Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the song sparrow.
Sparrows in the taxonomic family passerellidae are one of the most common types of birds found across North America, and the song sparrow is one of the most widely distributed. Identifying sparrows can be tricky business. Song sparrows are medium sized, about 4 to 7 inches in length, with a wingspan of 7 to 10 inches. Their beaks are short and stout and their tails are long and rounded. Their body pattern of gray to brown streaking is common in many sparrows, but the warm, red-brown color of their crown is a distinguishing characteristic.
Here in Pagosa country, song sparrows can be found year-round along bodies of water, in open fields, in shrublands, along forest edges and at backyard feeders. They tend to stay near the ground, making short flights from branch to branch and occasionally venture out in the open to prey on small insects, ripened fruits or a variety of seeds. They characteristically “pump” their tails downward while flying.
Song sparrows remain widespread and common across North America, although populations have declined over the past 50 years, likely due to habitat fragmentation and predation by domestic cats.
And now for the obvious — how did they get their name? The song sparrow has a varying repertoire of songs, with a single male mastering up to 20 different “tunes” with multiple variations. In fact, some erudite birders liken the opening of the song sparrow call to the first four notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. If you are able to recognize the melodic pattern, please let us know.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on January 27, 2019.