10 July 2010
Hybrid Bunting in Salt Lake City
On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, I took a short birding trip in City Creek Canyon, a location that comes up often on the Utah birding listservs. It was neat to see several species whose boundaries seem to be in the short distance between SLC and Logan, like the Western Scrub-Jay, which generally doesn't occur in Cache Valley, and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which can be found in Cache County but only with difficulty. But the highlight of this little walk was a unique bird that I had not seen before. The bird looked mostly like an Indigo Bunting, a species that is typical of the eastern US, but which occurs in Utah rarely. Except, unlike a pure Indigo Bunting, it had a white belly. I think that this indicates that my bird was a hybrid of an Indigo Bunting and a Lazuli Bunting, the common bunting of the west. These two species do hybridize with some regularity, and a quick Google search turned up many examples of birds that were similar to the bird I saw. It would have been nice to see a pure Indigo Bunting, a rare species in the state, but it is some consolation that this hybrid combination is probably even more rare!