Utah County Birders Newsletter

          May 2020 

    Monthly Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    President's Message
    Bird of the Month 
    Field Trip Reports


In light of the ongoing pandemic situation we are not holding May meetings or field trips but we have a challenge for the month instead! May Big Day! This will count as a goal for the 2020 year challenge. On the day of your choosing during the month of May we challenge you to do a big day in Utah County.

Some variations on this could be things like a big day in your yard, a big day within walking/biking distance of your house, or my personal favorite and the one I’ll be doing, a big day within a five mile radius of your house. Whatever variation you choose to do, you have to stay within Utah county (or the county you live in if you’re not from Utah county and participating).

In order to get credit as a goal on the 2020 challenge you need to write up your experience (you can talk about the great birds you saw, birds you missed, total species, etc...) and submit it as either 1- a post on our UCB Facebook page, 2- to the club hotline listserve, or 3-as an article for our June newsletter. Please remember to be conscientious about social distancing while you bird and happy birding!


Enjoy birding on your own, maintaining the social distancing and guidelines issued by the governor of Utah.

(You can count one or two personal outings a month
towards field trips for the challenge


President's Message - May 2020

            by Machelle Johnson

While some things have come to a stand-still, the bird world is moving right along with the season.  Spring has sprung and the migrants are moving in and moving through and moving on.  Reports are flying in for sightings.  (See what I did there?)

Dunlin by Kendall Brown

Shorebirds, swallows, warblers, sparrows, hummingbirds, the Band-tailed Pigeon, flycatchers, grebes and loons, etc., are all on the move north from their southern winter grounds.  Some will stay for the season and some will continue farther on north.  

You never know what you might see, so keep an open mind but be a stickler for details when looking at a bird that you're not sure of.  In Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion he rates the probability of a bird being seen outside its normal range with a V#:  “0-No pattern of vagrancy.  The chances of this species being seen outside its range are scant to nil. 1-Some slight tendency to wander, but not very far outside its normal range.  2-Some slight tendency to wander, but such occurrences are regional, extending not far beyond the established borders of the species' range, or there are simply very few records of vagrancy.  3-This species has demonstrated an established, widespread pattern of vagrancy.  Ignore the range descriptions.  This bird could be sighted almost anywhere. 4-This species is so widespread that there are few places left in North America for it to wander.”

Semipalmated Plover by Cliff Miles

Warblers and Shorebirds average a V3 rating.  Some are a 2 and some are a 4, but the average is 3.  This means BOLOAA!  (Be On the Look-Out for Almost Anything!) A good rule of thumb is to look for 3 identifying field marks when you’re seeing something that you are having trouble with, and a photo is especially helpful. 

A major hotspot in the county right now is in Lakeshore which is west of Springville at about the edge of the lake.  4000 W is a dirt road for access to the lake.  Utahbirds.org is a great resource for places to bird with directions and descriptions for the entire state.  Here is the link to info for Lakeshore, there are several species of shorebirds being seen there right now:

There are several hotline reports that you can subscribe to, check them out at this link:

I hope you are able to get out and do some COVID-19 Guideline approved birding. The Governor’s Stay Home Stay Safe directive ended on May 1st, although social distancing and mask wearing is still in effect.

That being said, most State Parks have opened up again but you might want to check before you go. I found Utah Lake State Park to be pretty crowded last weekend.

Happy Safe Birding!

Machelle Johnson

Resources:  Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion




Killdeer    (Charadrius vociferus)

   by Alton Thygerson

The Killdeer is a large, noisy shorebird that is often found far from shore.


Killdeer—what a strange name for a bird. While we’ve all seen birds feasting on a dead deer (eg,  ravens, magpies, vultures), those birds did not “kill” the deer—they were scavenging. Perhaps centuries ago the Haast’s Eagle, the largest eagle that ever lived on earth in the South Island of New Zealand and became extinct around 1400, killed deer. Doing the research for this article, I learned that Bald Eagles have been known to take down full-sized deer in some parts of the world. 

Obviously, Killdeer don’t and can’t kill a deer. So where did the name originate? Just like chickadees, they are named after the sound of their call. If you listen to their distinctive call, it sounds a little like: kill-dee, kill-dee. Other expert birders claim that the call sounds like: tee-dee, tee-dee. Most of us often hear a Killdeer before seeing it. Killdeer are part of the same family which includes species like plovers. Its current scientific name Charadrius vociferous originated with Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Eighteenth century naturalists noticing how noisy they were gave them names such as Chattering Plover and Noisy Plover.

