Thursday, September 29, 2011
Many Faces of the Swamp Sparrow
I drew the tenuous conclusion that this was a Swamp Sparrow but doubting myself, I sent the pictures to someone who would surely know. I got confirmation that it is a Swamp Sparrow and likely an adult because a juvenile doesn't yet have the reddish cap. So what happened to all of the other standard facial and throat plumage? Who knows but this really illustrates that this identification thing is a skill that will evolve over time with experience and lots of reading and looking. That's why I take so many field trips. There is no better way to learn than to get out there and see the differences.
(I'm sure there will come a time when I can spot and identify a Swamp Sparrow in the moment. Sometimes I can do that now but other times it requires more "looking.")
The bird then popped out in the open and I got a better look. I am now able to see a faint line behind the eye and a grayish/white throat. When I combine these descriptors to the ones above, it turns out that the only bird it can be is a Swamp Sparrow.
As if identifying the standard plumage of birds in breeding plumage, winter plumage, female, male, juvenile and adult plumage, there are still the unusual variables that come into play. It is also relevant to mention that the Swamp Sparrow undergoes two adult molts per year.