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Name That Bird

June 18, 2021

Welcome to the first bi-weekly supplement of Name That Bird! In this edition of NTB, we have photos from MVAS member Sara Walker, who took the first photo on May 22nd this year at the Dripping Springs Natural Area. her second, also last month, but in Phoenix.

All three panelists agreed on these photos. The first (left) is a somewhat drab male of the (mostly) western race of this species. The yellow throat, broken eye-ring, small yellow flank patch, and streaking on the whitish underparts all point to this identification. Adult males of the (mostly) eastern race have white—or sometimes dull buff in young birds—throats, with the white wrapping back up under a dark cheek patch.


Adult females of both forms are brown where the males are blue or bluish grey. Their throat color matches the males’ of each type. There is a tremendous variation in plumage coloration among both males and females of both forms. Some females are almost entirely brown and streaky with almost no yellow or white (according to their respective type), while on some the white or yellow is almost striking. Some adult males are likewise pale or dull or drab blueish grey, while their throats vary in brightness as well. At one time the two forms were considered separate species. If you think the bird is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, then you’re correct.


The second photo Sara sent in (right) is of a parent (front) being followed by a young bird. Sara says she watched the youngster fluttering its wings and begging for food, but didn’t capture an image of this behavior. The adult (on the right) is a female, and like the Yellow-rumped Warbler, this species is sexually dimorphic. There is little difference between breeding and non-breeding female plumage. Breeding adult males have a grey crown, a bold chestnut stripe arcing up from the nape to the eye, where it changes to black and continues to the thick black seed eater’s bill. The rest of the face is white with a black goatee under the thick bill. Chestnut wings with black and amber striping (feather edges), and a white wing bar complete the ensemble.


Non-breeding adult males are a faint shadow rendering of this plumage with the chestnut stripe now pale to the eye, and faint grey in front of it. The rest of the faces is a dingy grey that matches the dull grey crown. The bill is horn colored or sometimes pinkish instead of black as in breeding males.


First released in NYC in 1851, this bird spread rapidly, and today is a year-round permanent resident virtually everywhere in North America where there are people. It has also spread from its native Eurasia and North Africa to agricultural and urban areas around the entire world.


Here’s one final clue: This bird’s scientific name is Passer domesticus. If you identified it as a House Sparrow, you’re correct. 

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