Sunday, February 5, 2012

Clay-colored or Brewer's Sparrow? San Pedro Riparian NCA, AZ

The snow-capped Huachuca Mountains form a beautiful blue backdrop behind the contrasting golden grasses of the San Pedro River Riparian Natural Conservation Area in Southeast Arizona; 12/20/2011.

Is this a Clay-colored Sparrow or a Brewer's Sparrow? San Pedro Rip NCA, AZ; 12/20/2011.
When I had the fortune to visit the San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area in southest Arizona on 12/20/2011, I saw Sparrows abound. When I first located the Sparrow (Above) in my viewfinder I was sure I was seeing my very first Clay-colored Sparrow, and was very happy. Although it was scrounging around in the tall grassy reeds along side the river bank (San Pedro River), it popped out in the open several times for me to get some semi-decent pics. Then later in the day as I was looking through my images, the same bird (Below) made me question my initial identification.
The same Sparrow with its head turned down to show its nape.
The nape of this bird (Above) was striped with gray/brown streaks. According to The Sibley Field Guide... Clay-coloreds have a clean gray nape. Upon further investigation, this bird fit more the markings of a Brewer's Sparrow ( a close relative of the Clay-colored Sparrow - both being in the Spizella family), which has a streaked brownish gray nape and a complete strong white eye ring. Both of these traits are evident on this Sparrow. The Brewer's also has less strong facial feature than the Clay-colored. So I am going out on a limb (or at least a blade of grass) and call this a Brewer's Sparrow, which made me equally as happy, since it also was the first time seeing and identifying this species.
Another or perhaps the same Brewer's Sparrow,  San Pedro Rip NCA, AZ 12/20/2011

Again with its streaked nape showing, this is probably a Brewer's Sparrow,  San Pedro Rip NCA, AZ 12/20/2011
Brewer's Sparrows are a western Sparrow ranging north into Canada's British Columbia and Alberta Provinces during the summer stretching south into Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. It winters in the southern borders of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and throughout much of Mexico.

A Clay-colored Sparrow,  San Pedro Rip NCA, AZ 12/20/2011
With further viewing my images of the day, I found that I did indeed have a few photos of the Clay-colored Sparrows (Above). They, on the other hand, have stronger facial features with a darker more obvious "mustache," wider and buffier "eyebrows," and a less obvious eye-ring than the Brewer's. These traits and the gray nape suggest to me that the bird (Above) is a Clay-colored. When you compare this pic with those of the Brewer's, you can see how similar the two species are.
Another Clay-colored Sparrow,  San Pedro Rip NCA, AZ 12/20/2011
Clay-colored Sparrows are more of a north central bird in the summer as it resides in much of the Canadian Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, and into the Northwest Territories. They also take up residence in the Northern U.S. states of Montana in the west stretching east to New York State, covering the areas around all of the Great Lakes. In winter, Clay-coloreds are similar to Brewer's, residing in the southern borders of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and throughout Mexico.

In both cases, I feel fairly certain that I have identified these two similar Spizella Sparows accurately, but, of course, will welcome input from anyone who reads this blog who has better insight and more experience.

1 comment:

~Val said...

Who knew that birds had eyebrows and mustaches? Regardless, they are cuties!