Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What has happened to our White-throated Sparrows?

The lilting song of “Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada,” usually so ubiquitous in the spring at our house, is strangely missing, and the feel around here is empty because of it. The White-throated Sparrows usually stay around well into May, but I haven’t had any for at least three weeks. In February they were still here as described in this post of "Spring sounds are starting to pop up," but over night they vanished.

Rick took this photo last spring. This spring, the 
White-throated Sparrows have gone unaccounted for.

I don’t know if their early departure is from recent habitat destruction about a mile from our house, or if they just took flight north way, way early because they were tired of our digs. Has anyone else noticed diminished numbers, or is my yard’s population an anomaly?

I really miss these songsters. Spring is just a bit empty 
without their lovely song. I look forward to it every year!

Another bird missing from our ranks is the White-crowned Sparrow. We had a few in February, but they have disappeared early also. Their numbers are never as big as the White-throated and we only had a few popping up every now and then this winter. A couple years ago, they were regular visitors, but this year, they were more sporadic.

Rick also capture this shot last spring. No 
White Crowns have been around since February. 

A small woods was taken down in our area, and we lost 3 huge bushes around the feeders last autumn due to the drought, so maybe habitat destruction has something to do with it. Are they sensitive to Starlings? We had a very large flock move in late winter. The other birds don't seem to mind, but maybe they are more timid? I have no idea...but something is up.

18 comments:

Richard said...

With as screwed up as the weather is this year, all I can say is who knows. Don't think they have started to migrate yet. I didn't see my first one last year till mid April.

Roy said...

I haven't gotten as up close and personal with a White-Throated as I did when I got that shot of one back in January, but I have been hearing the song being sung. So they're around.

As for White-Crowneds, I've never seen one around here. We may not get them here.

Kallen305 said...

Hmmmm, maybe they are in chlll mode and are hiding out some. I kow that my juncos were not in my yard for a couple of days and then they mysteriously appeared again.

Kelly said...

Richard...you are probably right! Who knows!!

Roy...I'm glad you're hearing it. I am definitely not hearing it anywhere in our neighborhood...nor at the Rookery. I'll keep listening.

Kallen...the've been chillin' for three weeks, but I'll stay hopeful! Our juncos are still around.

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
Well I will say that in general, birds populations are not doing that well, and there have been different international reports released showing that!! I think there was one in the States released recently. What we can clearly see is a modification in their migration pattern all over the world, due to both climate change and habitat fragmentation. Climate changes will drastically induce early migration and range expansion. For example, here in Iceland we are getting more and more small European birds. The common crossbill has been found all over the place this winter and has been breeding this month!!! The same thing is happening with the Eurasian siskin which is now breeding in Iceland in summer. Several bohemian waxing stayed all over the winter and 20 are still here around Reykjavik!!
Habitat fragmentation/destruction is another problem. It also induces migration changes (in the best case) but can literally get a population to collapse.
I will say that what happen to your bird can be due to this, but it could also be that they were just looking for another service that you did not have in your yard ;-)
So basically, you do not have to be worried if this is the first time that this is happening, but it would be interesting to note what happen next year...

Kelly said...

...thanks, Chris! You're right. I probably don't have to be worried if this is the first year for it. We will just have to see what next year brings. Plus, maybe they will still sing this spring. My suspicion is habitat destruction... Thank you for your detailed answer! There recently was a State of the Birds report released, and as you said, it wasn't the rosiest.

Mary said...

I'm still seeing at least one pair of White Throat sparrows, but I haven't seen a White Crowned all winter. I've wondered why.

Kelly said...

Hi Mary...I wonder if it's a regional thing. I'm asking my local birding friends to see if they've noticed anything.

Steve B said...

I just love it when White-thoated sparrow start singing.

Heather said...

Kelly, I haven't seen any White-throats in our yard for about the same amount of time. And I have not heard one peep of "Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada" this spring. There has not been any recent habitat change close to my house, so I'm guessing it's just a change in migration patterns in southern Ohio? I am still surprised to see Juncos and Pine Siskins here, though. Also, I saw my first Chipping Sparrow of the season today.

Kelly said...

Steve...I love it too. I just wish I could hear it again in my back yard!

Heather...well, I'm glad I'm not the only one, but I'm SAD it's happening elsewhere in ohio. I wonder how many others have noticed this change at their feeders!! :-(

Heather said...

Kelly, a little while after I read your post about the White-throats, I saw something on Tom's Ohio nature blog, a post about a very recent hike he and his family took near the Olentangy River (don't remember the exact location), and he caught a photo of a White-throat... maybe they're just "done" with southern Ohio for the season. I wonder if the dry weather has had anything to do with their disappearance? I wonder if it's too late for them to come back to our yards since we just got some nice rain...

JRandSue said...

Great blog Kelly,loved viewing your images are fantastic.I live in a place called Cornwall U.k and spent two weeks in the states last year,we ticked 240 birds and had a fantastic time.
John.

Kelly said...

Heather....thanks....it must be local...maybe here and there. It will be interesting to see if we have them next spring. I certainly hope so!!!

John...Thanks! 240 birds in two weeks is awesome! Did you do national parks with target birds? I would love to take a two-week birding tour! If only I could talk my hubby into it!

Sara-Bellum said...

Hi Kelly! I've been seeing those little guys in my yard. At least... I'm so new at this... they look like that picture. =)

Kelly said...

Sara....I'm glad you're seeing them. I wish I were. Listen for their song. It's beautiful. It sounds like "Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada..."

Heather said...

Kelly, don't lose hope yet. I was just out filling the feeders, and to my surprise there were 4 White-throats feeding on the ground below my deck. I was quite happy to see them! Still haven't heard them singing though - one thing at a time, I suppose.

Kelly said...

..thanks Heather. Ours are still sadly missing... I have hope, though!