Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Peak sparrow.

I awoke today to the song of a White-crowned Sparrow, described by Sibley (Field Guide to the Birds of Western North America) as “feeeee odi odi zeeee zaaaa zoooo.” Yes, that’s pretty much what it sounded like.

“White crowns,”and fellow Zonotrichia, Golden-crowned Sparrows, are moving through our area now, and during the past few days there have been as many as four of each (they often flock together) in the yard. Typically they scratch in the garden beneath the shrubs, until one notices the bits of seed beneath the suet feeder. They rely on suet-trained birds, especially the frantic, reckless European Starlings, to break up the suet block and cause the grainy morsels to drop. But in no time the bounty on the bricks below is consumed. What to do, if the starlings don’t return?

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla.

Until finally, yesterday, it occurred to a few of them that they themselves might have a go at the suet. A Golden-crown was first to size up the situation, but was at a loss as to how to proceed.

White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys.

A White–crown was first to make a successful landing, to show how it is done.

Birds can be quick reads, and soon individuals of both species were dangling from the cage, bills deep in the suet.

Now is peak movement for White-crowns; for Golden-crowns there is still a week or so before the peak is reached here. The latter species breeds at higher latitudes and altitudes, and its progress toward breeding sites is dependent on the rate of alpine snow-melt.

I always enjoy this Zonotrichial procession. These handsome sparrows are the sign that the door to spring has been kicked wide open, and the glorious onslaught is underway. Feeeee odi odi zeeee zaaaa zoooo!


Becca's Dirt said...

I love birds and you took some nice shots. I have seen so many colorful birds at my feeders. As yet I have not been able to catch a bird shot.

PSYL said...

Maybe it's just at Terra Nova locally, but the Golden-crowned Sparrows' number seem to be decreasing, while the White-crowned Sparrows are increasing (not by a lot though as they are still outnumbered by the Goldens). Maybe I'll give them a count next time I see them.

GardenJoy4Me said...

Hi Hugh
Birds can be so interesting can't they ? We have had a show of Goldfinces like never before .. and this is not just gold .. it is neon yellow they glow practically .. I think the Niger seed sock feeders are their favorites and boy .. they are chowing down on them !

Cicero Sings said...

Just noticed white crowns out there today.

The Juncos sure caught on to the suet feeder and now there are line ups.

Karen said...

I noticed a white-crowned the other day, maybe last week. Guess they were on their way through here too. I am not a big starling fan but I was observing a pair eating bugs in my neighbor's lawn today and I actually found the male's song fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for helping me identify who was at, or rather on the ground beneath my feeder last night! There were four of them, and I was struck by the dark band across their eyes, but as with many novice birders I struggle terribly with identifying little brown birds.