Monday, November 19, 2012

American Tree Sparrow

I just completed three weeks of business travel. The first week to Tacoma, WA, the second to Atlanta, GA and this past week back to Leominster, MA.
A stop on the way up to Tacoma netted two new life birds and a new Washington bird and while my annual trip to Atlanta didn't produce any lifers, I did see most all the cool eastern birds I usually find there.
I only had time to bird for about an hour and a half during the Leominster trip before I had to make my way to Boston's Logan Airport to start the long flight home. Instead of birding at my usual spots I decided to try something new. Since I was on my way to Boston, I decided to make a stop along the way. A check on Google maps found that Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was just a short detour off my route.
It turned out to be a great a place for birding making me wish I had gotten up a little earlier so I could have spent more time there.

As I walked along a trail that splits a large marsh, I kept flushing a sparrow out in front of me until it got tired of that game and flew back behind me. I hadn't seen a lot of birds yet so I decided to backtrack and see if I could get a closer look.
When I finally got a decent look at it I decided that it was a Chipping Sparrow as it looked like one and is a bird that I have typically seen in during my past trips to the area. However, at one point I caught a glimpse its breast and I was quite sure that it had a dark spot right in the middle.  Perhaps this was a American Tree Sparrow. Both sparrows belong to the genus Spizella and are similar in appearance and while I've seen a Chipping Sparrow many times, an American Tree Sparrow would be a lifer for me!
I never got any better looks, but I took as many pictures as I could hoping that I'd be able to get a positive ID once I reviewed them. Sure enough, as you can see in the top picture, the bird has a black dot on its breast.  There are other field marks indicative of an American Tree Sparrow. Its lower mandible is yellow.  A Chipping Sparrow's lower mandible is black like the upper.  The stripe through its eye is brown instead black like a Chipping. And as can be seen in the lower image, it has two bright white wing bars compared to the duller bars on the Chipping Sparrow.
What a nice surprise on such a short outing!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! I have only seen these guys in Massachusetts also. Congrats on the lifer!