Wednesday, April 15, 2009


A who's-who of suburban sparrows has been visiting the yard. The attraction? Suet crumbs among the pavers and dandelion leaves, knocked from the suet cage by European Starlings. (The ecology of the back yard is inelegant, but complex.)

Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca, Pacific (Sooty) race.

A redder-than usual Fox Sparrow (although still definitely sooty) arrived on the 13th. Note the smudgy spots, yellowish lower mandible, and the long hind toe and claw. The latter feature, one would hypothesize, is functionally related to this sparrow's ground-scratching foraging behaviour, and for digging crumbs from between pavers.

Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia.

There is always a Song Sparrow around, not always the same one, but always only one. One Song Sparrow to a yard, that's the rule, and they enforce it vigorously.

White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys.

"White-crowns" are here throughout the year, but some are migratory. Southern birds are moving north now, stopping for the suet, and to perch on the corner of the sand box.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla.

Like its congener, the "Golden-crowned" appears in the yard at any time, but at this time of year, migrant southern birds drop in. One of the latter was here this morning, the first of the year, but the picture is José, a bird from last year.

Lincoln's Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii.

For the past two days, this little mouse-like bird has been quite active in the yard. Lincoln's Sparrows appear every spring, one at a time.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, imposter (male).

There aren't a lot of House Sparrows, which are not true sparrows, here, at least not by House Sparrow standards. They only appear in the yard now and then. They are sort of the flip-side to starlings, both being invasive Old Worlders known for their 7-11 parking lot manners.


Kim and Victoria said...

Nice post on sparrows. Who knew there were so many types. I remember taking our two children to Disneyland many years ago. They seemed just as impressed with the sparrows who begged some of our breakfast than anything else.

PSYL said...

Lincoln's Sparrow, eh? I will have keep an eye out for it now. My "little brown bird" identification skills need improvement.

Anna said...

My all time favorite bird!
Anna :)

cedrorum said...

Nice pictures of the sparrows. I've been thinking of putting our feeders up again. This post may have just jump started me.

Hugh said...

K&V, In other parts of N. America, there are a lot more. The Disney Birds were, most likely, House Sparrows. A lot cheaper entertainment than the Magic Kingdom.

PSYL, They are small, pale and streaky, with a white belly. Usually they're alone. I see them in brushy spots at the edges of woods.

Anna, That's refreshing. Most people brush them off as little brown birds.

Cedrorum, Thanks. For the time being I'm only putting up suet, because it gets consumed completely. Fallen seed attracts rats, and this city has a lot of rats.