Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2015-39

Common name:

Magnolia Warbler

Scientific name: Setophaga magnolia
Date: 10/26/2015
Time: 1205
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Undetermined
Sex: Undetermined
Location: Riverside Marsh, along the Virgin River Trail in St. George. Behind the office building at 352 E. Riverside Drive. (Exact Lat/Long = 37.0821 -113.5742)
County: Washington
Latilong: 19
Elevation: 2,540 feet
Distance to bird: Between 5 and 50 feet.
Optical equipment: Zeiss Conquest HD binoculars (8x42)
Weather: Clear and calm.
Light Conditions: The sun was high in the sky given the time of day. Fairly bright but not overly harsh.
Description:        Size of bird: 3-4 inches long - sparrow/warbler sized.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Classic small passerine
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Yellow, white, gray, black
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small, somewhat thin
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Yellow throat, breast, and flanks with a pale band separating the throat and breast. Grayish, subdued streaks on the flanks. White belly, vent and undertail coverts, with a yellowish rump. Tail feathers were white at the base with a broad black tip - the white band was "blocky" or rectangular when seen from below and very distinctive. Grayish head with a complete, thin white eye-ring. No eye-stripes or other markings on the crown or auriculars. Two thin whitish wing bars and greenish-yellow back. The bill was short and somewhat blunt (not as sharp as orange-crowned warbler).

Many of these field marks suggest first-fall female, but the presence of streaking on the flanks seems to suggest that this could have been a male.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: No song given. Soft call given only a few times when flying between trees. Overall the bird was very quiet. There was quite a bit of construction noise coming from a new building project next to this area.
Behavior: Active foraging along branches and through foliage. Short flights between branches or to other trees/shrubs. It fanned its tail a couple of times.
Habitat: Overall habitat is composed of tamarisk and coyote willow with some scattered goodding's willow, seepwillow, and quail bush. This bird was only seen in tamarisk during the time I watched it.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Yellow-rumped warbler (female)- Has a broken eye-ring; yellow is not as extensive on the flanks; lacks the broad black tip on the tail; duller appearance overall.

Common yellowthroat (female) - Yellow vent and throat, no wing bars, no white or black on tail.

American redstart (female) - Lacks yellow throat, gray breast and belly, yellow marks on tail feathers, eye-ring broken by black line.

Bay-breasted warbler (female) - dark eye-line, lacks white eye-ring, tail lacks black tip.

Tennessee warbler - lacks eye-ring and wing bars.

Northern parula - has a broken eye-ring with dark line, has a sharp bill with yellow lower mandible.

Blackpoll warbler (first winter female) - Lacks white eye-ring, crown is olive-colored and not gray, lacks broad black tip to tail.

Nashville warbler - has a yellow vent and an unpatterned, olive-green tail.

Vireos - none have the tail pattern seen in this bird (white base with black tip).
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Magnolia warbler - several seen when I lived in North Carolina, but these were mostly spring males and it was over ten years ago so probably not applicable to this particular bird.

Other warblers/vireos - 15 years birding experience including doing bird surveys in my capacity as a wildlife biologist for the BLM (previously with the USFS and NPS).
References consulted: The Warbler Guide, Sibley (1st ed.), and National Geographic (6th ed.).
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Shawn Langston
Observer's address: 3268 Fairway Rd., St. George, UT 84790
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: None
Date prepared: 11/18/2015
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: I will send a series of 8 photos (6 originals and 2 cropped). These photos are poor, since they were taken with a low-quality phone-camera, but do show some of the field marks described above.