Utah County Birders Newsletter
January 2004


Wednesday, January 21st.

Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.
The program will be under the direction of Scott Root of the Division of Wildlife Resources. He and his associates will show a video and discuss Sage Grouse.


Saturday, January 24th
Saturday, February 14th

Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Orem Center Street Park and Ride.   Destinations TBA.


UCB 2004 Birding Contest

Choose FOUR of the five suggested challenges to participate in the contest.

1. Find 220 species in Utah in 2004. (A bit challenging for some but we know you can do it!)

2. Find 20 species in all the 29 counties in Utah OR find 29 species in 20 counties in Utah.

3. Target birding: Choose FOUR groups of birds from the list of eight groups below and find each species in your chosen groups. Use the new Utah checklist as a guide, excluding accidentals and occasionals.
1. Owls
2. Woodpeckers
3. Wrens
4. Hawks and falcons
5. Warblers
6. Blackbirds and orioles
7. Titmice, verdin and bushtits
8. Thrushes

4. Write an article for the newsletter. Possible topics: "My most elusive bird and how I finally got it." "My most expensive lifer." " The easiest way to count the eggs in a black swift's nest behind Bridal Veil Falls." etc. Use your imagination. (This is an easy one to include in your chosen four. Besides, we need more articles for the newsletter).

5. Add FOUR more species to your World list, OR your ABA list, OR your Utah list, OR your Utah County list.

Reed's Ramblings
January 2004
by Reed Stone

Wow a new year has come and with it new opportunities and challenges. My Challenge is to write something that is interesting and informative. Here goes.


Food accessibility is critical to successful bird migration. Those species of birds that rear their young in the far north where sunlit days are long produce an abundance of food including insects, vertebrates and vegetation. All are vital to the enormous amount of food necessary to meet the demands of the growing and developing young. As the long summer passes and winter approaches all foods diminish or become less accessible due to shorter hours of the warming sunlight, the approaching freezing conditions or being covered by a mantel of snow.

These conditions produce certain stimulus for birds to move to locations where the food supply is more abundant and accessible. Several forces or conditions come into play that induces or even forces birds to migrate. It is truly a matter of survival for most.

When to leave, day or night is vital to some species? Soaring birds choose day time migration. They start out when warming air begins to rise and ride the thermals till they start fading making it unprofitable to continue. These soaring species have learned or have been gifted genetically, or taught that soaring requires little energy compared to flap and sailing methods. This pattern of migration allows for an early breakfast or a late afternoon snack and rest. There are other conditions that are favorable to day time flight. Various checkpoints are visible, mountains, streams, lakes and islands to name a few.

The flap and sail or simply the flappers must build up enormous fat reserves to cover the great distances. Sedge Warblers from the north will double their weight, fill their "tanks", in order to cover flights of almost 2,000 miles before the next "filling station". These 2,000 mile trips may cover up to four days. Some Humming Birds prepare for the long, over the Gulf of Mexico, trip by doubling their weight for the 500+ mile marathon. Some birds build up large fat reserves and fly out to sea to catch favorable trade winds that assist in reaching distant islands or continents.

How do these feathered projectiles know the distances, the time necessary, the energy it will take and the reality of a landing place with food sources??? Ponder the young Brown Headed Cowbirds. They have never seen their biological parents, tough. How will they know anything about migration–– when to, which way, how far, day or night etc.? Think of the first hatchlings of those species that produce multiple broods. How do they learn, know, or find out about migration?

There are various ways birds learn about migration. Flocking up with experienced birds of their species. Some are lead by parents. Most, if not all have, have innate powers that answer these questions.

Birds navigate by various means. Instinct for one, some by celestial means, the stars, the sun and moon are some of the aids. Some by the earths magnetic forces. Quite possibly we may never be able to answer all the question regarding bird migration. For some of us, that can get lost in the mall or the grocery store, we could use some of their help.

Much of the above information has been edited and adapted from the "THE COMPLETE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIRDS AND BIRD MIGRATION". authored by Christopher M. Perrens and Jonathan Elphic.

***** The Goose Story

Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter flying along in a "V" formation, you might be interested in knowing what science has discovered about why geese fly that way. It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose will fly point. (It pays to take turns doing hard jobs- with people or with geese flying south.) The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. What do we say when we honk form behind?

Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is able to fly or until he is dead, and they then launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with the group. We humans could learn a little from the geese.

