A chestnut-collared longspur showed up at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area just before Christmas, and Bryan Shirley spotted it.
It is a bird that rarely finds itself in Utah. Only six sightings have been confirmed since the first reported sighting in 1953. The last reported sighting was in 2000.
This particular bird is a male in transition plumage. You can see the black belly feathers and the hint of the chestnut-colored collar that gives it its name.
Longspur refers to the elongated claw of the hind toe. Tim Avery also saw the bird and said he was able to see the tail with large white patches on the sides and white under tail with a black triangular patch when it flew overhead.
The chestnut-collared longspur is a medium-sized (5-7 inches), sparrow-looking, short-grass prairie bird. Note the short, thick, pointed bill, which is a grayish color. The male's black belly feathers are a diagnostic field mark in breeding plumage. When in full breeding plumage the male displays a black-and-white head with a buffy face. Its back is black, buff and brown in a streaked pattern.
This longspur prefers disturbed habitats, whether they be grazed historically by bison or today's domestic cattle, or burned-over grass lands.
The chestnut-collared longspur bred historically at sites recently grazed by bison or disturbed by fire. Even today, it avoids nesting in areas protected from grazing, instead preferring pastures and mowed areas such as airstrips, as well as grazed native prairie habitats.
* BILL FENIMORE is owner of the Layton Wild Bird Center. The center offers a variety of free walks. Call 801-525-8400 or visit www. wildbird.com/layton for more information.