Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Harris's Sparrow

Elly and I added another bird to our backyard bird list yesterday -- a Harris's Sparrow. We're now up to 45 birds identified from our backyard. Harris's sparrows are not uncommon in our region, but we have not seen one in our yard before. In fact, this is the first Harris's Sparrow either one of us has identified.

I wasn't able to get a picture of the bird, but will be keeping a close eye on our yard for photo opportunities. I did find a picture on the web that is similar to the bird we saw. Our visitor had a strikingly jet-black cap and throat. In full breeding plumage, which appears by the end of April, adult males sport gray cheeks and a decidedly pink bill.

These are our largest sparrows, slightly bigger than white-crowned sparrows, with whom they are frequently seen. We had a goodly number of white-crowned sparrows last April, though we haven't seen any yet this spring. Here is a picture I took last spring of a white-crowned sparrow.

We also spotted two female redwinged blackbirds this morning -- the first we have seen this spring. Adult male redwinged blackbirds arrive four to six weeks before the females. While the adult males are unmistakable with their deep black plumage and red and yellow epaulets, the females look more like overgrown sparrows.

The bird on the upper left is a house sparrow (not a true sparrow, at all, but an invasive English species). The bird in the upper middle and the one on the far right are female redwinged blackbirds, which gives a good size comparison with a typical sparrow-like bird. The bird in the lower center is a young male redwing. His shoulder markings are just coming in and he still has some brown on his back. Juvenile males look like over-sized female redwings. It is hard to see in this image, because of the angle, but the young male is significantly larger than the females.


waxwing said...

Hello? Anyone home?

Fiske said...


Heh, heh. :-) Just got back from Arizona where I did some amateur astronomy with a bunch of SAC (Saguaro Astronomy Club) guys in the Sonoran desert. Put about 3,000 miles on the RV in the last week. I'm working on a Picassa album and will be posting soon. Sorry for the long hiatus.