****** The above is from a newspaper clipping e source, I do not know.

The Making of the New State Checklist
by Milt Moody

I’ve been waiting for the Forest Service to get the new state checklist published before I wrote this article for the newsletter, but I can wait no longer – the new “See More in 2004" contest is on and I’m zeroing in on item number four!

A checklist team of four highly knowledgeable birders and ornithologists from the Utah Bird Records Committee of the UOS (Utah Ornithological Society) recently set about to revise, revamp and update the 1998 version of the Utah bird checklist. Two new abundance codes were added and some of the definitions were modified; a new symbol for “species that are found primarily in northern Utah” was added; 22 new species were added and two species were deleted; five names of birds were changed and the order of the birds on the list was slightly modified to conform to the American Ornithologist’s Union (AOU) checklist.

Merrill Webb and Terry Sadler headed up the checklist committee assisted by Ron Ryel, who provided input about the species of northern Utah and Rick Fridell, who gave input about species in the south. The first step was to agree on the codes used to describe abundance and status. A “Fairly Common” code was added to round out the codes describing how easy it is to find the bird in the state. An “Accidental” code was added to indicate those birds that are not expected to be in the state as opposed to “Occasional” for those whose range suggests that they’re likely to show up now and then. Definitions for all the abundance codes were adjusted in order to create a nicely graded array of abundance categories. For the “Irregular” species, a range was added to suggest how the abundance varies. For example, (R-F) would indicate that the species ranges from “rare” to “fairly common” in any given year. Although the abundance codes were modified quite a bit, the status codes needed no change.

The next step was to assign the codes to each of the species, which was done in a “quadruple blind” manner – all four members of the checklist committee assigned codes independently -- and, amazingly enough, there were very few and usually minor differences of opinion which they resolved quite easily. This was the major part of the checklist work and it went very well.

Most of the 22 new species that were added are birds you’re not likely to see again any time soon. One of them, however, the Eurasian Collared-Dove, has already been seen from one end of the state to the other and will probably be pretty easy to see in the future. The Sage Grouse species was split by the AOU, creating a new species, “Gunnison Sage-Grouse” for the small group in Colorado and Utah and giving a new name “Greater Sage-Grouse” to the “regular” Sage Grouse. Two species, the Bar-tailed Godwit and the Laughing Gull were deleted from the list because of insufficient documentation. (The Records Committee wants to be able to “stand by” the information on the checklist as being fully reviewed and documented).

The AOU has placed the “Swans, Geese and Ducks” group followed by the “Pheasants, Grouse and Quail” group before the loons, which were previously listed first on the Utah checklist and since most of the checklists and field guides follow the AOU order, including ours, the order was changed for our checklist. (The field guides will probably be changed too and then we’ll all have to buy new ones in order to be up-to-date – is this the same old marketing ploy made famous by Microsoft Windows? – we may have to set up an independent council to investigate). They’ve also changed a few names. The Three-toed Woodpecker is now the American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis – a new species) which is now different than the Three-toed Woodpeckers in Europe and Asia for instance. “Oldsquaw”, a very nice name I thought, has been changed, for quite a while now, to “Long-tailed Duck,” for reasons of “political correctness” (politically correct, but boring – aren’t we going a little overboard with that stuff?). “Rock Dove” has been changed to “Rock Pigeon” since they are more like the other pigeons rather than the doves, I suppose. And “Common Snipe” has been changed to “Wilson’s Snipe” (Gallinago delicata – another new species). I’m glad to see any “Common” adjective go by the way, but wouldn’t it be better to have a “Delicate Snipe” or something, rather than one named after some person. (I mean it’s not Wilson’s snipe – it belongs to all of us – or none of us – we ought to have descriptive names rather than possessive names – we ought to go on strike or something – but I digress – sorry about the radical editorial comments).

I would say the new checklist has been thoroughly reworked, checked and gone over and is excellently done and should be helpful to birders for years to come – I hope they get around to publishing it some day soon.

(You can get a copy of the new checklist on our web site (utahbirds.org) along with the new “spin-off” checklist on Washington County which was based mainly on the work Rick Fridell did on the state checklist. They’re both in the “Print Center”).

Titmice, Verdin and Bushtits: Habitat Birding
by Merrill Webb

This article is being written in response to two of the five suggested challenges for the 2004 Birding Contest announced by the Utah County Birders leadership.

