Sparrows are not just Little Brown Birds!

Posted on Tuesday 2 May 2006

Sparrows are fun to watch and identify. In the winter, we often see American Tree Sparrows, in the spring and fall the beautiful large Fox Sparrows visit for a few days or weeks in migration. One of the first birds signaling spring is the cheerful Song Sparrow. His song will be the first we hear early in the morning for several months. The White-throated Sparrow, striking with those yellow lores in full breeding plumage, arrive and start singing, “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody. I find them nesting closer to the house since I built a brush pile. The tiny Chipping Sparrow with its brown cap and dark eye stripe have recently arrived, as have the Savannah Sparrows in the fields. I have recently learned to identify the Savannah’s buzzy song and distinguish it from the Song Sparrow’s. A first time visitor to the yard this spring was a Field Sparrow. After looking at the bird books, I decided I had the correct id. What a treat!

A trip to Berlin Pond gave me a good look at the Swamp Sparrow. It’s song is easy to identify, but sometimes it’s a hard bird to spot in the vegetation. Lincoln’s Sparrow is another that I now feel more confident in identifying after seeing several in the past year.

Two years ago I accompanied a guy who was doing a survey of Franklin County Airport for Grasshopper Sparrows. I learned that some airports, such as Franklin County and Berlin, do not mow until August 1 so that grassland bird species can complete their nesting season successfully. Vesper Sparrows are another sparrow species breeding at the airport.

Once in awhile we get unusual sparrow species in Vermont. Ask Fred (Pat) Pratt about a Clay-colored Sparrow he first heard, then spotted and reported several years ago in Duxbury. I saw one at a Christmas Tree Farm in Morrisville a couple years ago after a Bryan Pfeiffer tip.

Hey, sparrows can be fun and a challenge. I no longer dismiss them as LBBs.


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