Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2017-06a

Common name:

Bell's Sparrow  (interior)

Scientific name: Artemisiospiza belli canescens
Date: 1/28/17
Time: 10:30 am
Length of time observed: 10 min
Number: 1
Age:  n/a
Sex:  n/a
Location:  Lytle Ranch Rd (Beaver Dam slope)
County: Washington
Latilong: 37�'36.2"N -113�'56.0"W
Elevation: 2800'
Distance to bird: 20-75'
Optical equipment: Pentax ED 8x43, Canon 60D camera with 55-250mm zoom lens
Weather: Sunny and cool
Light Conditions: Good-sunny.
Description:        Size of bird:  Small, ~5.5"
(Description:)       Basic Shape:  Sparrow
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: White underparts with darker upperparts
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small pointed.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This bird looked to be of the interior subspecies, canescens.

Head was a dark blue-gray with a white surpaloral spot, dark lores, small hint of a supercilium behind the eye and a complete eyering. It had a thick blue-gray malar stripe.

The dark blue-gray extended down onto the back which was brownish. There was limited thin striping on the back and scapulars. It has an isolated dark spot on the chest with limited streaking on the sides of the chest and flanks. Wings had 2 wingbars typical of this subspecies.

Tail was all dark above with limited white edging on the bottom of the outermost tail feathers.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: High pitched tink call note. Song compared favorably to canescens Bells- bright jumble of rising and falling notes that ran together, less structured than Sagebrush Sparrow. See my recording from Xeno-canto:
Behavior: Perched up and singing on shrubs and joshua trees and running around on the ground among them.
Habitat: Mojave Desert associating with the smaller shrubs and Joshua trees
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Sagebrush Sparrow is the only similar species.

Our bird had a darker and more richly colored head and upperparts than Sagebrush Sparrow as well as a thicker, darker malar stripe. Our bird lacked the typical streaking found in Sagebrush Sparrows which have noticeable streaking on the back and scapulars as well as the sides of the chest. Sagebrush Sparrows also don't show an isolated dark spot on the chest and often have streaking near the mark on their chest.

Sagebrush Sparrows also have white on the top of their tail and a decent sized white edge on the bottom of their outermost tail feathers whereas our bird had an all dark top of the tail and thin white edging on the bottom of its tail.

Additionally the song of our bird was more jumbled and varied than the typical Sagebrush song.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have seen this species down in similar habitat west of Phoenix. Have seen plenty of Sagebrush Sparrows in Utah both on wintering and breeding habitat.
References consulted: Sibley's 2nd edition. National Geographic 6th edition. Sparrows of the United States and Canada.
Description from: Notes made later
Observer: Kenny Frisch
Observer's address: Holladay, UT 84117
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Tim Avery, Nate Brown
Date prepared: 1/31/17
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: