Meet one of our newest birds to the feeder – This bird is very different from the other sparrows – and I got excited thinking I had a new Sparrow to add to our list of Gold Crowned, White crowned, House, Song and Fox Sparrows. I used the iBird app to try to figure it out – but couldn’t come up with a proper identification.
So – Taking what I’ve learned so far – The head has an Eyeline – a pale yellow streak. Breast pattern a solid soft gray. The crown and head is a darker gray, with a striped back pattern, or maybe molted. The Bill has a Cone Shape. A large yellowish orange. A Black Iris eye Color – narrows the bird list on the iBirds narrows it down to 10 – all Orioles. I knew it wasn’t an Oriole.
That’s when I had to get all Old School Pre May 2011 on it. (sorry that sounded funnier in my head)
I pulled out my handy The Sibley Guide to Birds, Written and Illustrated by David Allen Sibley.
We have owned this book for 11 years or more.
I started looking up a Quail – and marked the date when we saw it in our yard. Since then, as I’ve shared here before, I’ve put almost a 100 individual bird sightings, and place a post it tab next to the name. Throughout the years, I like to write down when our first sighting is declared. From 2005-present is the most used, the last 2 years, has seen the most dedicated use of writing it down, instead of just looking it up.
The Sibley Guide has excellent drawings of the birds including wing span, juvenile, male, female, breeding and nonbreeding plumages. There is a detailed map to show you if the bird would be in your area, which helps to narrow it down quite a bit. Very few field guides I have seen have such detail with the Male/Female/Breeding photos. A precise short description of the song, shape, and behavior of the bird has also helped me to pin point identification. I have spent hours in used book stores looking for that “perfect” field guide. I have yet to find one easier to use than The Sibley Guide to Birds.
Which brings me to my little friend. Focusing on the only different part – the Large Cone Bill – I looked up my House Sparrow – and Tadah! There she was. Mrs. House Sparrow. I had seen the hubby hard at work for a few weeks, but had not seen the Mrs. at the feeder. Her yellow stripe is just so pretty. Sibley says she has a plan drab crown and a dingy gray brown chest – but I think it is a soft pretty pale gray. Looking at the photo above, and the sudden increase to the feeder, I am going to suspect that a few of them are papa’s babies – Juvenile House Sparrows.
Another time this week that the guide has come in handy was in the identification of the Pigeon Guillemot. I thought it was a White Winged Scooter, but by looking at the black bill in the dagger shape, and later in a photograph I could see the bright red legs through the water – Sibley helped me to see it was a Pigeon Guillemot. I’ve never seen a purdier pigeon.
I have grown to love this well used guide. The pages are soft, the cover is worn, it opens to my favorite birds. We have marking in crayon and colored pencil on many a page as my boys, so young, circled birds. Here, in 2005 Nathan drew a picture of his favorite bird, the House Finch. He liked the red head. I like how he put it in a tree in a nest.
Nice to meet you Juvenile House Sparrow!
This article was written for the June Newsletter for the Handbook of Nature. I look forward to hearing what Barb has to say about Birding in June! Please comment here with your favorite Birding Field Guide – so that when this is linked up in June, everyone may share! Feel free to post a link to a favorite birding post that you have or share a Birding Meme.
Thanks for listening. – Angie
I love watching birds! (but not naming them)
I enjoy your birdy pictures. They inspire me. I have some woodpecker pics from our vacation; I should post them for you.
hey, I linked to you in my latest post.
What a wonderful entry and I loved reading the process you took in identifying this feeder bird. We have house sparrows here and their song is what gives them away in my head when I hear them. Great review of the field guide and I love that you keep track right on the pages in your book, what a treasure.
Thanks so much for sharing your entry with the OHC.
I LOVE the idea of writing in your bird book the date and place of the first sighting. I would have never thought of that. We are on vacation right now and have added about 10 life birds to our list, and you can bet I will do that. Thanks!
Love it!! Love your sweet pictures.
It IS so hard to identify birds. Thanks for taking us through your discoveries!
Aw, nice! We’re BIG backyard feeder birders here! We’ve made Life List…and month-by-month we add new species. In May we’ve had 9 new species visiting our feeders! And got to see a turkey vulture up close! Wing span of 6 feet, so it’s impressive to watch fly! Exciting!