Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2005-

Common name:


Scientific name: Seiurus aurocapillus
Date: June 18, 2005
Time: 11:00 am
Length of time observed: 20-30 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Unknown
Sex: Male
Location: Bonneville Shoreline Trail above the 29th Street Trailhead in Ogden
County: Weber
Latilong: N 41* 12.503 ' W111* 55.816'
Elevation: 4915 ft
Distance to bird: Many observations; 15-50 feet
Optical equipment: Celestron 8x42 binoculars
Weather: Clear, sunny, hot; temps in the 70s
Light Conditions: Excellent--Very bright, no clouds
Description:        Size of bird: About House Finch-sized, but shorter tailed and bulkier
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Somewhat stocky
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Drab, unmarked olive-brown upperparts, whitish underparts heavily spotted/streaked with black on breast
(Description:)            Bill Type: Not typical finely pointed warbler bill--larger and a little more blunt
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Pale pink bill; fairly prominent for a small bird that was not a finch. Large dark eye with an obvious white eyering. Orange median crown stripe bordered with a black stripe on either side of
the orange. Black seemed to extend farther down the bird's nape than did the orange. Upperparts were drab olive/brown, including lower nape, face between black crown stripe and white eyering, cheek, back, wings, tail. All olive drab color was completely unmarked by any other color--no obvious feather edges, no wingbars, no color to outer tail feathers--just plain olive/brown. Throat was whitish and separated from the whitish malar by a VERY thin, black stripe. Breast was whitish, but heavily spotted with black that became black streaks especially along the sides and flanks. Lower belly and undertail coverts were unmarked and the same whitish color as the breast. Lower flank next to legs showed some olive brown color like the back. Pink legs. Overall impression of bird shape was balance--in other words, the tail was not too long in comparison with the head/body.  (see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Call began softly and reached a surprising loud volume by the third or fourth repetition of the pair of sylables. Two syllables repeated over and over. Call sounded like, "ch-wee'-Ch-wee'-CH-WEE'-CH-WEE'..." with the first syllable somewhat short, the pair of syllables somewhat slurred together, and the emphasis more on the second syllable. Overall impression was that the bird was really pumping out its call. As call began the bird sounded far away; as call increased in volume
impression was that the bird was unbelievably close--and usually, it was. This bird wasn't shy.
Behavior: Bird perched in the leafy scrub oak canopy 10-15 feet high or out on dead scrub oak branches the whole time. It sat almost motionless while singing, with the exception of tipping its head up high and opening its beak for the song. Bird would change perches by flying directly to a new, leafy branch not far from the first. Bird was hard to detect while it was singing even when perched 20 feet away because it didn't move. On exposed dead branches, bird still didn't move and was not flighty at all.
Habitat: Foothill scrub oak, 10-15 feet high.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
All spot-breasted thrushes: None have an orange median crown stripe bordered in black stripes on both sides.
Several thrushes may have faint wing markings or reddish tones to back or tail; this bird's wings/back tail were completely unmarked and olive/brown. Review bird perched very still and never flicked wings and tail as do thrushes.

Both Waterthrushes show a significant white or cream eyestripe that was totally lacking on the review bird. In addition, the review bird's orange/black crown pattern eliminates the waterthrushes. Both waterthrush songs also change in pitch and the review bird's song never varied from a 2-note repetition, increasing in volume. I think waterthrushes would be a lot less likely to be found out of habitat than the Ovenbird.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Haven't seen an Ovenbird since I was a kid, and I barely remember seeing those. But I do remember its very loud singing in a deep thicket behind my parents house. I've seen Northern
Waterthrushes several times and can't remember ever seeing a Louisiana. I observe Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes regularly each summer in Utah and have seen Wood Thrushes back east. Mort and Carolyn are familiar with the Ovenbird from their days of living and birding in Virginia and New York.
References consulted: Sibley, hours later so as not to be confused with my notes and memory.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Kristin Purdy
Observer's address: 1961 Arapaho Circle, Ogden, UT 84403
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Mort and Carolyn Somer
Date prepared: June 18, 2005
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: