Utah County Birders Newsletter
December 2012

    December Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    President's Message
    Birding Families
    Bird of the Month
Backyard Bird of the Month
    November Hotline Highlights


December 13th, 2012 - 7:00 PM

Provo CBC Preparations

We will meet at Milt Moody's house - 2795 Indian Hills Drive, Provo.

We will be giving assignments and getting ready for the Christmas bird count. Anyone who wants to attend the bird count needs to come to the meeting or contact Bryan ahead of time (preferably at bt_shirley@hotmail.com).

Also at the meeting, in keeping with tradition, there will be a bird quiz, so bring a field guide.


Beginning birders are welcome.

Saturday, December 15, 2012: Provo Christmas Bird Count - Assignments are given out at the Utah County Birders meeting on December 13th. If you can’t attend the meeting, call Dennis Shirley at 801-423-1108 or send an email to Bryan Shirley at bt_shirley@hotmail.com.

Saturday, December 29, 2012: Payson Christmas Bird Count - Contact Bryan Shirley at bt_shirley@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2013:  Jordan River Christmas Bird Count - Leaders: Jeanne Le Ber and Ray Smith - meet at 7am at Johanna’s Kitchen, 9725 South State Street, Sandy (801-566-1762). Assignments will be distributed and groups will start birding at 8am. Team reports and count tally will begin at 6pm at the Sizzler on 9000 S. & State St. To sign up, or for more information, call Jeanne or Ray at (801-532-7384).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013:  9:30am-12:30pm - New Year's Day Birding. Start the new year off right with a morning of birding! Meet at the parking lot at the Provo Sam's Club in East Bay. We will check out a few south Utah county hotspots such as the Lewis' Woodpecker spot and Salem Pond. Led by Keeli Marvel.

We are actively recruiting people to lead local half-day field trips, any time, any place.  If you would like to lead a field trip or if you have any ideas for this year’s field trips, please contact Keeli Marvel at - keeli.marvel@gmail.com. 

President's Message

Elegant-crested Tinamou

by Bryan Shirley, UCB President



I remember a couple of years ago hearing Ned Hill (the past UCB President) joke that he didn’t really believe in Tinamous. After several trips to South or Central America trying in vain to see one, he was pretty sure that Tinamous were up there with the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. Well, I am not sure if Ned will believe me or not, but last month in Argentina I saw 3 species of Tinamous in a few days! And these were not glimpses of a shadow moving through the forest – we actually got to watch them and photograph them for several minutes. I have been home from my trip for about 2 weeks now, but am still so excited that I thought I would write about them this month.

Tinamous make up their own order and family of birds – that means that they don’t really have any close relatives. They may have evolved from the same stock as the Rheas and Ostrich, but it is still unclear. Tinamous are found only in Central and South America, but they are found in basically every habitat from Mexico to Patagonia and from sea level up to 17-18,000 feet. There are 2 subfamilies, Tinaminae (Forest Tinamous) and Rhynchotenae (Steppe Tinamous). The steppe tinamous can be quite a bit easier to see, because they are often found in pretty barren areas while the Forest Tinamous are normally in very thick forest. Combining both subfamilies, there are 47 species of Tinamou.

Tinamous are strictly ground dwelling birds, but they can fly. They vaguely resemble a pheasant or partridge, but generally are rounder and have almost no tail. They range in size from under 6 inches to about 20 inches, which is a pretty good sized bird considering it has no tail to speak of.

As I previously stated, Tinamous can fly but they rarely do and even then not very well. They have short rounded wings and without a tail to act as a rudder have a hard time steering.

Apparently they lose control sometimes and crash into trees or other obstacles injuring or even killing themselves. When they are in danger (including danger of being added to somebody’s life list) they either freeze or sneak silently away.

Another interesting fact about Tinamous is that they not only fly poorly, they have a tiny heart & lungs and can’t sustain flight for very long even when they do get airborne. Apparently once they fly they only go a short distance, and then even if they are still in danger they are too tired and physically unable to fly again.

So here is the story about the 3 species that I saw last month. The first was in a high pass between 2 mountain valleys. It was so foggy that we could only see a few feet. We stopped in the pass and tried to see anything, but it was too foggy. Then the fog cleared just a little and we could see a ghost-like bird running up the slope. Tinamou! Then it was gone into the fog. Since there are several species possible there we were pretty disappointed not to get a better look at it. It was kind of like most Big Foot sightings – foggy, couldn’t see well, only a couple of seconds, etc. It was a serious bummer. Then about an hour later we had 2 more feeding in the grass along the road. It was getting dark and very foggy, so they didn’t seem at all concerned we were there. They were Ornate Tinamous and we were able to watch them for about 10 minutes at about 10 feet from our car.

A couple of days later we were birding an area called Los Cardones National Park. “Cardones” is the name for a large, Saguaro-like Cactus. We had just got to the park when we found 3 Elegant-crested Tinamou! This was definitely near the top of my wish list for the trip. They were just off the road and very cooperative (see the attached photo).

Later that same day we were driving along through some scrub habitat and had a bird run across the road in front of us. Another Tinamou? Are you kidding me? Luckily for us the spot this bird ran across the road had a little bush, then a cliff that the Tinamou couldn’t get up. He tried for about a minute while we watched him in plain view, then he finally gave up and flew back across the road and down the canyon. He looked like he was a pretty good flier when he cleared our car. It was an Andean Tinamou and was my third Tinamou lifer in less than a week. I don’t need anything else from Santa this year!

Finally a plug for the Christmas Bird Count. I hope you all can make it. If you have never participated before it is a good time. Besides the Provo count on the 15th I am going to be in charge of the Payson count also this year (Dec 29th) and we could use help on that count as well. I think that with enough people the Payson count could probably produce a better bird list than the Provo count. If neither of those dates work for you there are lots of other counts too. Bring family or friends and come enjoy this great Christmas tradition!



Birding Families
by Barbara Watkins

Most birders have heard of Phoebe Snetsinger, the woman who became the first person to list over 8,000 birds. She died in 1999 in a traffic accident in Madagascar doing what she loved, birding. Since then, several birders have surpassed her numbers and Tom Gullick recently ticked 9,000! Although very few birders have the resources and compulsion to pursue those numbers, most of us still like to set birding goals.

About five years ago I was one of several birding friends who set a goal of seeing all the birding families. It had started with a challenge Phil Gregory, owner of Sicklebill Safaris in Australia and frequent guide for Field Guides, made to one of his clients. Joan Clark had no illusions of going after Phoebe’s record, but she wanted a reasonable challenge. We all did. Back in 2007, Clements was listing 203 families, and I was only missing a dozen! Several of those could be picked up in New Zealand and many of the remainder were monotypic families in destinations I had targeted anyway. I also began doing lots more research and started using Handbook of Birds of the World and the IOC (International Ornithological Congress) checklists as references.

Also, about then Cornell took charge of Clement’s Checklist and updating after reviews of scientific studies accelerated. Clement’s list became more and more in line with the IOC’s and HBW. By the end of 2008, Clement’s family list had increased to 207. But that number was deceptive as six families had been eliminated and ten had been added. (For example the three families of Meleagrididae (Turkeys,) Tetraonidae (Grouse,) and Numididae (Guinea Fowl) were lumped into Phasianidae (Pheasants and Partridges) and the two families of Sternidae (Terns) and Rynchopidae (Skimmers) were lumped with Laridae (Gulls.) By the end of 2009, it had increased to 221, but that was comprised of twenty additions and another six deletions.

My family birding list was slowly diminishing and a trip to New Zealand in 2009 made a significant dent. I had planned on checking off three families but with the new taxonomy I was able to tick off five! But I also was confronted with two new families! Both were monotypic (only one species in the family) and one was going to be rather difficult. Still, I was down to ten families to go.

With DNA data continuing to pour in, startling things happened. These went far beyond splitting the Winter Wren. Bizarre affiliations were being discovered – the Sapayoa of Central America was determined to be the only bird in the Americas related to the Broadbills of Africa and Asia, the Donocobius is likewise a New World anomaly as it appears to be most closely related to Old World warblers. Avian orders are being shattered and realigned. The order Gruiformes (cranes and allies) lost six families. Of those six families, three were elevated to orders, two were placed in a third new order, and one was assigned to Charadriiformes (waders.) For me, the most amazing discovery is that falcons are more closely related to parrots and passerines than to hawks and eagles. (For a while, taxonomists considered retaining the order Falconiformes for hawks and other raptors, and imposing another name on the exiled falcons and caracaras.)

Developments in taxonomy continue to be intriguing and surprising. Clement’s and IOC checklists continue to be updated. There are some great websites that track these changes and they are linked on the Utah Birds website. Just go to the Utah Birds Home Page and click on “Utah Listing Records” in the left hand column. On the next page, click on “Families” in the left hand column. On the next page, click on the blue “Links for Changes,” and have fun!

And, speaking of birding goals, how are you doing on the goals you set this year? There’s still time for a personal “Big Day.” Did you add some birds to your life list? Why not invite a friend on a field trip? The Christmas Bird Count would be a great introduction. Happy Birding!


Bird of the Month

No bird of the month this month.

If you would like to write an article for the Bird of the Month, please contact Oliver Hansen --
801-378-4771 - byucactus@gmail.com .

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.


Backyard Bird of the Month

November 2012

Glenn Barlow – Fruit Heights
On November 11 I had a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers scavenging my pine tree for insects. They were gleaning them from the sap on the needles. I assume that most were Audubons, but I did see one Myrtle up close. Also on the 11th a neighbor brought me a Cedar Waxwing. Three of them had hit her deck window and only one survived. My daughter took it from her, but it escaped into the house. She soon recaptured it and after observing it for a few minutes we decided to let it go. The last we saw it, it was flying over the pine tree in the neighbor's yard across the street.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Four Western Scrub-Jays have returned on a routine basis due to my putting peanuts out each morning. Incidentally, Costco is a great source for peanuts (no salt, in the shell, small bag).

Milt Moody – Provo
A Red-breasted Nuthatch has taken to my yard and has been regularly snatching sunflower seed from my feeder to eat in private.

Steve Carr - Holladay
Evening Grosbeak - First time in almost 20 years.

Reed Stone – Provo
Mountain Chickadees

Bruce Robinson – West Jordan
Dark-eyed Junco - Still hoping for a Redpoll!

Yvonne Carter - Highland
I was getting ready to go on the last field trip and could hear some 'hooting' outside and thought it was pretty close; went downstairs and out on the deck and it sounded like it was right on top of me. I went out the front door, walked out to the sidewalk and sure enough, there was a Great Horned Owl perched right on our roof line. Great way to start a field trip morning! Strange thing is, it was 7 a.m.; the latest in morning hours I have seen an owl actively flying around, I usually hear and see them in the evening.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Red-napped Sapsucker - Only the second time I've ever seen one in the yard. The first was 12 years ago.

Report your favorite backyard bird each month to Cheryl Peterson at 801-375-1914 or CherylPeterson@gmail.com