Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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WORLD BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  White-throated Sparrow
 
 

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OWSparrows

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  Order Passeriformes
   Suborder Passeres - Oscines (Song Birds)
      Parvorder Passerida (Superfamily Passeroidea)
         Nine-primaried Oscines
            Family Emberizidae - New World Sparrows, Towhees, Juncos

  Passerines are generally smaller than non-passerines. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young hatch blind with little or no down and spend 10-15 days or so in the nest - development is rapid and parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines are passerines with complex syringeal musculature used to produce varied vocalizations. 
Passeroids include the Nine-primaried Oscines, pipits, Old World sparrows, and weavers.
Nine-primaried Oscines include New World warblers, icterids (New World blackbirds), emberizines (buntings), tanagers, cardinalines (cardinals), and fringillines (finches).
Emberizines are primarily New World seed-eaters with a conical bill and dull, streaked plumage. They belong to our nine-primaried assemblage of families. When they forage on the ground, they are able to scratch using both legs at once ("hopping" to clear leaves or debris to reach food). They have loud songs that aid in their location and identification.
Crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia). This genus includes several similar species of sparrows with bold head patterns. They frequent semi-open or brushy habitats and form social flocks when not nesting. They are not particularly elusive and all have sharp penetrating songs. Several species have been widely used in studies of migration and song dialects. The genus is closely related to Melospiza and Passerella. 
     
     
  White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis
 
    Cornell     USGS     Wiki     EoL
        WINTER - Common / Common
            CONIFEROUS AND MIXED FOREST, EDGES, CLEARINGS, SCRUB, GARDENS
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   White-throated Sparrows have white-striped and tan-striped morphs. Adults have a sharply patterned head with a black eye-line with a white stripe above that and a white line on top of the head. They typically have white on the throat (hence the name) and yellow lores. The breast is gray and the belly and under-tail coverts  white. First winter birds have a whitish supercilium and yellowish lores but are generally darker with some rufous in the wing. They have light streaks across the breast and on the flanks.
   White-striped (WS) birds appear to be more aggressive than tan-striped (TS) ones and WS females may even sing. Thus matings between two WS birds appear to be less stable than matings between WS and TS individuals whatever their sex. Similarly TS-TS matings appear to work.
   Along the line, we followed the annual cycles of TS and WS birds. (Kuenzel, W. J. and C. W. Helms. 1974. An annual cycle study of tan-striped and white-striped White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis). Auk 91: 44-53.)  I don't recall that we found any differences between the morphs.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow,
White stripe morph. Georgia

       
  RANGE: White-throated Sparrows breed from southern New England north to central Labrador and across Canada to the Northwest Territories, then south through the northern/central parts of the western territories, extending through Manitoba and around the northern Great Lakes to Lake Erie. They winter from New England South to central Florida and the Gulf Coast, extending west to southern New Mexico and the Pacific Coast. They cross the central states during their migration.
   One of the reasons I selected this as the sparrow in which to study migration was that Boston was located roughly at the boundary of both ranges so the species had the ability to survive there year round. It is also migrates a moderate distance and was expected to show physiological and behavior adaptations to be able to migrate. I think I chose well and consider the White-throated Sparrow and old friend.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One (2?) broods. The female selects the nest site and builds a cup-shaped nest, usually at the edge of a clearing. It is well concealed. She uses grass, twigs, pine needles, twigs, etc. and lines it with fine materials. She lays 4-6 (3-6) eggs which she incubates for 11-13 days. Young are altricial and fledge after 8-9 days and are fed by parents for another 2 weeks. Both sexes care for the young.
  DIET: They eat insects, spiders, millipedes and snails and a variety of seeds. Young are fed insects. They forage on the ground near cover. They also forage in shrubs and low branches (mostly in summer).
   In captivity, they survive well for several years on chicken mash.
  VOICE: White-throated Sparrows have a lovely, high pure whistle with little change in pitch. In New England they are known as 'pibbidy' birds (Peabody birds). Their song is "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody." Note that we do hear it here as spring approaches. White-throats often sing at night on the breeding grounds.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - common fall through spring. Edisto - winter.
      Coastal - common winter visitor. Hilton Head - common winter visitor. Cape Romain - common/absent/common/abundant.
         Huntington Beach
- common October - April.
      Caw Caw - common/absent/common/abundant. ACE - common/absent/common/common.
   Kiawah Island banding - Capn' Sam's spit - 1 Nov 2009; 1 Feb 2010; 2 Nov 2010; 3 Apr 2011; 99 (1 recapture) Oct-Nov 2011; 2 Dec 2012;
      4 (2 recaptures) Jan-Mar 2012. Cougar Island - 1 Nov 2009.
   CBC: ACE 328, 379, 90, 301, 332, 136, 106, 345, ; Charleston 111, 170, 215, 268, 63, 41, 71, 299;
            St Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 9, 0; Hilton Head 49, 135, 28, 255, 46, 72, 66, 33; Sun City/Okatie 83, 153, 26, 463, 106, 63, 33, 52;
            McClellanville 92, 141, 142, 122, nc, 18, 85, 143; Winyah Bay x, x, 46, 104, 47, 25, 35, 6; Litchfield 426, 355, 137, 215, 86, 267, 462, 661.
   P&G: Very common winter visitor. 1 September - 17 May. Casual summer vagrant (5 records). Maximum: 1,078, Awendaw/Cape Romain, 26  December 1982.
   Avendex: 6 records. May - June, December (including maximum, above)
   Potter: Abundant winter residents from early October to mid-May with stragglers into the summer. It occurs in almost every type of habitat and is common in urban areas as well as fields, thickets, forests, and swamps.
  ●  White-throated Sparrows are common in brush edges on Seabrook through the winter. Learn their chip note - it will help you find them. As spring approaches, you may hear their whistled "peabody" song.
       
    Banner - White-throated Sparrow, Donneley WMA.
       
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