beadle (1998) state that "McCown’s is a rather late fall migrant. Dispersal from breeding areas is primarily during October. Well to the south, it has been recorded as early as the end of September in northern and central Arizona and there are earlier September records from Kansas and New Mexico."