Mariton: White-throated Sparrows

October 11, 2012

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Asters, fungi and White-throated Sparrows were the highlight of our Tuesday Nature Walk.  It had been mostly a quiet morning until we happened upon a large flock of sparrows.  We heard the high whistle of a White-throated Sparrow.  As we approached for a better look we saw movement in a tangle of vines and brush.  When we brought up our binoculars, the brush became alive with sparrows.  Then they began flying out and dropping into the meadow vegetation out of sight.  First one wave of ten, and then another, and another.  There were over 100 sparrows .  While we assume they were mostly White-throated sparrows, there could have been other sparrow species.

Hearing the first White-throated Sparrow’s Old Sam Peabody in the fall when it returns is a seasonal landmark for many.  Breeding north of our area, it is one of the birds that will sing throughout the winter.  Many bird watchers refer to sparrows as LBJ’s (little brown jobs).  They can be tough to identify, especially when they shoot across space and instantly drop down into the vegetation, but each species has its own little niche and corresponding adaptations.  Even if you don’t want to identify them, it is worth taking a closer look at sparrows.  The various tones of brown, combined with white, black and gray provides a complex canvas. (Photo by Carole Mebus.)