Posted tagged ‘white-throated sparrow’

White-Throated Sparrow Digs Up Central Park

April 25, 2014

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Rustle rustle rustle.

Who’s that walkin’ around here?
Sounds like baby patter.
Baby elephant patter, that’s what I calls it.
– Fats Waller, Your Feet’s Too Big

Ah, it’s a White-throated Sparrow, digging through the leaves for tasty morsels hidden below.

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Beautifully camouflaged in the ground litter, the sparrow nonetheless called attention to itself by kicking up an absolute ruckus. If you’ve never seen a little bird dig, it’s quite an impressive flurry of activity with wings, feet and beak all in motion at once.

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White-throated Sparrows have two color morphs, the striking white-striped bird above, and a subtler tan-striped variation.

Here’s what Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” website has to say about the color morphs:

The two forms are genetically determined, and they persist because individuals almost always mate with a bird of the opposite morph. Males of both color types prefer females with white stripes, but both kinds of females prefer tan-striped males. White-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped ones, and white-striped females may be able to outcompete their tan-striped sisters for tan-striped males.

Okay, got that?

Here, take a quick look at The Sordid Lives of the White-Throated Sparrow, Kelly Rypkema’s one-minute video:

After mating with whichever-striped chosen consort, White-throated Sparrows build their nests on or near the ground, which makes the eggs and nestlings easy prey for that most adorable of vicious predators, the Eastern chipmunk.

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Eastern chipmunk in Central Park.

Yes, these cute little rodents don’t confine themselves to nuts and seeds. In fact, they are notorious nest-raiders of ground-nesting birds, helping themselves to a quick blast of protein in the form of eggs and babies. Interestingly, a 2011 study indicates that some species of ground-nesting birds, notably oven-birds and veeries, pay attention to chipmunk calls and avoid nesting in chipmunk-rich areas.

I don’t know if the White-throated Sparrow eavesdrops on chipmunks. But watching them dig up the leaves, I’d think they could put up quite a defense with those wings and feet. And speaking of feet (hey, sometimes a good segue is elusive, okay?), here is Fats Waller singing “Your Feet’s Too Big.”

Listen up.

Crows and Sparrows from NYC to British Columbia

May 4, 2013

Many of the birds we saw on our trip to British Columbia have counterparts back east, whether the same species or a closely related species.

A male White-throated sparrow surveys the area in Riverside Park, New York.

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White-throated sparrow.

 This little fellow was singing up a storm about two weeks ago, fluttering in not-yet leafy bushes and shrubs quite low to the ground. Here he seems to be giving me the old stink-eye from beneath his extraordinary yellow “eyebrows”.

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Below is a male golden-crowned sparrow in Garden Bay, British Columbia.

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Here he is again in the same location, but on a brighter day. Look how much paler and less gray his throat and breast appear below. The golden-crowned sparrow is found only along the Pacific coast, while the white-throated ranges over much of the continent.

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Crows are found all over the continent. Back in March, this group of common crows was delightedly bathing and playing in a large puddle in Riverside Park. (If you place cursor over image below, arrows will appear so you can click through the slide show.) There were five or six crows, but they flew off by ones and twos, eventually leaving just one crow to wallow in the puddle.

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Back in the late 70s, I co-founded a theater in Portland, Oregon called Crows & Roses Theater Project. Portland has long been known as the “City of Roses,” but for us, it was the “City of Crows and Roses.” Turns out crows abound all over the Pacific Northwest, and are extremely successfully at adapting to suburban and urban environments.

For a fascinating discussion of urban crows, inspired and anchored by the author’s observations of crows in her Seattle neighborhood, read Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

In British Columbia, crows are everywhere.

A crow fans its tails as it looks over the harbor.

A crow fans its tail as it looks over the harbor.

Here is a sunlit crow.

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Below, a crow perches high on a barren tree.

Or could the bird below possibly be a raven? I heard ravens frequently in the woods, and saw them on several occasions calling and flying. I also heard one making a kind of strange high-pitched constant call as it flew that I had never heard before.

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Yet another crow engaged in a turf battle with a gull in the harbor. When it circled up to this tree, its feathers looked quite a bit the worse for wear.

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It repeatedly soared down to the rocks at the water’s edge.

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But if the gull became aggressive, it took off and lit on the tree.

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Then it would fly back down. Must have been some good seafood down there.

A Canada goose also figured in the scenario.

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The goose was mostly left to its own devices, ignored by gull and crow, even when it mounted the rocks.

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Back in Vancouver, a flock of crows mingled with a mallard and a coot at the water’s edge.

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I wondered if any of the crows I saw were Northwestern crows rather than American crows. Northwestern crows, which are found only along the upper Pacific coast, are described as being slightly smaller than the American crow. They specialize in scavenging along shorelines. My guidebook claims they are most easily distinguished by their lower-pitched, hoarser voices. Next time, I’ll listen more closely.


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