Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Song Sparrows Caught on Camera Being Cheerful and Sweet

Larry must have spent a good portion of his weekend tramping through the snow spying on birds, because he has captured another fantastic series of bird portraits. These are all Song Sparrows. The Song Sparrow is a common, year-round resident in most of North America and can usually be found in all our backyards. It is a happy, cheerful little bird with a beautiful song. When I played a clip of his call for Matty, he responded with, “Wow! That’s a cool call,” so it must be true. In the book Music of the Birds, A Celebration of Bird Song, by Lang Elliott (great book), he writes,
The Song Sparrow enlivens each spring with its energetic outbursts. Songs are a variable sequence of notes, including clear whistles and buzzy sounds. Each male has about ten songs in its repertoire and tends to repeat one pattern for several minutes before changing to another.
Ralph Waldo Emerson also was intrigued with the Song Sparrow and in the poem “Each and All” (1867), he wrote,
I thought the Sparrow’s note from heaven, singing at dawn on the alder bough.

We have a several song sparrows in our neighborhood and one in particular nests in my backyard in the huge golden mop cypress bushes. The mama is so sweet and greets me every day. In the spring you can see both the papa and mamma hopping in and out of the massive bushes to feed the nestlings. The papa also has his favorite perches and sings a lot in the wild cherry tree just above the mop and in the hornbeams, just to the left of them.

Male Song Sparrows will sing back and forth to each other if they are near territory boundaries. This is called “countersinging.” In addition, because male Song Sparrows have very large song repertoires, they do “matched countersinging” where the males exchange the same or very similar songs for several minutes before one switches to another song. Lang Elliott reports,
Scientists surmise that such behavior is equivalent to flinging an insult at one’s rival by throwing back its exact same song. In any event, it is a sign of intense interaction.
...hmmm, sounds like a dance off to me!


Snowbabies said...

Wonderful shots of this beautiful little bird.


Kelly said...

Thanks, Paul. I'll pass on your compliments to Larry. The Song Sparrow is a cutie!

Quantum Tiger said...

Fantastic shots - and an interesting read. Thanks! I especially like the first image with the open beak...

RuthieJ said...

I have song sparrows in my backyard in the summer time. They sing so lovely, but I can hardly ever spot them.

Kelly said...

Thanks, Tiger! I'll let Larry know.

Thanks for the post, Ruthie...they do have a lovely call.