Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2008-30

Common name:

Northern Parula

Scientific name: Parula americana
Date: 24 May 1987
Time: afternoon
Length of time observed: Observed: perhaps 20 minutes
Number: 1
Age: first winter/spring(?)
Sex: female
Location: UT, San Juan Co., Rainbow Bridge Trail at Nasja Creek
County: San Juan
Latilong: ?
Elevation: ca 4520 feet
Distance to bird: As close as 15 feet
Optical equipment: 10X binoculars
Weather: sunny, clear, calm
Light Conditions: full sunlight
Description:        Size of bird: small, warbler sized
(Description:)       Basic Shape: warbler shaped
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: gray, yellow, and white
(Description:)            Bill Type: thin, basically straight, sharp
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I was going through the Utah Birds website this morning looking at vagrant warbler records and noticed that no records exists of this bird that I reported over 20 years ago. At the time of the observation I didn't know what the birds was (although I suspected it was a parula) but I knew it was an eastern vagrant and so I studied it thoroughly and took down notes in my field notebook and identified it immediately from my field guides the next day. I passed the information along to a prominent Utah birder at the time who promptly dismissed it as an incorrect (I knew I was right) because I noted that the bird was in heavily worn plumage and this birder said birds birds in May would not show worn feathers. In reality, birds in spring occasionally do show worn plumage. I am not sure of the reasons behind this (immature birds, birds in compromised health etc.?). The following discussion and information in this submission are taken from the notes I entered in my !
species log at the time and from memory and they are submitted here to you "for the record.": A small gray, yellow and white warbler that lack streaking and other such intricate patterns. Seen very close to within 15 feet with 10X binoculars. Face and rest of upperparts gray with a disctinct olive patch on mantle. Throat and upper breast yellow. Remainder of underparts white. faint eyering more pronounced below. Wings plain. Plumage very worn.
Song or call & method of delivery: none noted
Behavior: feeding in oaks and pinyons
Habitat: juniper-oak-pinyon-cottonwood canyon/creek bottom.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
I can't really recall this now 21 years down the road but suffice it to say that there is no other warbler that fits this description.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
at the time this was my first ever observation of this species. Since that time I have seen many parulas in Arizona and elsewhere.
References consulted: standard guide at the time (first edition Nat Geo, master birding guide, Perterson's Western bird guide)
Description from: From memory
Observer: T. LaRue
Observer's address: 3525 W. Lois Ln, Flagstaff, AZ
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: none
Date prepared: 30 October 2008
Additional material:  
Additional Comments: The white tips of the wing coverts were so worn that the wing bars were elminated. At the time, this looks like it might have been only the second parula report from Utah. This is the second such old record I have found in my files and submitted to Utah Birds and coincidentally both came from near Navajo Mountain. Northern Parula is a frequent vagrant in the western U.S. with most reports from spring and most from late May (Dunn and Garrett 1997) so this report fits this pattern. I am 100% certain and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this bird was a Northern Parula.