BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. Zonotrichia albicollis
6.74 in.

Ad.— Crown black, with a white stripe through the centre; a broad white stripe over each eye, ending in a yellow line before the eye; back and wings rich reddish-brown; wing-bars white; a square white throat-patch bounded by ash-gray; breast pale-gray; belly white; sides of belly brownish; tail brown, with no tawny tinge. Im.— Crown dark brown; stripe through middle of crown very faint; line over eye dull buffy; yellow before eye dull; throatpatch grayish-white.

Nest, placed either on the ground, or in low bush. Eggs, heavily spotted with pinkish-brown.

The White-throated Sparrow is a common summer resident of the Canadian Zone, wherever balsam firs grow. In southern and central New York and New England it is a common migrant in late April and early May, and again in late September and through October. A few White-throats winter in southern New England and in the lower Hudson Valley, finding shelter in piles of brush, or the edges of marshes. In migration they frequent dry roadside thickets, or shrubbery, where they scratch for food on the ground, or fly when startled into the neighboring trees. In the breeding season they prefer overgrown clearings, where raspberry-bushes grow breast high among fallen trees, or the swampy forests of balsam fir. Their song is perhaps the most noticeable sound in the northern woods, and oftenest attracts the attention of a beginner; it is easily imitated by whistling, and has been variously rendered as Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, or Sow wheat, Peeverly, Peeverly, Peeverly; in fact it is often called the Peabody-bird. The song is often attempted in the fall, but is rarely clear and true at that time. Even in summer it often drops on the second triplet to a flatted note. The alarm-note is a brisk metallic chip; this note is also used in the dusk when the birds are settling for the night. Another note is a sst similar to the lisp of the Song Sparrow and the Fox Sparrow. (See following species.)

[graphic]

White-throated Sparrow



WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. Zonotrichia leucophrys
6.88 in.

Ad.— Crown black, with a broad white stripe through the centre, and a white line extending back from the eye; no yellow before the eye; sides of head and back of neck brownish-gray; back, wings, and tail brown; wing-bars white; under parts gray; no well-marked white throat-patch; bill reddish-brown. Im.— Crown reddish-brown; stripe through centre pale grayish-brown; otherwise as in adult.

The White-crowned Sparrow is a migrant in May, and in late September and October; rare in eastern Massachusetts and in the Hudson Valley, not uncommon at times in Berkshire County and in the White Mountains. It is fond of the same places that the White-throated Sparrow frequents, thickets and undergrowth, the edges of roads, and weedy patches.

Its song is too rarely heard; it begins with pure sweet notes that suggest the Meadowlark's whistle, or a Vesper Sparrow singing louder than usual, and continues with notes that recall the Black-throated Green Warbler; the whole performance is quite different from the song of the White-throat.

An adult bird is distinguished from its relative the White-throat by the absence of yellow before the eye, by the pure ashy throat, which lacks the square white throatpatch, and by the different aspect of the crown,— the broadest white stripe is in the centre, and there is no broad stripe of white over the eye. The shape of the head, moreover, is different and characteristic: the back of the head seems a little higher than the crown. In fall the immature bird must be distinguished by the cleaner look about the sides of the head and throat; everything is ashy-gray, except the crown. The bill in both adults and young is reddish-brown.

[graphic]

White-crowned Sparrow



SEASIDE SPARROW. Ammodramus maritimus
6.00 in.

Ad.— Upper parts brownish-gray, nearly uniform; line from bill to eye yellow; throat whitish, with a dark streak on each side; rest of under parts grayish-white; breast streaked with dull gray; no buff on side of head. Im.— Upper parts streaked with black; under parts buffy white; breast and sides streaked with dark grayish-brown.

Nest, in the grass on the ground. Eggs, white, speckled with reddish-brown, especially at the larger end.

The salt marshes along the sea-coast from Point Judith, R. I., southward, are inhabited by the Seaside Sparrow as well as by the Sharp-tailed Sparrow, while north of Rhode Island only the latter is found. Both species inhabit the marshes along the Arthur Kill, on Staten Island. The Seaside Sparrows arrive in May, and can be found in the marshes till October, but the breeding season, June and July, is the best time to visit them, for then they and their relatives, the Sharp-tailed Sparrows, are found well out in the marsh, and hardly any other species of Sparrow with them. The grass, too, is short, and progress not difficult. As one looks over the level expanse, small birds are seen flying jerkily up and dropping down again a short distance beyond. Occasionally one flies to a considerable height, and sings as he drops back. The birds cling to the coarse grass along the tidal streams or ditches, or to the old stalks of high-tide bushes (Iva). Here they utter their feeble trisyllabic song, the last syllable a wheeze.

From their relatives the Sharp-tails they may be easily distinguished by their dark gray look, due to the absence of buff on the sides of the head; the Sharp-tails have so much buff about the head that they are almost bright colored. From the Swamp Sparrows, which also have a white throat, the gray look and the absence of rich reddish-brown on the flanks should distinguish them; note, too, the Seaside Sparrow's long bill. There are generally Long-billed Marsh Wrens associated with the Seaside Sparrows in the coarse grass along the ditches, but the Wrens are smaller birds, and they cock their tails over their backs with an absurd effect.

[graphic]

Seaside Sparrow



SHARP-TAILED SPARROW [SALTMARSH SPARROW]. Ammodramus caudacutus
[NELSON'S SPARROW, Ammodramus nelsoni, was considered the same species back in 1900's.]
5.85 in.

Ad.— Top of head dark brown, with an indistinct gray line through the centre; back brown, the feathers margined with whitish; line over eye and for some distance behind it buffy, separated from a buffy stripe alongside of throat by an ash-gray cheekpatch; under parts washed with buffy (except in midsummer), breast and sides streaked with black; tail-feathers narrow and pointed, the middle pair the longest. Im. in summer.— Under parts buffy, with very indistinct streaking on the breast.

Nest, of grasses on the ground. Eggs, pale blue, finely speckled with reddish.

The Sharp-tailed Sparrow is a common, though somewhat local, summer resident of extensive salt marshes along the coast of New York and New England, such as occur along the Arthur Kill, on Staten Island, and at Revere and Ipswich, Mass. It arrives in May, and stays till October. The tall coarse grass (Spartina), called thatch in New England, which grows along the tidal creeks and ditches, is its favorite haunt. When perching, it grasps the stalk with feet widespread, or, when startled, dives down, perhaps to appear on the top of another patch. When feeding in the shorter grass, it runs with head down, like a Savannah Sparrow, or-stands high on its stout legs.

Its song is simple and unmusical; Dr. Townsend has well described it as like "the hiss of hot iron in water." The male, when singing, frequently mounts a short distance into the air, but more often sings from the top of the grass, or from some post.

It is to be recognized by its rather long bill and by its narrow tail, not square like a Savannah's, but with the middle feathers longest, but chiefly by the buffy line over the eye and along the sides of the throat. Birds seen from June to the middle of September all have streaked breasts; and this streaking and the buffy cheeks distinguish them from their relatives and companions the Seaside Sparrows. (See preceding species.) Young birds have less streaking than the adults, but are much yellower below than the Seaside Sparrows.

NOTE. — There is another species of Sharp-tailed Sparrow, the Acadian (Ammodramus nelsoni subvirgatus), which inhabits the salt marshes of New Brunswick, and has been found breeding in Sagadahoc County, Me. It occurs on the rest of the New England coast as a spring and fall migrant in May and October, but resembles the preceding species so closely that only a trained observer, viewing the bird at close range, could distinguish it. A third subspecies (Ammodramus nelsoni) also occurs in October.

[graphic]

Sharp-tailed Sparrow



HENSLOW'S SPARROW. Ammodramus henslowii
5.00 in.

Ad.— Upper parts dark brown, streaked with blackish; under parts whitish, narrowly streaked with black on breast and sides; tail short and narrow; bill heavy.

Nest, on ground. Eggs, grayish-white, thickly speckled with pale brown.

Henslow's Sparrow is a rare summer resident of southern and central New England, arriving in May and leaving in August. It is an extremely local bird, occurring in southern New England in extensive wet meadows along sluggish streams, and in Berkshire County and in southern New Hampshire in the ill-drained hillsides on the upland, where the wet, neglected pastures are partially overgrown with spiræa, or the shrubby cinquefoil. From May to early August one can hear from such meadows or pastures one of the simplest bird-songs, two syllables, fleel-sic, delivered almost as one. The notes are sharp and carry a long distance, nor do they sound much more penetrating when one is almost upon the singer as he crouches on a low bush or plant. Like several of its relatives, the Henslow's Sparrow prefers, when disturbed, to hide silently in the grass, or to fly but a few rods and then drop into the grass, where it runs or squats. Its narrowly streaked breast and absurdly large beak should identify it.

[graphic]

Henslow's Sparrow

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW. Coturniculus passerinus [Ammodramus savannarum]
5.38 in.

Ad.— Upper parts streaked with black, rich chestnut, and gray; line through the crown buff; under parts buffy, unstreaked. Im.— Breast spotted with blackish.

Nest, on the ground. Eggs, white, spotted with reddish-brown.

The Grasshopper Sparrow is a common summer resident of southern New England and the lower Hudson Valley, but is rare in most of Massachusetts; in New Hampshire, it is found only here and there in or near the valleys of the Connecticut and the Merrimac, and in Maine it does not occur. It is common in certain sections of Massachusetts, as on the dry, sterile fields of Nantucket, or the extensive plains in the Connecticut and Sudbury valleys, where the ground is sandy and the grass not too luxuriant. The bird arrives late in April or early in May, and remains till September.

It utters its insect-like song from some tall weed or low post, and sometimes from the very ground. The song is so shrill that it takes a sharp ear to catch it. It is almost exactly like the stridulation of the green grasshopper, common in low grass-land (Orchelimum vulgare), tsick, tsick, tsurrrrrrr. The call-note consists of two notes, tillic, almost run together into one. The flight of the male from his singing perch is curiously feeble and fluttering.

From other grass-loving sparrows, the buffy unstreaked under parts should distinguish it.

[graphic]

Grasshopper Sparrow



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