Archive for Sparrows

Dark-eyed Junco female and nest 7/26/18

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows, only unlike their brown and streaky cousins the eastern subspecies are mostly charcoal gray with white bellies and white feathers edging their tails. Females like the one above, and juveniles have more brown in them. Junco subspecies from other parts of North America sport different plumages. They are ground birds, foraging on the forest floor for seeds but during the breeding season they supplement their diet with insects. I came close to mowing over this nest hidden in thick grasses until I saw the woven cup and three brown speckled eggs.

Comments

Chipping Sparrow male 5/3/18

Chipping Sparrows in fresh breeding plumage have a bright clean look to them, with an unstreaked and unspotted breast, with a red-cap, white and black eye-stripes, and an all gray bill. It’s typical of the small and slender Spizella sparrows, having a short bill, relatively long tail, and a fondness for open grassy areas. In the New England spring, Chipping Sparrows replace the similarly colored American Tree Sparrow cousins, who spent the winter here. But by the time Chipping Sparrows have arrived from the south, the American Tree Sparrows are on their way back to the treeless northern tundra. This male is singing a mechanical trill, while his sweetheart is busy nestbuilding in a nearby yew.

Comments

Swamp Sparrow 4/26/18

Here’s a medium-sized sparrow of wetland habitats with especially long legs for wading the shallows while foraging for aquatic invertebrates. In winter their diet includes a lot more seeds. They are distinctively marked with a lot of rufous in the cap and wings, a white throat and a gray unstreaked breast and a gray face with a black eyestripe. They’re a fairly common sparrow in New England but not often seen in their swampy habitats, nor do you ever see them in groups. Their song is a simple trill, a little like a Chipping Sparrow but slower and lower pitched. They are closely related to both the Song and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Comments

Savannah (Ipswich) Sparrow 4/20/18

Previously its own species, the Ipswich Sparrow is now classified as one of the many subspecies of Savannah Sparrow, and the palest at that. These birds breed on Sable Island in the Atlantic off eastern Nova Scotia, but migrate up and down the east coast during the early spring and late fall. They are quite a rare bird inland, but along the coast at places like Fort Foster and Seapoint it’s not that unusual to see one or a small handful anytime between October and May. Like other eastern Savannah Sparrows, they have yellow lores and a barely streaked breast with a pale central spot.

Comments

Fox Sparrow 3/31/18

This is just one of a half dozen Fox Sparrows scratching up my backyard yesterday. They get their name on account of their foxy colors, so it should be no surprise that such a group of them is called a “den.” They’re one of my all time favorite sparrows, but then I say that about almost all of the sparrows. They have an energetic 2-footed kick-scratching to turn up bugs and seeds, and that they’re so big they’re often mistaken for a thrush. In New England they migrate through on their way to the Canadian boreal forests in spring, and back through to the southern states in the fall, but it’s not unheard of to see one or two of them in the winter months.

Comments

White-throated Sparrow (tan-striped morph) 2/22/18

Like Eastern Screech Owls come in both red or gray morphs of either sex, White-throated Sparrows come in white-striped morphs and tan-striped morphs referring to the coloring of their head stripes. Tan-stripers like the bird above, are fairly indistinct and drab and are often misidentified. You can see their white throat, but it isn’t crisply edged in black and the head pattern doesn’t have the boldly contrasting black and white stripes, but fairly indistinct brown and tan ones. The yellow lores between the bill and eye are present but likewise much less distinct than in a white-striper. Tan-stripers aren’t at all rare, they are just as common as the white-stripers. In fact a tan-striper of either sex always mates with a white-striper of the opposite sex.

Comments

Dark-eyed Junco male 1/8/18

Dark-eyed Juncos are year round birds in New England but their population increases dramatically in winter with the arrival of migrants from the boreal forests of Canada. We used to call this bird the Slate-colored Junco, but that was when the splitters were in charge of bird taxonomy, today the lumpers hold sway and 5 different Junco species were all renamed “Dark-eyed Junco” since the populations readily hybridized where their ranges overlapped. So today they are all considered subspecies. Juncos are a genus of Sparrows, just not the brown streaky kind. Females are browner.

Comments

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »