Thursday, October 8, 2015

Le Conte’s Sparrow

On Wednesday I took John Holden to see the Nelson’s Sparrows I reported in yesterday’s blog. We were only at the 180th Street Marsh in Dakota County for a few minutes before a small sparrow flew up and into a roadside willow shrub. Although we were uneasy that this bird was relatively bright and a a dozen meters from the nearby cattails, we both assumed we were seeing the Nelson’s Sparrow. My photographs clearly showed a white crown stripe, quite unlike the Nelson’s and typical of a Le Conte’s Sparrow.

Le Conte’s are among the most elusive of sparrows. Even where they are common, these sparrows are hard to observe. They are reluctant to fly, instead creep about “like mice under mats of grass” (Lowther 2005). The first specimen was collected in 1790 and named for a physician friend of Audubon. By 1872, only three additional birds had been found. The nest was first discovered in 1882. Only in the late 1990s were numbers of nests adequately described from North Dakota and Minnesota (Lowther 2005).  I have photographed this species before in South Dakota and you can read a bit more about this sparrow in my previous blog on Le Conte’s Sparrows.

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