Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

What Sparrow Is This? Thatcher Woods Mystery Sparrow May 4, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Puzzles and Mysteries,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 8:21 pm
Tags: , ,

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:

Frontal view of the Thatcher Woods mystery sparrow.

Frontal view of the Thatcher Woods mystery sparrow. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

The next view is from the side. Ethan’s auto focus did not do as well with this view:

Side view of the Thatcher Woods mystery sparrow.

Side view of the Thatcher Woods mystery sparrow. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

This view is a bit more above. The sparrow was starting to fly off, so its tail was in motion and is poorly shown:

Mystery sparrow preparing to fly off, side view from above. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

Mystery sparrow preparing to fly off, side view from above. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

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.)

 

8 Responses to “What Sparrow Is This? Thatcher Woods Mystery Sparrow”

  1. It’s a Grasshopper Sparrow.

  2. Ethan Gyllenhaal Says:

    Well, Dad, hate to say I told you so… but I told you so.

  3. Keith McMullen Says:

    Grasshopper Sparrow it is! Not a bad photo for a usually shy species.

  4. Alan Anderson Says:

    I saw a Grasshopper Sparrow in the conifer garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden one spring, so guess this species will visit other habitats during migration.

  5. Jill Anderson Says:

    Thanks for the ID! I saw this bird around noon on Monday 5/4, in the same area where you found it. I was with Tim Kuesel, looking for the KY warbler (no dice there). I was struck by the sm size, the paleness of the bird and the large bill, then it flew off. Every time I tried to relocate it, I found a W. Thr Sparrow instead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s