Killdeer, by John Crawley

• Both Killdeer sexes have 2 black breast bands; white collar, a brownish back, and white underparts. The eye ring is narrow, but a bright orange-red. Chicks and juveniles have a single black breast band

• In flight, they show a long orange tail and rump. This bird’s white wing stripe is similar to that seen on other plovers. When flying, this bird appears falcon-like and is about the size and shape of the American Kestrel 

• While walking, a Killdeer will pause and bob up and back down as though it had hiccupped. Their walk–stop–pick behavior is found with all plovers. 

• Killdeer breed across all of North America except arctic Canada, Alaska, and southern Mexico. Range maps show them living year-round in Utah. 

• Killdeer are the most common and well-known plover in North America. I was surprised to learn that they are very good swimmers and even their chicks can swim through small streams. They can be found in open areas such as golf courses, airports, parking lots, athletic fields, grazed fields, sandbars, and mudflats. Though most often found on dry land, they are found on edges of freshwater ponds and mud flats. 


They nest on the ground. Their nests aren’t very large and don’t have any walls or anything for protection or warmth. The male and female build their nest together, scraping the ground to make a little depression in the ground but don’t line it or line it only with a few stones (An exception was found in Oklahoma where a nest had over 1,000 pebbles). Years ago while on a Deseret Ranch field trip the group found on a fairly well traveled dirt road a nest within four inches of road’s vehicle tire treads. Mother and father take turns incubating their eggs.

The Audubon.org website reported how a pair of Killdeer interfered with the opening of a newly renovated track and football field just outside of Sacramento, California. Construction workers while laying the field’s artificial turf, found a clutch of four Killdeer eggs in one of the end zones. The school’s principal postponed the field’s opening day until the eggs hatched and the birds vacated the nest. The school used a nearby field for practice and games. While Killdeers are not endangered; the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects them in the United States. To move the nest would require the federal government’s permission. Other cases of Killdeer nesting in inconvenient spots for humans include a 2018  Canadian 10-day music festival causing a ruckus and in upstate New York a church parking lot had a nest where two chicks were hatched.

Their nests blend in with its surrounding territory making the nests difficult to be seen and can be easily stepped on if a person isn’t alert and attentive to where their feet are being placed. 


When hatched, baby Killdeer always come out running. They hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their downy feathers dry, they follow their parents searching the ground for something to eat. Newly hatched Killdeer can’t fly, and they need their parents for protection and guidance.

Killdeer adults don’t feed their young at all. They take the chicks to a place with food and the just-hatched chicks must feed themselves. If we were a Killdeer we would learn very quickly to be independent.

Broken-wing Behavior

When predators come near a Killdeer’s nest, the adults try to draw the predator away by pretending to be injured. They pretend that their wing is broken, and they hobble away from the nest, hoping that the predator will follow. After they have drawn the predator far enough away from the nest, the killdeer flies away to safety.

According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, when faced with large hoofed animals like cows and horses that are apt to trample a nest, instead of the broken-wing strategy used to lure predators away from the nest, the Killdeer fluffs itself up, displays its tail over its head, and runs at the animal to attempt to make it change its path.


The Cornell Lab, All About Birds, website. Accessed April 7, 2020.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.



Field Trip Reports  (Everyone was on their own this month, so no group reports)

Here's an "on your own" birding report!

Franklin Gull by Kendall Brown

Sandhill Cranes by Cliff Miles

Lazuli Buntings by Eric Peterson

Big Month Yard Birding

  by Keeli Marvel

Greetings fellow birders! I decided to rise to the eBird challenge this month while stuck at home and submit at least 20 yard lists. This meant birding in my yard on average about once a day throughout the month and submitting an eBird checklist. I’m lucky enough to live fairly close to Utah Lake so I get some unusual flyovers and some fun species showing up in my yard.

My total species observations for my yard for the month came to 35 species. The most surprising species I observed was a small flock of Franklin’s Gull’s flying over a couple evenings ago. My other favorite sightings were Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds taking over my feeders, flyover Sandhill Cranes, and the migrating Lazuli Buntings that have showed up the last few days.

I’ve really enjoyed keeping a yard list and I think I’ll continue to do so as long as I’m working from home. It’s given me a good excuse to make sure I’m taking breaks throughout the work day and appreciating the birds around my house and my neighborhood.
Hope you are all well and enjoying spring migration. Happy Birding!

Keeli Marvel



Special Report:

Here's a link to a

New Feature Article

on the molting of the American Goldfinch
with photos for the Utah Birds Website:


...And below...
(for our May newsletter)

...are some casual photos taken on an April day that show the
 molting process of the Male American Goldfinch


Different stages of molt are shown in this series of photos from a Provo backyard.


one day






Almost there!
...and the final outcome:

   Male American Goldfinch in July, by Paul Higgins    ©Paul Higgins

This is a Male American Goldfinch in full breeding Plumage!

See the new Feature Page for a more detailed look... with very good photos!