Friday, December 10, 2010

LBJs - IDs for 1 & 2

These exercises on Little Brown Jobs (LBJs) is more for my benefit than as a quiz or test for readers (though I hope a few people will be bold and do the IDs). As I come to the ID posts and give some field marks and GISS (general impression size shape) for the IDs, I am trying to write what I “know” or sense. I am already finding it a difficult task.

My apologies for the northeastern North American bias, but that is where I live and these are the LBJs I see most often. For readers in other parts of the world, I hope you find some amusement of some sort.

From Monday, Dec 6

#1 - Song Sparrow - the default sparrow - in the east, this is a dull brown and gray sparrow with a heavily streaked breast which merges to a breast spot or stick pin. But it is not necessary to see the spot. The lateral throat stripes, the brown and gray stripes and pattern on the head, and the behavior - a poor, jumpy and usually short flight - betray its identity. Not much of a looker, but I have to like a bird that will hang around all year and will sing as soon as the winter sun appears and the temperature ticks up a degree or two.

#2 - Field Sparrow - light, warm coloring; patterned on the head something like the Song Sparrow, but more gentle; pink bill and legs; a spring and summer resident in grassy fields, and rather scarce in Vermont as forest reclaims the open space.

#3 - White-throated Sparrow - I should have held this photo until later. You can just see the white throat under the bowed head, but the yellow lores are absent in the photo. However, the tannish head stripes, dark bill and chunkiness give it away. Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow has warmer head coloring, while adult is white.

#4 - Song Sparrow - no breast spot is visible, but the gray and brown pattern on the head, throat stripe, and evidence of heavy streaking on breast give away the identiy.

#5 - Savannah Sparrow - something of a slim and lighter Song Sparrow. Sometimes this sparrow shows hints of yellow lores (never as prominent as the White-throated) and yellow along the eye line. Usually less streaking than Song; sometimes there are hints of a breast spot. The adult Ipswich is most common in the east which is good for me; when I look at field guides, some of the other subspecies look much more like the Song Sparrow.

From Wednesday, Dec 8

#6 - Chipping Sparrow - adult breeding - when this little sparrow shows up at the feeders, I know Winter is definitely on the run. The strong black eye line, white stripe, rusty red cap, and clean, unstreaked breast make this almost unmistakable. Nonbreeding and juveniles can be another matter.

#7 - Fox Sparrow - probably my favorite sparrow, this large junky sparrow is patterned like a Song Sparrow on steroids. In the east, the red (Taiga) is the brightest of the sparrows. A few visit my feeders most years during early Spring and late Fall. When I miss them, I feel a void in the season.

#8 - Pine Siskin - Pete Dunne calls this bird a goldfinch in disguise. About the same size as an American Goldfinch, it often travels with them, and if it is a small minority in a finch flock, it can be overlooked. The beak is thin and pointed, unlike the finch beak of the goldfinch. The siskin is heavily streaked, unlike the goldfinch, and the hints of yellow in the wing and tail give it away.

# 9 - Song Sparrow - default sparrow - head pattern and heavy streaking, compact shape, strong lateral throat stripe.

#10 - White-throated Sparrow - white striped adult showing prominent white throat and yellow lores.

I hope to post additional photos on Monday and Wednesday, with ID on Friday, unless other birding intrudes along the way.

Good birding.


Dan Huber said...

Loved this series. great shots too.


FAB said...

Thanks for the answers ... saved me hour ploughing thro my copy of Sibley. FAB.

Unknown said...

Great photos of a favourite species of bird. Boom & Gary.

Anonymous said...

Sitting here at work at lunch without my books, I didn't do too bad. The field sparrow gave me some trouble and the fox sparrow. The Fox sparrow on the East Coast look different than the West Coast. But if I saw him fly through the bushes like a Sherman Tank, I would have known!


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