Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chipping Sparrow endures Ohio winter...

Today, we found an out-of-season Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) subsisting on suet and sunflower seeds at feeders in Hogback Road Nature Preserve, Preservation Parks of Delaware County.

A Chipping Sparrow visiting a suet feeder in Delaware County, central Ohio. The wing toward the camera is drooping, suggesting the bird is injured. The injury may explain why this strongly migratory bird has remained in the north. The gray rump, strong eye-line and superciliary (eye-brow line), and two-toned bill are important fieldmarks.

The 'clincher' fieldmark is found just in front of the eye: The 'lores', between eye and bill is dark, continuing the strong eye-line evident behind the eye. This one fieldmark separates the Chipping Sparrow in winter from other similar species.

Note the wing-bars and streaked crown.

Summertime chippers are more boldly colored. The crown becomes rich chestnut bounded by long white superciliaries and black eye-lines, a striking pattern, to be sure. I look forward to their return every spring.

Chipping Sparrows are familiar springtime and summertime birds of lawn and garden, park lands and cemeteries, throughout Ohio. Their cheery trill announces their spring return with the emergence of showy wildflowers in April. Chippers are likely to nest in your yard and mine annually. With the advancing season their strong migratory impulse compels them to move well south of Ohio, most leaving by late October. Very few linger into December. January records are accidental to casual in Ohio. Warming climate and the proliferation of feeding stations are two possible reasons more and more Chipping Sparrows are reported each winter in Ohio and other northern states.

A view of crown and nape detail.


donaldthebirder said...

Chippies have been showing up a lot this winter it seems. We had 3 different parties find them on the Cincinnati CBC (Dec. 28) for a total of I think 13 birds. I have pics of 1 of 2 I seen on that CBC on my blog.

Tom Bain said...

I've not seen the newly released Ohio checklist now for sale by the Ohio Bird Records Committee, but I'll bet the committee amped-up occurrence of chippers from their long-standing "accidental" to "casual", to casual to rare for Ohio! The 2004 version still considered chippers accidental to casual. They really are more common now. The latest version of Peterjohn (The Birds of Ohio 2001)lists them the same, but is now eight years old--times, they are'a changing--fast!