Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2010-30

Common name:


Scientific name: Philomachus pugnax
Date: August 1, 2010
Time: 11:00 am
Length of time observed: 30 minutes
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: female
Location: Antelope Island Causeway
County: Davis
Distance to bird: 30 yards
Optical equipment: Swarovski ATS 65 HD spotting scope, Nikon 8x42 Monarch binos, Pentax 10x43 DCF SP binos
Weather: clear, hot
Light Conditions: sunny
Description:        Size of bird: medium shorebird
(Description:)       Basic Shape: stocky shorebird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: black and tan marking above, light below
(Description:)            Bill Type: short, medium thickness, slight droop
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Long, bright orange legs.
Short, medium thick bill with slight droop. Mostly dark with some orange near the base.
Light/white area on face above bill.
Small brown head, lighter on cheeks, faint supercillium, dark eye.
Body was stocky and rounded. Upright posture when not feeding.
Back and wings boldly marked in black and tan pattern. Mantle feathers (scapulars) tended to stick up when bird leaned over to feed.
Body length was medium size, larger than a Wilson's Phalarope, and 2-3 inches smaller than a Black-necked Stilt.
When she flew or flapped her wings, the upperside of the rump/tail showed an obvious white "U" pattern (end of tail had dark band).
The upper breast was darkly mottled, lower breast and belly was white.
Song or call & method of delivery: none
Behavior: Very active, constantly on the move probing and picking at the water. Occasionally stopped feeding to briefly stand upright and look around. Seemed wary of the Black-necked Stilts - her lone flight was to escape the attentions of one. Spent much of her feeding near the grassy areas of the pond, often in company of phalaropes.
Habitat: Shallow fresh(?)water pond (on GSL lakebed), surrounded by grass, with other grassy areas in the pond.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Yellowlegs and Stilt and Pectoral Sandpipers are similar. However, the bright orange legs and U-shaped white marking on rump are both unique to the Ruff, so those two characteristics, along with other markings, effectively eliminated all other possibilities.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Many encounters over many years with yellowlegs, stilt and pectoral sandpipers, as well as other shorebirds. Only experience with Ruff is in Utah, having seen it on 4 of the five occasions it has been reported (missed the first sighting!).
References consulted: Sibley and The Shorebird Guide
Description from: From memory
Observer: Joel and Kathy Beyer
Observer's address: Salt Lake City, UT
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: August 1, 2010
Additional material: