Posts Tagged ‘Field Sparrow’

I used to think that all sparrows looked alike and would dismiss them all as nondescript little brown birds. Over time I have started to be able the differences among several sparrow species.

When I spotted this sparrow on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I could tell it was not one of the ones that I am used to seeing. Its rounded head, pinkish bill, and white eye ring gave it an unusual look that I had never seen before. As is usually the case, I did not think a lot about identifying this little bird while I was out in the field.

Upon returning home, however, I went through my bird identification book and decided that it looked like it might be a Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla). I posted the image in a birding forum on Facebook and several experts there confirmed my initial identification. 

Most of the sparrows that I saw that day were White-throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows. I was intrigued to read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that Field Sparrows are be found in mixed flocks with these other sparrow species during the winter—it pays dividends to look carefully at all individuals when you see a group of birds as there may be some surprises, as was the case for this Field Sparrow, which was a new bird for me.

“In winter, Field Sparrows may form mixed feeding flocks with other species, including White-throated and Song Sparrows. Smaller and less aggressive than other sparrows, Field Sparrows are usually at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy in these mixed flocks. Their subordinate role means that they may have to take extra risks to gain access to food, such as returning to a feeding site first after a predator has flushed the flock.”

Field Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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