Birds of the Western Slope January 27, 2016

By Evelyn Horn

Birds of the Western Slope January 27, 2016 | Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn,

Photo┬ęBill Schmoker White-crowned Sparrow


Another day of snow. I keep thinking of Mesquite, Nevada! We considered that town when we were thinking of retiring. It was small and would likely grow, being about 90 miles from Las Vegas (which was growing like crazy). Now I check out our south window. The snow is still coming down.

There is movement near the base of the trumpet vine ... watch

... it's a bird. All I can make out is that it's about sparrow size and the back is a mottled pattern, a sparrow's version of nesting-sitter's camouflage. Now my little bird hops upward

... the head looks black-white striped.

Bird identification depends on the process of elimination! My bird is NOT a junco (no white margined tail) and it's not a house finch (no red around the head or breast). Now I can see the clear gray breast so it's not a house sparrow (no black around the chin). Female house sparrow? Nope. No black-white striping on the head. It might be a white-throated sparrow, but it would be out of its range. And I congratulate myself for remembering all that!

I recall how discouraged I was when I realized how huge the group of "sparrows" is. All I knew then was the house sparrow. The field guide has pages and pages of them ... plus other small-sized birds such as finches, buntings and warblers.

I'm sure that this bird is a white-crowned sparrow. I met it in the high country while we were fishing Spring Creek out of Gunnison. There was a clump of willows and the white-crowneds were nesting in it, but come winter we usually have some in our yard here in Eckert.

My 7-inch-long bird's scientific name is Zonotrichia leucophrys with Greek "zone" referring to the black-white stripping and "leuo" meaning white. The feet and bill are yellowish. Now my little bird hops to an upper branch -- my but he's handsome! So despite the weather, the birds still bring beauty to our yard.