November 8 2012. Sparrows in general could use a public relations overhaul. Any non-descript brownish bird is likely to be generalized as a sparrow. They probably got off to a bad start with the European House Sparrow which are birds of the drabbest urban backwaters and non too fussy about tidiness in general.
The sparrows of the Americas though are quite a different matter. They can be difficult to sort out but that shouldn’t take away from the appeal of them. I’ve celebrated several sparrows in previous blog entries, including White-throated, Song, Grasshopper, and Savannah Sparrows. All neat birds in their own way. But when all’s said and done, they are mostly little birds with stripy brown backs.
To get to the point though, my Bird of the Day today was an American Tree Sparrow that I found on a frosty morning walk in a narrow river valley.
The valley is an exceptional place for families with children to see and feed chickadees, cardinals and nuthatches; all of them will approach closely, and the chickadees will often alight on your hand to take a sunflower seed. It was in this easy-viewing setting that I was able to enjoy several Blue Jays, Black–capped Chickadees and Northern Cardinals up close, while a White–throated Sparrow and a Golden–crowned Kinglet flirted with finding where the easy food was coming from.
But the American Tree Sparrow came out tops, it scored on cuteness, no higher or more intellectual reason than that. They are beautiful little birds with a rich brown, complexly patterned back (like all sparrows!), a clear whitish breast with a single, distinct central spot, and a rich chestnut crown. They are winter visitors found in a broad band mainly across the USA , roughly from the Great Lakes and extending south but not as far as the Gulf States. As winter winds down they head back north to where they are breeding birds of scrubby areas close to the tree line.