American Tree Sparrow

Hey guys, welcome back! Before we dive into today’s bird, I feel I must explain the featured photo for this post, as well as the lack of subsequent ones. This blog is featuring a different bird from my life list in every post. And up until now, I have supplemented each of those posts with my pictures of that species. Well, out of 230 or so species (and counting!), there are a few that I either don’t have photos of, or have only not-so-great photos of. Just the way it goes. You always see the cool birds when you’re without a camera. I think that’s one of Murphy’s Laws or something. Anyway, this post will be light on the photos, so sorry.

Anyway, today we have the American Tree Sparrow. This little sparrow is a true winter bird here in the U.S. For the American Tree Sparrow, the northern half of the U.S. is “south” for the winter, while it spends its summers in northern Canada. Like nearly all sparrows, the American Tree Sparrow can be classified as an LBJ, or “little brown job.” They do have some identifying field marks, though. As I mentioned in a previous sparrow post, sparrows can be sort of grouped into two categories; streaked and unstreaked. American Tree Sparrows are unstreaked sparrows, so their underparts are clear of any striping, though they often have a dark “smudge” in the middle of their breast. Their head holds the ID keys. Similar to a Chipping Sparrow, the American Tree Sparrow has a rusty colored cap, but where the Chipping Sparrow has a black eye-line, the American Tree Sparrow has a rusty brown eye-line. Also, if you can get a good look, you’ll notice they have a bi-colored beak; the top is grey and the bottom is yellow! (You can actually see it if you look really close in that bad picture up there lol)

I’ve not seen too many American Tree Sparrows in my birding career. I saw a few in my mother’s backyard at her feeders while home for Christmas a few years ago (where that bad picture came from!), but my first was in Central Park. It was a good find too, as they aren’t too common in Manhattan. It was in the famous birding area of the park, known as the Ramble, is a spot with a number of bird feeders. I was there one day with a couple colleagues scanning the feeders. I had spent that previous fall studying up on my sparrows, trying to make sense of their very similar plumages. I spotted the American Tree Sparrow, and was very proud of myself for doing so. Shortly after, two other birders showed up, looking for the bird. Apparently word had gotten out about the uncommon visitor to the feeders. I had eyes on it, and tried to point to it. Rookie move. I pointed a bit too quickly, and scared the bird off. One of those two birders was a girl who was trying to see the American Tree Sparrow; it was a life bird for her. I did kind of feel bad that I scared it off before she could get a good look, but I was still learning all the ins and outs of birding etiquette, so I’ll plead ignorance on that one. That’s probably another of Murphy’s Laws. Who is this Murphy anyway? Oh, well.

Again, sorry for the lack of photos in this post. Don’t worry, next up is the Rusty Blackbird! I’ve seen plenty of them. Oh, but it appears I don’t have any photos of one!? Well, let me head out to Forest Park and see if I can find one before the next post! Check back to see if I was successful!

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