Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Spring is arriving late to Wisconsin this year. March is feeling like February and new snow is falling on old snow. 

A migrating bird would struggle to find food here.  Besides the snow, the lingering cold has kept the tree buds from swelling.  Tree buds are a food source for the early-arriving males. Males come early to establish territories and the emerging tree buds are important to their survival. 

While I wait for Wisconsin temperatures to rise and the spring migration to peak, here is a Lincoln’s Sparrow from a warmer time and place.

It’s been noted that the Lincoln’s Sparrow is shy, elusive and a difficult bird to approach.  That may be true, but I found this one to be remarkably accommodating. Wary, but unafraid, he watched me…one eye at a time.  Swiveling his head from left to right and back again, he was alert to all threats.  Approaching him slowly, a few feet at a time, we shared the warm sunshine of San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Southeastern Arizona. 

Widespread and common, it’s likely you’ve already seen a Lincoln’s Sparrow. 

Recognizing a Lincoln’s Sparrow from all the other sparrows is more difficult though. They’re ground feeders.  The Lincoln’s Sparrow prefers to forage alone, so he’s seldom seen in flocks, but that is hardly a helpful clue to identifying one.  

To identify sparrows you have to pay close attention to feather detail. Sparrows are confusingly similar…you learn by trial and error. It’s not easy! 

When you get it…you’ve learned something new…something worth knowing…a reward for paying attention.