I know I have discussed sparrows before. However, I thought it would be an interesting topic to feature the members of this group that visit us during the winter season.
Sixty-four species of sparrows have been recorded in the United States and near Canadian borders, of which 23 are observed in our county throughout the year. This number does not include the well-known House Sparrow, which is actually a member of a group of birds known as Weaver Finches.
The birds I am including in this column, of which I would expect to see in the coming months, are: American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and Snow Bunting. Not all of these birds may be seen every year, as irruptions occur only so often. As we are now getting used to the term global warming, it should be interesting to see if this phenomena has any effect on this or any other group of birds. Some of the other members of this family that have been reported at this time of year, on a less regular basis, are the Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting.
Above, clockwise, from top: A flock of Snow Buntings that appeared a few years ago on Berry Road in the town of Pomfret; a White-Crowned Sparrow; an American Tree Sparrow; and a Snow Bunting.
At left, from top: A Fox Sparrow and a Dark-Eyed Junco.
Starting with the American Tree Sparrow, it is expected that the first cold winds of winter bring these northern visitors to our area. Normally found from northern Alaska and across most of northern Canada, this little sparrow is observed in our county from the first week of October through the end of April. This sparrow breeds from northern Alaska and across northern Canada and begins to sing its breeding song around February and March.
The second member of this group is the larger Fox Sparrow. This bird is observed in our county from the last week of September through the third week of April, with an unexplained absence during February. I have not been able to find out the reason.
Next on the list is the White-crowned Sparrow, observed from the last week of September through the third week of June, with occasional sightings during June. Dr. Benton and I have discussed this and we seem to feel that there may be some residency at this time in some of the higher elevations of the county. Whether this is due to the north-south phenomena - whereby northward movement is replicated in our county by the vertical movement up the escarpment from the town of Pomfret up through the village of Cassadaga - is yet to be studied.
The next bird is the Dark-eyed Junco, a bird observed all year long and has been found nesting in higher elevations, starting around the last week of April.
There is some belief that this bird may eventually be considered an all-year species in our area. We already know of its breeding history in Allegany State Park.
The last bird is the Snow Bunting, called the Snowflake many years ago, as portrayed by the late Frank Chapman. Chapman stated that it is the only one of our sparrow-like birds in which white predominates its wings and tail, as well as body. They are found in large flocks when they appear in our area, from the second week of October through the third week of April.
Watch for these birds if you live near open fields. They are due for another visit to our area.
Keep photos and article ideas coming. You may get them to me by U.S. mail at 38 Elm St., Fredonia, NY 14063 or by e-mail at NancyBleck@netsync.net. Thank you.