Sunday, October 18, 2015

Zonotrichia Gold! - 18 Oct 2015

I took a peak out the back window of Brownton Abbey this morning a saw a small, dark sparrow foraging below the thistle feeder. Thinking it was another White-crowned Sparrow, which incidentally arrived just a few days ago, I was stunned when it turned around and flashed gold eyebrows and forehead. Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)! I was viewing it through the camera (Nikon 1 V3, FT1 adapter, 300mm f/2.8, 1.7TCII ~ 1377 mm) so I promptly started photographing it through the back window.

I called Robin over to witness, and she got looks at it with binoculars. I was going to open the window to get cleaner images, but Buffy and Asia jumped up on the sill and forced me to forego that thought.

Slate-gray in color it was much darker than the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows that have been frequenting the feeders the past several days. Lower orbital is white, while the upper orbital is more tan in color. Cap is dark with thick dark forehead stripes and yellow coloration just above the eyes and on the forehead. Back of crown and nape is checkered black and brown and tan. Two wing bars. Surprisingly, Pyle, Sibley and other guides have only brief remarks concerning coloration of forehead/crown regions and only reference to dusky bills. This bird showed a slight, two-toned bill with the upper darker and lower lighter. I thought that maybe a second GCSP was present when I spotted a lighter bird with a bit of yellow on the forehead, but it turned out to be a 1st winter White-crowned Sparrow. However, I will continue to monitor White-crowns as some 1st winter GCSP have just a hint of yellow on the forehead that could easily be overlooked. Here's a reference post.

A look at e-Bird shows that this bird is 'rare' in Michigan. Mostly found along the west coast of the United States up to Alaska there are occasional sightings in the Great Lakes Regions. Allen Chartier found a Golden-crowned Sparrow on Belle Isle in Detroit two years ago that I was able to photograph. One bird was seen earlier this spring in Ohio.

By contrast, check out the White-crowned Sparrows (Z. leugophrys) that have been around for the past several days. These are 1st winter birds as noted by their light brown head stripes. Adult birds show the bold black-and-white helmet that is unmistakeable against its gray head, throat and chest.

A White-throated Sparrow (Z. albicollis)  has made brief appearances, as well. Its black-and-white striped head is accented with bright yellow lores and bold white throat.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow flushed when a flock of House Sparrows arrived, and only returned a few minutes later. It didn't stick around though, as the sparrow flock had turned the feeder area into a frenzy. The GCSP flew along the hedge line to the west and did not reappear. I sat in front of the window after sundown, but only the White-crowned Sparrow would return.

Now, if only a Harris' Sparrow would appear I would have a Zonotrichia Slam!


Mark Wloch said...

Awesome bird. Sometimes there is no place like home.

BobTarte said...

Fabulous photos of a really great bird!

david boon said...

Great Find Jerry! Staring out the window can have its rewards!

Go Blue Leaders! said...

Super nice photos. Thank you for sharing.

Cathy Carroll said...

Hi Jerry, just came back (yesterday) from San Francisco where I birded in Golden Gate Park and the Botanical Gardens. Saw a few Golden-crowned Sparrows there. I agree with Mark - often no place like home. None of my photos even come close to yours.

Kimberly Warner said...

This is pure awesomeness.......I agree with Mark sometimes there is no place like home! Great Pictures!

John L. Trapp said...


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