Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ten Species of Sparrows - 2012

 It won't be long until sparrow season is in high gear, and I want to be prepared. After three years of birding, I have to admit, sometimes I look at a sparrow,and I am still stumped. This is especially true if the bird flies by quickly and then is gone.
Nevertheless, there are some sparrows that are pretty easy to identify even with a brief look. The Fox Sparrow is one of these. With its bright rusty head and back, breast streaking, and its lovely song, it is hard to miss.

During 2012, I saw ten different species of sparrows. Some were new ones and of course, there were the year-round regulars like House Sparrows and some Song Sparrows that tend to winter here. On any given winter day it was possible to see a sparrow. 

In addition to the House Sparrows, Song Sparrows, there were also reports of wintering Fox Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, a Lincoln's and an American Tree Sparrow.

Even though I had never seen a Lark Sparrow before 2012, it was one of the easiest sparrows to identify. My first glimpse of it, I knew it was different, and a quick flip through the guide led me straight to an ID. I like it when that happens which I must admit is not very often.

Then, there was the Lincoln's. I found one on Cape Spear road and, while I thought, it was a Lincoln's, I flip-flopped between a Lincoln's and a Swamp Sparrow. There is an image of a very similar looking immature Swamp Sparrow provided below to illustrate just how confusing it can be to identify s sparrow when there is such a mix of immatures among them all.

The mature Savannah Sparrows, like most mature sparrows in breeding plumage, were to identify. 

Then came all of the immatures boasting different colors and more streaking.

These four images of the Savannah show a lot of variation. I have to be on my toes if I am going to learn to identify these quickly.

Having stared down Song Sparrows all winter, I think I will be very confident identifying them this summer. 

 Then again, only time will tell.
If they are hiding behind a branch like this bird is, how will I know? Is this a Swamp or a Lincoln's? Swamp, I think.

What is this immature sparrow with a lot of black? My guess is a very young Savannah. My ID is based on its location (Cape Spear) and the mature birds in the area.

Now, as distinct as this Swamp Sparrow is, how could I not be able to pick them out at any time? Well, they don't all look like this one!

 On some the reddish cap is not always so red, but rather rusty.
There are times when the cap is so red, it almost looks like a Chipping Sparrow. I haven't seen one of them in Newfoundland yet, but I keep looking.

Then there are times when the Swamp Sparrow looks more deep brown than reddish.

Then there are those immatures filled with streaking on their breast.

This one looks a lot like a Lincoln's with the rusty color on the breast. There are so many variations, it is mind-boggling.

When I first saw this American Tree Sparrows, once again the Chipping Sparrow came to mind. Although, when I got a good look at it, I could see the very distinct markings including the yellow lower beak. I think having the opportunity to see this species frequently over the winter, I will be ready to call a quick ID if I ever see one again. Because I hadn't seen one before, it never came to my mind there may be one around.

Then, there was the great White-crowned Sparrow that showed up at the Barrett's in Goulds. This one was not only easy to identify, but it provided a real thrill since it was a first for me.

The White-throated Sparrow in breeding plumage is a breeze to identify. Its very clear whistle makes it easy to follow.

Then, of course not all White-throated Sparrows are mature. This young one being fed by its parent shows how much less pronounced its markings are.

Seeing one alone can cause me to hesitate a moment before making a call on which sparrow it is.

 This one looks so different with its very brown colors, but the yellow lore is developing and the white throat patch is also quite obvious.
Yet again, here is another with some slight variation. As I review all of these pictures, I am sure I will continue to be baffled by some of the sparrows I expect to see over the next couple of months. However, I won't be embarrassed by that, because clearly there are many deviations from the norm. There is, however, no doubt that it gets a little easier each year.

No comments:

Post a Comment