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October is Sparrow Month.

October 19, 2013

October is one of my favorite months- not just because I like cooler and non-humid weather, especially after summer, but because it’s also an interesting autumn migration month.

September was the big warbler migration time; October I think of as sparrow month.

Of course October sees other migrants as well, such as waterfowl and shorebirds.  But sparrows are prominent this month, and now is a good time to check out the wetlands and grasslands where they often hang out.

Not all sparrows migrate of course, but those that do migrate later than warblers; they typically eat seeds as well as insects, so they have a bigger food supply that can last into cold weather.  They also tend to be chunkier birds that can take the cold better than those birds that are used to warm climates.  In scientific-speak, sparrows are temperate migrants, whereas warblers are neo-tropical migrants.

Today seems like a good time for a ’round-up’ post to show the several sparrow species I’ve been looking at this month.  There are a few sparrow migrants that are fairly rare that I haven’t spotted yet, but let’s face it, that’s the fun of birding- I hope I never see everything, because, well, that would be boring.

And so, here’s a peek at some of those sparrows that can be seen this month in Ohio.  In future posts (someday!), we’ll take a look at individual species.

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Song Sparrow

Not all of these familiar birds overwinter in Ohio- some migrate through the state. Right now I hear a lot of younger birds singing their imperfect versions of their well-known song- practice makes perfect.

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

This bird looks a lot like a Song Sparrow, save for the dusky areas on its upper breast and lower face.  I almost missed identifying this bird, glad I take lots of pictures!

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Chipping Sparrow

These birds head south after raising their families in Ohio’s summer.  I enjoy them because they are often tamer than other sparrow species.

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Field Sparrow

You may not be as familiar with these sparrows- they like to stay out on farms and country fields.

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Savannah Sparrow

These sparrows have to be sought out as well.  They prefer fields and wetlands, so get your hiking boots on if you’d like to see them.

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Swamp Sparrow

True to their name, Swamp Sparrows are usually found in and near wetlands.  Numbers-wise, Song and Swamp Sparrows have dominated the Darby Wetlands sparrow population lately.

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White-Throated Sparrow

These handsome birds often hide in thickets like this one was yesterday when I took its picture.  Their clear ‘Pure Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada’ whistled songs are a great way to identify them.

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Dark-Eyed Junco

This was the first Junco I’ve seen of the season, spotted 10 days ago.  There’ll be plenty like him around in the upcoming winter.  Only a bird that breeds in northern Canada would consider Ohio a grand winter home 😉

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White-Crowned Sparrow

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Fox Sparrow

OK, I’m going to admit that both of the above pictures were from 2012’s autumn- I haven’t got a picture of either species yet this month.  Both are migrants heading south this time of year, though.

Sparrows are interesting birds to watch, even if they are not as colorful as warblers or other species.  They all have their particular mannerisms and habits.  To everything there is a season, and this season is a great time to see them.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2013 7:22 pm

    Nicely captured! At first, sparrows all looked like “little brown jobs” but there’s really quite a bit of differences between the species when you look closely at them. Be on the look out for tree sparrows and Nelson’s sparrows, as I’ve seen both headed your way recently.

    • October 19, 2013 8:34 pm

      This is very true- when I first started birding, there were 2 kinds of sparrows- streaked and unstreaked 😉 I haven’t spotted a Tree Sparrow yet but I figure it won’t be long. There’s been Nelson’s Sparrow sightings out at the Darby Wetlands and I’ve been there 4 times this month already, but I’ve yet to spot one. Ahh, the thrill of the chase!

  2. October 19, 2013 8:39 pm

    This is great love the shot and i love to see the different birds abroad, we in England only have few different types on sparrow, there still lovely all the same, great blog !

  3. October 19, 2013 10:04 pm

    I enjoyed your post! We saw our first Junco’s along Griggs Reservoir a few days ago.

  4. October 19, 2013 10:35 pm

    You’ve got some excellent photos but I don’t know how you tell them all apart. I think I’ll stick to identifying plants!

    • October 19, 2013 11:02 pm

      Sparrows aren’t the easiest birds to start with, Gardener! Especially when the immatures look different from the adults…I find a camera really helps!

  5. October 20, 2013 12:15 am

    Great shots. We’ve had a lot of Sparrows coming through in Madison, WI too!

  6. October 20, 2013 6:38 pm

    We’ve got three different sparrows here and I only ever see two of them in the general run of things. I envy you your large selection.

    • October 21, 2013 9:27 pm

      I had to work to see the majority of these, Tootlepedal- sparrows often like to be secretive and positively love thickets!

  7. October 20, 2013 6:40 pm

    Love these little brown jobs!

  8. October 21, 2013 6:10 am

    Lovely photos! You have a wide variety of sparrows – we have only three (House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow and Hedge Sparrow), and the last one isn’t really a proper sparrow (more properly an ‘accentor’.)

    • October 21, 2013 9:32 pm

      We have Tree Sparrows here too, Jo- well, American Tree Sparrows, anyway. They should be along soon, they winter over in Ohio. Several of the sparrows here need to be sought out to be seen. House Sparrows, Song Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows are the ‘people-friendly’ Ohio sparrows that can be seen in anyone’s yard 🙂

  9. October 21, 2013 11:04 pm

    Excellent tutorial about sparrows! I didn’t realize there are so many different species or so many migrate. I guess I have been used to the local year-round population we have in this locale.

    • October 21, 2013 11:59 pm

      Sparrows are easy to miss, Montucky! They hide a little more and look a bit like each other, so they’re a little tougher to figure out. Then add in immatures that look different from adults, and it gets even more challenging!

  10. November 10, 2013 11:40 pm

    One day I saw ten yellow-rumped warblers in the birdbath, but they must have kept on going, haven’t seen any since. We have a pair of white-throated sparrows that stay late in the spring, and arrive earlier than the rest in the fall. They’re here, so I know the rest aren’t far behind. Another cold snap should do it. The dark-eyed juncos haven’t gotten here yet, but I did see one at my daughter’s last weekend, about 160 miles north of us. Thanks for sharing your wide variety of sparrows, some I’ve never seen.

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