The boys and I went to Thatcher Woods after school on Monday, hoping to find the Kentucky Warbler that had been reported by other birders on IBET. No luck with the warbler, but we did find a sparrow that looked very different from the many White-throated Sparrows active in the underbrush.
The mystery sparrow was close to where the Kentucky Warbler had been seen, where the path going south from the Trailside Museum is flooded out. Like the other sparrows, this one was exploring the dead leaves, dead wood, and shrubs under the tall trees that line the old river terrace, just above the flood waters of the Des Plaines River. It was visible through the chainlink fence along the road (which made getting clear photos difficult). We have some theories about what it is, but we need some second, third, and fourth opinions. We give our best guess at the end of this post.
Here’s our clearest photo, a frontal view of the breast and partially turned head:
The next view is from the side. Ethan’s auto focus did not do as well with this view:
This view is a bit more above. The sparrow was starting to fly off, so its tail was in motion and is poorly shown:
Here’s our best guess at this sparrow’s identity: We think it’s a Grasshopper Sparrow (based more on the Kaufman and National Geographic field guides, and less on Sibley). Features consistent with Grasshopper Sparrow: (1) The central white stripe on top of the head bordered by wider dark stripes; (2) the faint eye ring and otherwise plain face; (3) the unstreaked breast, sides, and belly; (4) the lightly striped neck; and (5) the heavily streaked back. Of course, the habitat is all wrong — the closest expanses of grass were mowed lawns. But, after all, it’s migration season, and sometimes night-migrating birds have to settle for what’s available as the sun rises.
By the way, Aaron gets credit for finding the bird, and Ethan made our identification.
But, what do you think? Please use the comments fuuction below to tell us what you think. (You may have to click on the comments link to see what others have said.)