Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2017-31

Common name:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scientific name: Tyrannus forficatus
Date: 16 May 2017
Time: 10:40 - 11:15 AM
Length of time observed: ~35 minutes with a 15 minute gap after the first glimpse
Number: 1
Age: Adult (at least SY, obviously)
Sex: Unk, leaning female
Location: "Utah Lake Parkway Trail" on the north shore of Utah Lake near the intersection of Saratoga Road and W. 7200 N. in (just east of) Saratoga Springs
County: Utah
Elevation: ~4500 ft.
Distance to bird: Within 20 meters
Optical equipment: Bushnell Elite 10X43 binoculars, "Ancient" Swarovski Habicht ST80 spotting scope
Weather: Cool, mostly cloudy, slightly breezy, a few passing showers
Light Conditions: Not terrible, seen from different angles but mostly from the north and northeast with the sun to the south-southeast but mostly overhead
Description:        Size of bird: Size of a Kingbird with an exceptionally long tail, > one additional body length
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Kingbird with super long tail
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Gray head and matle, darker gray-black wings, pale below with salmon belly and flanks
(Description:)            Bill Type:  Long straight somewhat-heavy flycatcher-type
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I took no notes, sorry, because I was in a hurry to complete and 11-hour drive and had obtained good photos. This is from memory:

I was watching the little gull through the scope when I noted a kingbird on a brush pile in the foreground of my scope view. There was a funny little sprig of vegetation (so I thought) hanging awkwardly off the side of the brush pile adjacent to the bird. The sprig was bouncing around in the wind, and then it spread apart into a Scissor-shape. I said, "holy cow, is that actually a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher?". I refocused and saw that it was (additional details below). I drew my camera and the bird instantly flew up and out of sight into the cottonwoods on the shore to the east of the view point. I was waiting and hoping for it to come back into view. 5 minutes later a gentleman pulled up and began chatting with me. I told him I was watching birds, and he asked if I was trying to get down to the lake shore. I reassured him that I was not a trespasser and then suddenly realized that he was not accusing me but offering. He introduced himself as the landowner and granted me per
mission to walk down to the lake. It still took 10 minutes to relocate the flycatcher, and I was getting nervous, but eventually I found it a couple of hundred meters west of the original location and had much better and prolonged views:

A large passerine, structured very similar to one of our common kingbirds but the tail alone was equal to more than a body's length and was deeply forked. The head and mantle were pure gray and the wings were dark gray noticeable pale edges to multiple rows of coverts, creating a pale striping pattern. The breast and underparts were very pale gray (almost white except for a bold salmon-pink wash on the lower belly and undertail, extending slightly onto the lower flanks. In flight, the underwing coverts were bright pink and brightest right in the axillaries. When spread, a boldly patterned black and white pattern was apparent on the tail.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: When I first arrived, I thought I was hearing some odd kingbird-like calls but was preoccupied with finding the Little Gull. Once I actually saw the flycatcher, I never noted any vocalizations.
Behavior: Perching mostly in the tops of dead salt cedars and a brush pile of dead salt cedar debris. Occasionally flycatching aerobatically with spread tail. Once interacting slightly with a Western Kingbird.
Habitat: North shore of Utah Lake with adjacent wetlands and wooded areas of cottonwood, elm trees, Etc interspersed with pasture.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
 Long deeply-forked tail, black and white patterned tail, pink lower belly, undertail, and underwings are all very distinctive. Fork-tailed Flycatcher has a very different color pattern. Our other kingbirds do not have nearly the tail nor the color pattern. No other expected north american species have the combination of kingbird structure, very long deeply-forked tail, and color pattern. Based on my initial view, I would have had to consider, possibly, some exotic escapees, but I think my photos will prove definitive.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen quite a lot of these (a few hundred) mostly in the southern great plains from eastern New Mexico (where a locally-common breeder) into Texas and other plains states. I've chase and mostly missed a few western vagrants.
References consulted: None needed
Description from: From memory
Observer: Carl G. Lundblad
Observer's address: 317 E. C Street, Moscow, ID 83843
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Many additional birders saw it in the afternoon.
Date prepared: 18 May 2017
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: