01 May 2011

Nevada Sparrows

There were several sparrows that I hoped to see while in Nevada, and luckily I saw most of them. One (not pictured) was the very drab Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri), which began showing up at Spring Valley the last week that I was there. Brewer's Sparrows are known from southwestern North Dakota to Texas and west in the United States, reaching north into southern Canada and wintering in Mexico. Another sparrow not pictured here was the Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) a beautiful sparrow with a grayish body, white face stripes and a striking black throat. Black-throated Sparrows are known from the deserts of the western United States and Mexico. Unfortunately, I only saw one Black-throated Sparrow on my trip. Yet another sparrow, which is shown below, was the Sage Sparrow (Amphispiza belli), with its distinctly gray head, black and white mustache stripes, and white breast with distinct stickpin. Sage Sparrows are known for running on the ground between big sagebush (Artemisia tridentata) plants with their tails up... a sight we got very used to seeing at Spring Valley. Sage Sparrows are known from the desert areas of the western United States.

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus, below) is a primarily western sparrow that has a range reaching as far east as Ohio. I had seen this species in Indiana once before, but it was nice to get a good look with a mountain backdrop. Lark Sparrows have an intricate facial pattern and a dark stickpin on a white breast.

The much more widespread Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina, below) is found throughout North America. Chipping Sparrows are easily identified by their rufous cap, black eyeline, and clean gray breast.

I had also hoped to see some new junco species in Nevada, and my wish was granted. We did see the ubiquitous Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis, not pictured), but more exciting was the subspecies shown below, Oregon Junco (Junco hyemalis oreganus). Oregon Juncos have a black head that is distinctly separated from the brown back; they also have reddish flanks. Common in the western United States, Oregon Juncos rarely make it to Indiana. There has been a pair of Oregon Juncos in St. Joseph County, Indiana since December or so. The property owner has had at least one Oregon Junco show up for the past couple of years.

Another subspecies of junco that we saw was the Gray-headed Junco (Junco hyemalis caniceps), shown below. Note that you may need to click on this photo to see it enlarged to be able to see the junco. The light gray color and rusty back distinguish this subspecies from the other subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco. This is a western subspecies that breads from Colorado to New Mexico and that winters in Mexico.

Other sparrows not pictured here that I saw in Nevada were Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis), and White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys).

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