Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”, the “Savannah Sparrow”
Feb 29, 2016 01:32PM
● By Paul Spear
Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the “Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)”. The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and
we will have background on the bird.
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“Dig Imperial Beach” Bird of the Week, the “Savannah Sparrow”
This Week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis). The Savannah Sparrow is a small, drab sparrow that is brown above and white below with brown streaking on the breast and sides. The back, nape, and crown are also patterned with variable
amounts of dark brown streaking. There is a beige wing bar and the tail is short, brown, and notched. The head is brown with an obscure white crown stripe, a dark brown malar(mustache) stripe, yellow lores (between the eyes and the bill) and eyeline, and a white throat. The legs and feet are pink and the bill is a light pinkish color. The sexes are similar in plumage. Juveniles resemble adults, but are buffer colored with more streaking. The song of the savannah sparrow consists of two to three chips followed by two buzzy trills. The insect-like melody is represented as, tsit tsit tsit, tseee tsaay. The call is a mild tsip.
A small, streaky bird of open fields, the Savannah Sparrow often causes confusion for birders because it is so variable. Some of its well-marked local forms, such as the pale "Ipswich" Sparrow of Atlantic beaches and the blackish "Belding's" Sparrow of western salt marshes, were once regarded as separate species. Unlike many grassland sparrows, Savannahs are not particularly shy, and they often perch up on weeds or fence wires, and their small winter flocks usually can be observed with ease. Their habitat is in open fields, meadows, salt marshes, prairies, dunes, and shores.
They do most foraging while walking or running on the ground, but they also sometimes forage
in shrubs or low trees, sometimes making short flights to catch insects in mid-air, and occasionally scratching in soil or leaf-litter to find food. Except when nesting, they often forage in small, loose flocks. Their diet is mostly insects and seeds, feeding on many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, flies, and others, plus spiders. Coastal populations will also consume tiny crustaceans and mollusks. They also eat many seeds, mainly of grasses and weeds, and some berries. Young are fed mostly insects.
After mating, females lay 2-6,but typically 4 eggs. Eggs are whitish to pale tan or greenish, with brown markings usually concentrated at the larger end. Both parents bring food to the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-11 days after hatching (average timing varies among different populations). They produce 1 or 2 broods per year.
Males sing to defend the nesting territory and to attract a mate. In interactions with rivals or with mates, males perform a flight display, with their tail raised and feet dangling as they flutter slowly over the grass. In some regions, males may have more than one mate. Nest site is on the ground, usually well hidden among grass or weeds. Nests are usually placed under matted dead plants or under overhanging grass, so that nests can only be approached by a "tunnel" from one side. Nests (built by females) are an open cup made of grass, and lined with finer grass.
Look for this cool little bird along the Outlying Field fence, and hopping between low bushes in our own Tijuana Estuary, while enjoying a walk on the many trails there. Until next week, happy birding!
You can catch all of Bryan's "Birds of the week" at Bryan Brilhart "Bird of the Week" Collection