Thursday, January 2, 2014

Of Sparrows

White-crowned Sparrow by Bill Ravenscroft
Any birder who knows their sparrows, in my humble opinion, is well on their way to being an expert birder, maybe even approaching a state of grace I’ve yet to achieve.  I struggle with sparrows even though I’ve endeavored over these last few years to learn their identifying field marks.  There are so many of them—55 in North America alone.
Lark Sparrow by Bill Ravenscroft

I have progressed beyond just pronouncing them “lbj’s”.  Some species I’ve come to know well as they have very distinctive characteristics.   White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows look somewhat alike, yet are so distinctive to be distinguished easily from other sparrows.  A Harris’ Sparrows with its pink beak surrounded by an all-black “goatee equally is identifiable.  Again, the Lark Sparrow has such a distinctive face and tail feathers that it too is readily identified in the field.

Lincoln Sparrow by Roy Smallwood
One of my favorite sparrows is the Lincoln Sparrow.  I am surprised by how frequently I see it now that I know for what to look.  The Lincoln has a streaked breast that stops abruptly.  Couple that with a broad gray eyebrow and you know you have it clearly identified.  Its primaries are chestnut colored and its belly white.  It will raise its crest when agitated.  All this makes for a good identification.

Lincoln Sparrow by Roy Smallwood

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