Monday, June 6, 2016

Henslow’s Sparrow

During our Friday stroll though the Carleton College arboretum, Erika announced, “Listen—that is a different sparrow!” In the tallgrass prairie sang a Henslow’s Sparrow. This sparrow is “remarkably inconspicuous” (Herkert et al. 2002).

We were unable to photograph the sparrow on Friday, so we returned on Saturday afternoon. We heard a pair of Henslow’s Sparrows at the same location. Since these sparrows often sing low in the grass, they can be very difficult to find. We thought they might be only a few feet distant. Finally one flew up and continued to sing from a taller stalk. 

Sibley describes the Henslow’s Sparrow call as a “feeble hiccup.” Herkert et al. 2002 quotes Jones as writing, “the musical performance of this bird has very little to commend it...[The sparrow] suddenly throws up his head and with an appearance of much effort, jerks out his monosyllabic ‘tsip,’ apparently with great satisfaction.” I thought the song sounded like a little grasshopper being crushed underfoot.  Listen and see what you think.

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