Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fox Sparrow and Kinglet

In South Dakota my best banding occurred under cloudy skies during migration.  My working hypothesis was that, under clear skies, many woodland migrants overflew northeastern South Dakota.  Before White settlement, little or no forest habitat existed in the prairie.  Only bad weather would bring down the migrants, and now towns offer a refuge for them.   I went out with high hopes this cloudy Saturday morning and spent about two hours banding.

One species I see more frequently in Minnesota than I did in South Dakota is the Fox Sparrow (see photo above).  I banded the first of 2010 this morning.  In both states, to the best of my recollection, I have only caught the reddish race of this species, P. i. iliaca.  Further west, in the Rocky Mountains and along the Pacific Coast, 16 additional darker and grayer races occur.  These races sort out into four groups; as a result of DNA studies, these groups are likely to be split into four species (with various races).  The Slate-colored Fox Sparrow, P. i. schistacea, of the Rocky Mountains might be looked for as a vagrant to the Dakotas and Minnesota. (Sibley in his Guide to Birds illustrates the four groups of Fox Sparrow races.)

Other birds banded today include 9 Slate-colored Juncos, 1 Black-capped Chickadee,  2 American Goldfinches, and a female and male Golden-crowned Kinglet (photographs below).

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