January 20, 2012 — Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Don’t get me wrong–Canton is a great place to see eagles.  Bald eagles.  Close up.  People do come from all around to see our eagles in winter time.  But eagles are not our most unique bird.  That title falls to a nondescript little foreigner:  the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  This little dickie bird occurs all over Europe and Asia, hence, the name.  But in the New World it is very narrowly distributed.  From a dozen birds introduced 142 years ago, the Eurasian tree sparrow now ranges from St. Louis, MO, to Keokuk, Iowa, right along the Mississippi River.  It is a highly desirable species for those working on a life list–that compendium of all the bird’s you’ve seen in your life. However, it’s neither abundant nor common here.  I’ve only seen about 4 or 5 of them in 12 years.  Fortunately, I saw one in my neighbor’s back yard recently, and was able to snap a half-decent photo.  They are not often observed in town, as they are apparently outcompeted by the closely related and much more abundant House Sparrow.  They resemble the House Sparrow male closely, except that they have a distinct, black cheek patch and a chestnut cap instead of gray.  There is no sexual dimorphism–males and females look alike.

From January 2012

I have seen this bird in my back yard, Fenway Landing, and Wakonda State Park.  It should be possible to see it in any lightly wooded area near the river, but it may take some hunting to find it.  It is an irregular visitor to feeders.

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