A Sparrowful Day

I went bird banding with Tom on Saturday.  We had lots of neat birds, but the bird species we saw the most of was… Song Sparrow.  We banded several adults and juveniles, and had several re-captures, too.

Song SparrowLittle Brown Birds are the bane of all new birders.  It can be really tough to figure out what you are looking at.  I wish I could say with confidence that I’m getting better at it… but it is still very hard for me to distinguish the differences.  Tom seems always to know, and Kyle (a Canisius College student who also helps band) is getting better and better – already way better than me!  (You go, Kyle!)

I felt a little better when I read about Song Sparrows at the Cornell website.  Turns out this very widespread bird can look different from region to region:

Scientists recognize 24 subspecies of Song Sparrows and have described some 52 forms: they are one of the most regionally variable birds in North America. In general, coastal and northern birds are darker and streakier, with southern and desert birds wearing paler plumages. (Cornell)

No wonder it’s so hard.  I have less trouble identifying the Song Sparrow in the field when I can’t see it, but can hear it.  Go to the Cornell site and you can listen to Song Sparrow songs:  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Song_Sparrow/sounds

The baby was very cute… not quite grown into its bill.

Song Sparrow Baby

We had to let one sparrow go, unbanded, because even Tom was unsure of the species.  I guess the experts have a hard time sometimes, too.  (We were pretty busy at that point and didn’t have time for pictures.  Darn.  You can’t band a bird if you aren’t 100% sure of the ID.)

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5 thoughts on “A Sparrowful Day

  1. I take comfort that Tom couldn’t i.d. one!

    I am only starting to feel comfortable about sparrow i.d. now-took me forever for them!

  2. Is it bad that I feel good that Tom couldn’t i.d. one?

    I find sparrows tough but I think I am finally getting better at them.

    Sorry if I happened to comment twice-I didn’t see it go through the first time

  3. I don’t know how the experts do it. I imagine it’s easier if you are holding the bird and can examine it but even then it seems impossible. I remember Sarah (banding at Presque Isle) had to measure the wing feathers once to know what bird it was. “If this feather is longer than that feather then it’s ____” I don’t remember what bird it was but I think it was some kind of flycatcher. I give all you guys so much credit for your knowledge. It doesn’t come easy for sure! The best I can hope for is to learn a couple of new birds a year.

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