About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan

White-throated Sparrow, Réserve naturelle des ...Image via Wikipedia
I woke up this morning to the song of the White-throated Sparrow. They have a high whistle that sounds like Oh-sweet-canada-canada or Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody. Click HERE to listen. 

I get excited when I see these birds because they are only in mid-Michigan from mid-April to late May. Then the birds move on to nest in upper Michigan and Canada and you won’t see them again until they migrate south in November.

White-throated Sparrows take off at dusk and fly all night when migrating. It was still dark when I heard him singing so I couldn’t see him, but I’m assuming he found my yard a suitable pit stop.

A White-throated sparrow is a medium sized sparrow with brown streaked back, plain gray belly, and black-and-white striped heads. They have a conspicuous white throat and yellow spots between eyes and bill.

Melospiza melodiaImage via Wikipedia
When it got brighter outside I scanned the yard for the new resident. Maybe he was taking a nap because I didn’t see him. I did see a Song Sparrow. They look like fluttering leaves, but they make up for their less than dazzling plumage with their beautiful song.

Song Sparrows are medium-sized sparrows too. Their most distinctive features are the dark feathers under the bill that look like mutton chops and the dark brown spot of feathers over their heart. They also have heavily streaked gray-brown backs, a dull white belly and a chest that is streaked with brown feathers. Their head has a brown crown with paler median stripe, a pale gray eyebrow and a white chin.

These birds forage on the ground for insects and seeds. Just look for the bouncing brown leaves under the feeders or listen for their song. Click HERE to listen to a sample of their songs.

Dark Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis hyemalis)Image via Wikipedia
The Dark-eyed Juncos were also around in large numbers. But they are another bird that will be leaving in May to nest in the forests further north. Juncos have dark gray plumage on their heads, breast and back. This contrasts with their white belly. I’ll miss them and their flashing white outer tail feathers.

Birds are coming and going all the time in the spring. Now one sparrow I’m looking forward to is one of the cutest native sparrows, the Chipping Sparrow.

They are a very tiny, clean, crisp, energetic, sparrow about five inches long and weigh only a half ounce. It has a chestnut cap and a white stripe above the eye, and a black stripe through the eye. The female is the same but slightly duller.

The smallest and friendliest of the sparrows, they are always busy, busy running around on the yard looking for weed seeds or under the feeders.

Arriving in April and May to the Michigan area from their winter home in Mexico, Central America or the southern United States, they aren’t shy. When they arrive, they will perch high in a tree and sing a song to mark their territory. The loud, trilling songs of a chipping sparrow are one of the most common sounds of spring and easily identifiable. The song is often described as the sound of an electric sewing machine. To hear the chipping sparrow’s song, visit HERE.

Though some native sparrows look similar, these sparrows have distinct differences. So listen and look for new birds in the area. Or for a list of some New World sparrows go to AllAboutBirds.com.
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