One of the challenges is to write an article for the Utah County Birders newsletter. Another challenge is to choose FOUR groups of birds from a list of eight groups of listed birds and find each of the more common species in each of the four groups. So, what I am proposing is to select four groups to start off with and write successive articles (not all in one newsletter) about where one might go to find the species in these groups. These locales are based on monthly and yearly records I have kept while birding in Utah since 1980. Thus I will more than fulfill one of the requirements (writing a newsletter article) and hopefully help others who subscribe to this newsletter to fulfill the target birding requirement.

The first grouping of birds I am going to address is, in my opinion, the easiest group in which to find all the species. I am assuming that the chickadees are also in this group since that is where they are listed in the new state checklist. So, my intent in this article is to list each of the five species in this group and to indicate likely locations where one might go to find them. This, and following articles, will not be a “how to identify” description (that’s why birders have fieldguides) but more of a habitat listing and locales to visit. I should also mention at the outset that this is not an exhaustive list of places to visit; there are plenty of birders in this state who have favorite haunts they visit to find certain target species. If you know of a birder in another county that I don’t list, then call them for assistance. After all, another one of the five challenges is to find 20 species in all 29 Utah counties (or 29 species in 20 counties). What I hope will happen is that the habitat and locality information listed below will assist birders in locating any one of the following five species.

1. Black-capped Chickadee. This is the easiest of the five to find. In fact, I would bet that any birder who keeps a monthly or a yearly list already has this bird on the list for this year. It is a favorite of feeder watchers because it comes into feeders readily during the winter, especially when black sunflower seeds are offered. It is found in any “wooded habitat” according to Sibley where it feeds on seeds and insects. That means riparian woods, oak-maple woods, and aspen woods. During the winter it moves into residential areas to feed in orchards and other types of coniferous and deciduous trees.

2. Mountain Chickadee. Not as apt to be found in lower elevations as its cousin. If you look at the range maps and compare the two chickadee species found in Utah it would appear that this species has a wider distribution. However, it is mainly found in montane forests, so its distribution is a little less extensive than the Black-capped just because there is less montane forest than the other types I have listed. Any trip to the mountains where there is a spruce-fir community will yield this species. In Utah County that would be the following areas: Mount Timpanogos (alpine loop), Squaw Peak Trail, Mount Nebo Scenic Loop and the upper reaches of Spanish Fork Canyon. In Salt Lake and Davis Counties it would be any canyon to the east of the valleys where conifers can be found such as the Cottonwood Canyons and Farmington Canyon.

3. Juniper Titmouse. Just like its title indicates this bird is a common inhabitant of the pinion-juniper forest, especially during the breeding season. In Utah County one of the most consistent sites for locating this species is out in the Tintic Mountains near the old ghost town of Dividend. During post-breeding dispersal it can be found feeding on cones or juniper berries in places such as Evergreen Cemetery in Springville, Red Hills Golf Course in St. George, or in suitable vegetation in residential areas. However, these incursions into lower elevations are more random and if one expects to find this bird it is better to visit the appropriate pinion-juniper habitat. I would discourage the use of taped recordings to attract this species; it does respond to spishing.

4. Verdin. A quick perusal of fieldguide range maps indicates a trip south to Washington County is necessary in order to add this bird to your list. In my earlier years of birding I could always count on finding this species in the Beaver Dam Wash in the extreme southwestern corner of Utah. But now, either I am much more aware of it in other areas, or it has extended its range, it can be found along the Virgin River and its tributaries, in Middleton (area between St. George and Washington), golf courses, and other suitable brushy desert habitats containing a mixture of mesquite, acacia and rabbitbrush. It is an active bird, doesn’t stay in one place very long and is usually solitary.

5. Bushtit. This is a very active bird that forages in small flocks. Because of its behavior I have never really been very successful in targeting a specific area in hopes of finding this species. I have found it at the mouth of Rock Canyon east of Provo and in Broad Canyon southwest of Fairfield in Utah County; in Washington County along the Virgin River from Rockville downstream to St. George, Lytle Ranch in Beaver Dam Wash and on Utah Hill west of St. George. Other birders have found it in the foothills north of Orem in Utah County. It doesn’t seem to prefer one type of vegetative habitat over another (although I have never found it in plant communities higher in elevation than pinion-juniper forests)--just wherever it can find small insects on which to feed.

I hope this information will be useful. The next group I plan on addressing in a future news article will be the woodpeckers.