Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sabino Sparrows Crowdsource Safety

Photo and text by Mark Hengesbaugh

White-throated Sparrow 4/2/2016

Sabino's lush creekside habitat has been hosting a large number of sparrows in mixed flocks this winter and spring. The White-throated Sparrow in the photo above is unusual to see here, but in eastern North America they are among the most common sparrows. We spotted this one on April 2 among the more usual White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows. Why do sparrows gather in groups composed of different species? They're looking for seeds on the ground, so they're vulnerable to surprise from above, like a Cooper's Hawk attack. By joining a flock, they take advantage of many alert eyes; the combined watchfulness allows them to get out from under protective vegetation and brave more open ground. If this White-throated male or female - both sexes have the yellow lores and white throat - can rest and feed safely in Sabino for a short time, s/he will continue north. Perhaps headed 1,500 miles into Alberta, Canada or even farther into the northeastern hardwood forests.

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