Thursday, November 5, 2015
Tricks of the Trade # 5: identifying Savannah Sparrows by habitat and behavior
This morning as I was walking the levee in Old Jefferson, a small brown sparrow flushed from the short grass (lawn) that carpets the embankment, and flitted back and forth a bit before settling again back onto the lawn. I knew immediately what it was, even though I do not normally see the species there: Savannah Sparrow.
Savannahs are migrating in this time of year, and will spend the winter in nearby areas outside town. They are infrequent this far into the city, so this bird was probably a new arrival that was still searching for a good wintering spot and found itself (for the moment) in the city.
Savannah is our only common sparrow (besides the familiar House Sparrow) that normally ventures more than a quick jump from cover. The only other expected species that does so regularly is Vesper, which is much less common in our area, and looks quite different from the small, short-tailed Savannah: noticeably larger, with a longer tail with conspicuous white outer feathers.