Song Sparrows on eBird

Alvaro Jaramillo

Ken, and SF Birds.

I couldn’t help but look at the eBird designation of that Song Sparrow. I think I need to send out a note to the eBird folks for clarification. But the designation montana/merrilli is a bit problematic. It is problematic in a conceptual manner, and specifically to this bird. The form montana is what you see on the other side of the Sierras and northward from that, it is not too different from a Song Sparrow from the East. Some consider Montana all the way to the Atlantic to be one group. If you divide up these Great Basin/Mountain birds, then as you go north, montana changes to a darker form merrilli. But some have considered that to be an intermediate form with the darker coastal birds. So that is the conceptual thing, perhaps they should call this “montana group” to be clear, merrilli muddies things up as some think it is from the coastal group, not the mountain-east group.

But specifically regarding this bird, these darker more grey and rufous birds are coastal birds from farther north, so West of the Cascades. They begin as cleonensis to our north, change to morphna, then rufina etc. Since rufina is the oldest named in that group, the entire conglomerate of darker/coastal Song Sparrow of the Pac NW are called the “rufina group.” That is what this bird should be identified as in eBird.

Now our regularly occurring Song Sparrow in the Bay Area (away from Salt Marshes) should be separated as “heermanni Group.” While specifically the birds we see are gouldi, the group name comes from the oldest named in the group, so heermanni.

I expect that montana/merrilli are extremely rare or non-existent here, perhaps as rare as weeing a Thick-billed Fox Sparrow in the Bay Area. I may be wrong, I have not looked up Grinnell and Miller on this, but it is my expectation. BTW – there is a Song Sparrow Facebook group if you all want to discuss Song Sparrow.

Good birding,


Alvaro Jaramillo


From: [] On Behalf Of Dominik Mosur [SFBirds]
Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2018 3:35 PM
To: SFBirds <>
Subject: [SFBirds] Belated report of Pink-sided Junco/_merrilli_ Song Sparrow GGP Lloyd Lake 1/14/18

On Sunday morning (1/14/18) at Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park there was a YELLOW WARBLER and WHITE-THROATED Sparrow, both wintering 'continuers' previously reported in the area.

A bird I had not seen reported there previously was an interesting SONG SPARROW that appeared darker than our local types and larger, closer in overall size to White-crowns feeding nearby.

Additionally there was an 'interesting' looking female Dark-eyed Junco.

Ken Schneider was able to obtain images of the Song Sparrow and Junco later that morning. These can be seen here:

Based on input we received from Peter Pyle, the Song Sparrow is of the northwest ssp _merrilli_ and the junco looks good for a Pink-sided _mearnsi_.

Thanks to Peter Pyle for helping with the ID and Ken Schneider for obtaining the excellent diagnostic images.

The sparrow flock at Lloyd Lake typical concentrates along the trail at the northeast corner, near the pumphouse, where someone regularly scatters seed.

Dominik Mosur

San Francisco
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