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Posts Tagged ‘House Sparrow’

How closely do you look at birds? There are some birds that are our easy for me to identify, often just by their shape. With other species, I rely on their coloration.

Then there are sparrows, which force me to look very carefully for subtle differences in the markings on their bodies in order to identify them. I thought that House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were relatively easy to identify—I can readily tell that the bird in the second image is a House Sparrow, but what about the one in the first photo?

The markings on its the head are a different color and the bill is definitely lighter in color. The light orangish pink at the bill makes it look like the bird has lips. So, what kind of sparrow is it? It too is a House Sparrow, possibly a male like the one in the second shot. At different phases of their developments, the plumage of birds changes, which adds another level of complexity to bird identification.

So when I spot a bird, I have to take into consideration, its gender, age, and phase of development as well as the season of the year, habitat, and the geographic location. It sometimes feels like a miracle when I am able to identify any bird correctly.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was snowing off and on for most of Monday and Tuesday and the roads were messy, so I decided to walk around and look for birds in my neighborhood. We have had a total accumulation of “only” about four to six inches (10 to 15 cm), but people in this area are not used to driving in the snow. Another big problem is the refreezing that has been occurring overnight that has created a lot of patches of black ice. It is safer to stay home.

As I was trudging through the snow, I noticed a lot of bird activity at a run-off stream that goes through the neighborhood. At first I thought the birds getting drinks of water, but when I got closer, I was shocked to see that they were actually bathing in the frigid water—many were splashing about as they did so. Most of them looked to be American Robins (Turdus migratorius), but there were also some House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).

I am hoping to venture farther from home in the coming days, but for now I am content to search for subjects that are within walking distance of my home.

 

bathing birds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking around a small suburban pond recently, some movement in the underbrush caught my eye. Several small House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were splashing about in the shallow water of a tiny rivulet that ran into the pond. I managed to capture this whimsical little portrait of one of the bathing sparrows, whose glance suggested to me that my presence was not exactly welcomed.

House Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The locals must have thought I was a bit crazy as I maneuvered about taking photos of some House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) in the Volksgarten, one of the many beautiful public parks in Vienna, Austria. After all, House Sparrows are among the most ordinary-looking and common birds in the city.

Most of the time the sparrows were in constant motion, but a couple of them perched for short periods of time and I was able to capture a few images of the female and male House Sparrows that highlight their beauty.

sparrow5_blog

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It won’t be long before my bird photos have the colorless backgrounds characteristic of winter, so I am photographing as many birds as I can find with autumn colors in the background, like this House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) that I observed last Sunday. As I noted in a posting last month, these birds are non-native (introduced from the Old World) and sometimes crowd out native birds. Still, I find them to be beautiful, especially when they pose like this. This pose is one of my favorites, when I get to look down the tail toward the head turned to the side.

house_sparrow_autumn_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first saw this bird, I knew that it was a sparrow, but couldn’t identify it. I was baffled when I went to my Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, because I couldn’t find the sparrow. I went back and forth through the 14 pages covering sparrows, examining carefully the text and illustrations, but none of the species looked like this bird.

I was beginning to doubt my identification skills, so I kept looking through the field guide, desperately hoping to find the bird. On the very last page of the section of the guide with information on bird species, just before all of the range maps, I stumbled across a small section called Old World Sparrows and found the bird—it’s a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

Apparently Old World sparrows are non-native (as their name suggests) and are of a different family from all of the other sparrows that I have observed. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website indicates that House Sparrows were introduced from Europe in 1851 and that they are common in places with houses, because the birds seem to prefer to nest in manmade structures, like the eaves of buildings, more than natural nesting sites. I took these photos at a little manmade lake that is partially surrounded by houses, rather than at the marsh where I do a lot of my shooting, which may explain why I have never noticed this type of sparrow before.

little_bird1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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