Monday, August 6, 2007

The Problem With Juvenile Sparrows

I decided to survey our local Wangunk Meadows Sunday to see what was around.
It was sunny, cool, and dry. A drastic change in weather from the previous day. I quickly came across Belted Kingfishers, flocks of Cedar Waxwings, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Bobolinks, and so on and so on.

Now, let me get to the point. Do you see that sparrow in the top picture? What is it? I had a pretty good idea that this was a juvenile sparrow. The juvenile sparrows don't have the same markings as the adults, making things more difficult. To me, it looks like a possible Song Sparrow (there's a bunch of variation of the Song Sparrow too), Swamp Sparrow, or maybe a Savannah seems like a possibility too. Another problem is that sparrows in the field don't always match what you see in a field guide. I don't think that I see white under the throat like a Swamp Sparrow. I don't think Lincoln's Sparrows breed in Connecticut, and the bill looks too big. I'm going to put some effort in to learning sparrows this fall. I know the obvious ones, but stuff like this can drive me crazy. If you know for certain what this is, please tell me.
This is kind of an odd picture. Too much sun was reflecting off of this bird, but it looks to be a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak scratching herself. I actually saw several of them moving though the area. My stay here was brief due to the arrival of halfa dozen atv's which aren't even supposed to be there. I saw this handsome butterfly on the way out. I know I've seen this butterfly a few times this year but I lost my butterly guide.-Is this the Spicebush Swallowtail?


NM High School Sports News said...

Larry Looks more like a giant swallowtail from this angle. I am not sure though, but if I were a betting man, that would be my guess. Nice group of birds you spotted...I dream of spotting those species some day.


Patrick B. said...

I think it's a Spicebush. I don't think Giant Swallowtails occur in your area. I'm not touching that sparrow without a field guide handy.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
Definitely a Spicebush Swallowtail. The white dots along the edge of the wings gives it away. Here's a good website that may help you till you find your field guide again.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Immature sparrows are so hard- I am easily frustrated on those id's. Even more frustrating for me are the fall warblers. Darn near every one of them is yellow/olive, olive/yellow/gray, gray/olive, olive/yellow/olive....

They make my eyes twirl!

Thanks for the link Ruthie! I've been looking for a good moth site.

Larry said...

Ron-It's not hard to see species like that-just get out in the field!
Patrick-I had the field guide in front of me and I'm still not positive on that sparrow.

Ruthiej-thanks for the link.

Lynne-The thought of you with your eyes twirling paints a rather humorous picture in my mind.

Cathy said...

Oh, Larry! Again - You lucky. I want to see a Bobolink so much. I suppose if I get out to the areas I need too - I might find them - But - they won't be singing I suppose. It's late in the year.

Mary said...


Sparrow IDs are very difficult for me also. Experienced birders often have trouble, too. I never try to ID a sparrow unless I can get a decent close-up photo and refer to my field guides. And sometimes I'm still wrong! The only sparrows I'm confident in IDing would be chipping or white-throated - those sparrows with distinguishing markings.

dguzman said...

I do what Mary does--try to get a good close-up photo and then hit the field guides. But juveniles leave me in the dust!

It's been so stinkin' hot that I haven't been out in the field for over a month; bring on the autumn, already!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm scared of butterflies but not afraid of making a fool out of myself trying to ID birds.

I'd say the top bird is a juvenile Lincoln's Sparrow...mind you, without a field guide handy and just going on first impressions of its GISS (and even if Lincoln's don't breed in Connecticut maybe this one is moving south early from New Hampshire or Maine?).

And I'm pretty sure that the second bird is not a grosbeak, though you're right it is not a great angle...the beak doesn't seem "gros" enough and a white stripe should continue over the eye. What it is though...well, I have no freaking idea.

Tom Pirro said...

the first sparrow appears to be a Swamp Sparrow, to my eye. It just doesn't look clean and crisp like most Lincoln's I see in the fall. The breast streaks a blurry and there seems to be the buffy flanks and reddish in the wings.

Larry said...

Tom-Thanks for the input. You may be right, but form the response I've had from various birders I think that I'm right about one thing.-Juvenile Sparrows are not always easy to identify.