The Year of the Sparrow



In December 2005, I declared 2006 “The Year of the Sparrow”…my objectives were to learn as much as possible about sparrow ID and photography.  I hoped to have decent images of 30 species of sparrows by year end.

Click to enlarge White-crowned Sparrow


Unfortunately the year ended not with a bang but a whimper…I had minor foot surgery in early November which killed any chance for western sparrows and my last attempt to salvage the year, the week after Christmas, was washed out on the soggy infield of the Stuttgart, AR airport…I am sure I flushed several Smith’s Longspurs and LeConte’s Sparrows but the rain showers and terrible light prevented positive ID and photography…                            


I did, however, achieve about 50% of my goals…hopefully you have heard of partial credit.  I had to throw in a House Sparrow and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow plus a couple of longspurs to get up to 20 different species…

Click to enlarge Vesper Sparrow


I learned a tremendous amount about sparrows and photographing them but I did not do half the book work I wanted and I realize how much learning I have ahead of me on sparrow ID and photography…


My best 2006 sparrow pictures (out of 500+ sparrow pictures taken) can be seen at:


I started the year with the Southport Christmas count which yielded four species…so I was off to a good start!


My only major disappointment was returning from North Dakota thinking I had a photo of an immature Baird’s Sparrow and almost everyone said “immature Grasshopper”.  This hurt because the guy who should have known…whose Baird’s pictures can be found at the highest level of field guides and websites…confirmed my sparrows were Baird’s.  I had more time that I could have spent on the Baird’s.  Who knew?

Click to enlarge Savannah Sparrow


Forget disappointment…and whimpering!  The quality of the experience was awesome…this was my first birding on National Grasslands from OK to ND…the non-sparrows/longspurs were stunning…Mountain Plover, nesting Prairie Falcons and Golden Eagles, Lesser Prairie Chicken, Greater Sage-Grouse, Sprague’s Pipit, and many others…imagine birding Lostwood NWR and having it to yourself …


Here are several new-to-me resources that you may find interesting:


Sparrows of the United States and Canada: The Photographic Guide, by David Beadle and James Rising (I find the photos much easier to use than the illustrations in Rising’s earlier book)

Click to enlarge Seaside Sparrow


“ID Tips: Brewer’s Sparrow”, Kenn Kaufman, Birder’s World, December 2006 (really a good ID article on Spizella sparrows in general)


Watching Sparrows, a DVD by Judy Fieth and Michael Male (also attended their presentation at the Virginia Beach CBC meeting)


“The Ipswich Sparrow: Past, Present, and Future”, Birding (“Topics in Identification” article), Ian A. McLaren, Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, September/October 2006


Birding, September/October 2005 (features Biology of the Emberizidae)


“Common Inland Sparrows of the Southeastern United States”, Adam Kent (a two-page handout from the sparrow ID workshop Adam conducted at the Savannah CBC meeting.  He would probably send you a copy. His e-mail address: