Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2013-70

Common name:

Chihuahuan Raven

Scientific name: Corvus cryptoleucus
Date: Sept 16, 2013
Time: 3:45pm
Length of time observed: 20 minutes
Number: 1
Age: unknown
Sex: unknown
Location: On rocks beneath the "Balanced Rock" in Arches National Park
County: Grand County
Latilong: unknown
Elevation: unknown
Distance to bird: Various: 20-50m as we circled it.
Optical equipment: 8x Bushnell Elite Binoculars
Weather: Approx 26 Celcius, 10% cloud cover, moderate wind from the west
Light Conditions: Excellent. Bird was seen from various angles, covering about 270 degrees..
Description:        Size of bird: Large corvid
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Large corvid
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Black all over, except for white on throat when feathers pushed back by the wind.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Large corvid
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This bird was a large corvid sitting in full view, that allowed us to view it from several angles. It was all black, except when the wind blew from the west, at which time the throat feathers of the bird were lifted up to create almost a fan shape that pressed against the side of the bird's head. When this happened, a large white patch was revealed at the base of the "fan" in the area of the bird's throat. We saw this extremely clearly, and I asked my wife to take some photos. The photos do not show the full exposure of the white patch, but do show it quite clearly. The white patch was only visible to us when we stood in front of the bird, close to the direction it was facing and the exposed area was pointing at us. From other angles, as shown on the photos, the white patch was not evident.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard.
Behavior: It mostly sat still, but did preen occasionally.
Habitat: Rock outcrop in desert.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Common Raven would be the most similar species. It doesn't have white on the throat feathers. The white on the exposed throat was so obvious that I didn't think to look at other features. The best photo attached gives a good view of the bill and the nasal bristles. I'm not experienced enough with the species to know how to separate the two species using this feature.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I'm quite familiar with Common Raven as it now nests around the city I live in. I've also seen them frequently over the past 40 years when working or canoeing in central or northern Ontario. I also saw them frequently across Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado during the 3 weeks of my holiday (August 28 to Sept 23, 2013). I've only seen Chihuahuan Raven well on one previous occasion, on Sept 8, 2013, and that was when I was shown two birds by Ron Beck. These birds had nested near Sierra Vista in 2013. We saw the birds from a distance, and I was able to view them quite well through Ron's scope. In the following days, I saw this species several times around the area and was able to hear it's higher pitched vocalizations and see it's shorter, rounder tail.
References consulted: I checked The Sibley Guide to Birds as soon as I got back to the car, about 5 minutes after having seen the bird.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Mike Cadman
Observer's address: 14 Elora St, Guelph, ON, Canada, N1H 2X8
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: My wife saw the bird and took most of the photos of it, but is not a birder.
Date prepared: Sept 27, 2013
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: I do want to stress that we did indeed see a white patch at the exposed base of this bird's throat feathers and that the white in the pictures is not gloss off the bird's outer feathering. The white itself was not glossy. Some gloss is evident on other feathering on the bird in some of the photos, but that is not the white that I'm referring to. I regret not looking in any detail at the bird's other features, so I can't provide much detail on them here, but I was so taken with the white throat and so surprised to see that feature when I was expecting to see only Common Ravens, that I didn't check out the bird's other features. I hope that the photos are adequate for you to judge the other features and make a decision.