Monday, December 26, 2011

Shoot Me Monday

On Saturday I drove west of Tucson past the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in search of Sage Sparrow.  After an hour and a half of searching through many White-crowned Sparrows and Lark Buntings with John Higgins, we were ready to give up.  As I was leaving, I spotted some movement along the side of the road.  To my amazement it was a Sage Sparrow running along the ground with its tail held high.  How lucky!  A lifer for Christmas.  I got out of my truck and signaled to John that I had seen it.  We had good looks at two of them running along the ground and perched in a tree.  


  1. Ooh nice find- great photos too... Congrats!

  2. What a wonderful find Jeremy, congrats on another lifer!

  3. Your comment suggests that it is rare in this area. The website ebird also suggests likewise. However, I may also have seen it (30th), when I visited Sweetwater Park for the first time. I have not added it to my list, yet. There were a handful of them which I saw closely among the reeds, and I took note of the dark stripe--which I believe is called the malar--and the spot on the breast; my immediate impression was that it was the Sage Sparrow. Why would it not be seen more frequently there or in the area? I wonder if I have confused it with another, as sparrows can be difficult to distinguish. I will thus keep reference of your photos here (thank you).

    At this time of year--four years ago this day--I first observed the Black-chinned Sparrow near the premises of the Az-Sonoran Museum.

    From my one visit, Sweetwater Park is unequalled among parks to look for birds. Unfortunately, I did not know that it existed until less than a month ago, and general maps of the city omit it and include other major errors for the surrounding area.

    1. Hi Mathew, thanks for visiting my blog! The sparrows you probably saw at Sweetwater Wetlands were most likely Song Sparrows. They hang out among the reeds, are very common there, and have the dark breast spot, but have much more streaking on the breast (and flanks) than Sage Sparrow. Sage Sparrows also have a plain gray face compared to Song Sparrow's face with dark malar stripe, dark eye stripe behind the eye, and two dark crown stripes with a lighter central stripe. Sage Sparrows are also much more rare.

    2. Jeremy, Thank you for the helpful insight. It is not clear to me if I can recall whether the sparrows I have seen there had the streaking on the breast, but I now feel inclined to agree with you having compared photos of the Song. It is has variable populations, and the form "fallax" would apply to those in this state.

      The Lincoln's Sparrow has contrasting buffy coloration along the breast as well as around the malar stripe.

      This link shows a Song Sparrow from Oklahoma, which is likely of the same form--

      The Sage Sparrow has the diagnostic white eye-ring. I tend to think, as an impression of the birds I have observed thus far, that those species within the same genus will be the ones to likely turn up. Being familiar with the Black-throated, I think that the Sage is one to be on the lookout.