Monday, May 9, 2011

Here come the sparrows...

In the last week or so the sparrow invasion has been on big time! A little late this year but always very enjoyable. In particular I like to scatter seed and leaf litter together and photograph the sparrows as they come through... here are a few of this spring’s visitors to my yard…

Among the first to arrive are the American Tree Sparrows with their rufous crown and bicoloured bill (they were record late this year and stayed in my yard until the last day of April)

Dark-eyed Juncoes are not too far behind. I lsee a lot of variation in juncos here (but that is worthy of a post on its own so I will stick to a few classic Slate-coloureds here).

The Fox Sparrows are also among the first wave of arrivals. These large sparrows are heading north and don’t stick around here too long. Here are a few views of their rich colouration. The last photo illustrates their classic “feeding hop” – they scratch around in the dirt with a two-footed backward flick that sends dirt flying everywhere and exposes lots of goodies to eat…

Then it is Zono time – i.e. the Zonotrichia sparrows, a genus of large and distinctive sparrows. There are five in the world of which we see three here (White-throated, White-crowned and Harris’s). The White-throated Sparrows are famous for their “Oh Canada” song. There are two major forms, white striped (first) and tan striped (second photo)…

And sometimes they show a little aggression!

In spring migration I see them in my yard alongside their beautiful congenitor, the White-crowned Sparrow...

And the largest of all the Zonotrichia, the mighty Harris’s Sparrow. Their distribution is more restricted than the previous two and they migrate through the center of the continent but not very far east or west (making them much sought-after by some visiting birders to Manitoba).

Among the many smaller sparrows that pass through my yard, I have been graced this year with numerous subtly plumaged Lincoln’s Sparrows – the first photo shows what they look like in profile whereas as the second reveals their distinctive breast pattern (buffy wash, streaks and central spot) and crown pattern.

There have been many other sparrows in my yard such as Song, Swamp, Clay-colored and Chipping; hwoever I thought I should mention a few of my finch visitors too. House Finches are regular breeders in the city but in migration I get to see them side by side with the Purple Finches that are migrating through. Here is a comparison of the males (House first then Purple)...

And now a comparison of the females (House Finch first then Purple Finch).

I’ll leave you to study the difference (or post a comment and shake me out of my laziness to go into the various features to look for)… Of course, that is just and smattering of the birds in my yard in spring migration but I better get some rest…. The warblers are on their way!


  1. Lovely progression.

  2. Sparrow season has been amazing this year.I have had more birds on my yard,than I have had for many years,and it is wonderful.

  3. Very nice!! Good to see so many different kinds of sparrows!


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