Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Tag: sparrow

High Numbers of Swamp Sparrow documented at Ted Trueblood WMA, Southwest Idaho

by Bryce W. Robinson

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My friends Jay Carlisle, Heidi Ware Carlisle, and I had a Melospiza morning at Ted Trueblood WMA, helping Boise State grad student Kate Owens and her fiance Ben trap Song Sparrows for Kate’s Master’s work. The highlight was catching 27 Melospiza sparrows at once, including 10 Swamp Sparrows (M. georgiana), 5 Lincoln’s Sparrows (M. Lincolnii), and 12 Song Sparrows (M. melodia). The incredible number of Swamp Sparrows left us reeling, since we had visited the area twice already this fall for Southwestern Idaho Birder’s Association and Golden Eagle Audubon Society field trips. Our first visit yielded no Swamp Sparrows, and a week ago we detected only 4 individuals (a high count for the site at the time). While processing our 10 Swamps, two remained in the reeds nearby calling, providing us a total of 12 Swamp Sparrow’s for the site! All Swamp Sparrows were young of the year, likely indicative of a productive breeding season for the species. Also notable, all birds had good fat and muscle scores which is indicative of good health, and upon release flew away with vigor.

Ted Trueblood WMA has been very generous to us in the past, hosting two of the three Idaho state records for Le Conte’s Sparrow. It continues to be a state sparrow mecca with this incredible high number for Swamp Sparrow, and who knows what will turn up in the future.

I’ve included here some photos of our morning, including a photo of four Swamp Sparrows at once, and a photo of all three members of Melospiza aside a painting I illustrated of the genus (by the way these prints are available in the shop). You can also see our numbers for the site and other species we documented, including a conservative estimate of American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) on our eBird list:

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Photo: Heidi Ware Carlisle

 

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Help Fund Golden-crowned Sparrow Research

by Bryce W. Robinson

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I had the pleasure of painting one of my favorite sparrows, the Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) for someones birthday. Even more, the person to receive this painting studies Golden-crowned Sparrow migration, so it is quite appropriate. Autumn Iverson is working towards a Ph.D. at UC Davis, focused on movement ecology of these sparrows. She plans to outfit sparrows with GPS tags to track seasonal movements and better understand their yearly cycle.

Today, 21 September, is Autumns birthday. Happy Birthday Autumn!

Autumn needs your help to fund her research. She is currently running a fundraising campaign to raise money for the GPS units she will use on the sparrows. Please, consider helping out this research with as little or large of a donation as you see fit. You can find a detailed explanation of her plans, her research, and how to donate at her experiment.com funding page. 

Melospiza Plate

by Bryce W. Robinson

If you like this painting, prints are available in the online shop.

Singing Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri) on Sagebrush

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Singing Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella brewer) on sagebrush. Gouache on watercolor paper.

One of the best parts of spring in the Sagebrush landscape of western North America are it’s singing inhabitants. The Brewer’s Sparrow may be my favorite, because of its subdued but beautiful plumage and distinct trill song. On a spring morning at sunrise, one can walk through a healthy stand of sagebrush, songs erupting all around, as multiple males sing atop their sagebrush posts.

Brewer’s Sparrows have a distinct buzzing song, that sounds superficially simple and distinct. But, their songs can be variable and have multiple types as described in Rich (2002). See the figure below to gain a familiarity with the variability.

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Song types of the Brewer’s Sparrow, long (A) and short (B). Figure taken from Birds of North America Online, adapted from Rich (2002). 

Rich (2002) found that the variability seen above seems to follow no geographic trend or isolation, nor does there seem to be any song sharing among neighbors. High turnover among territories and potential for natal dispersal could limit the development of local dialects, etc. Interesting stuff…

If you’re unfamiliar with the sound of a singing Brewer’s Sparrow, be sure to visit Xeno-Canto and explore.

My friend Eli is wrapping up some research investigating the impacts of anthropogenic noise on sagebrush inhabitants in southwest Idaho. Breeding Brewer’s Sparrows were among a few focal species of her study. She’s currently working through the publication process, and when her work comes to surface in print, I’ll be sure to share. I expect that anthropogenic noise has some masking impacts on a Brewer’s Sparrow song, and in turn could potentially change the dynamics of song structure under anthropogenic noise blankets, etc. More research and time will tell.

Here is a short clip of a singing Brewer’s Sparrow in Idaho that I took through my Zeiss scope. The song is barely audible because of how distant I was from the singing bird:

Referenced Literature:

Rich, T. D. 2002. The short song of Brewer’s Sparrow: individual and geographic variation in southern Idaho. Western North American Naturalist 62(3): 288-299.