Re: Sparrow like bird at Heron's Head 1/3/21


Hi Birders,
      To clarify, this Savannah Sparrow subspecies seems to be a poorly documented wintering bird in SF. And it has not been well-depicted in our popular field guides. P. sandwichensis sandwichensis breeds in the Aleutian Islands and the Alaskan peninsula. How that became the nominate form, over more commonly encountered varieties, is an interesting story involving famous explorers and early ornithologists, as summed up by Rick Wright in his Peterson Reference Guide to Sparrows of North America. 
      P. s. sandwichensis strikingly larger and a richer brown than our local birds which are P. s. beldingi, or P. s. alaudinus, depending upon how thick your book is on these things. It is a very complicated subject with many interesting moving parts, and fascinating lore for all that. 
Russ Bright

On Jan 6, 2021, at 3:04 PM, spw49@... wrote:

Thanks, Adam, and all others who have identified this cutie. So thankful for all the collective wisdom.

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021 Adam Winer <awiner@...> wrote:

Savannah Sparrows even breed at Heron's Head, which is a wonderful testament to the habitat restoration work that has gone on here.

I've assumed that at least some of the wintering birds at Heron's Head are permanent residents, not migrants, but I have no idea if there's any evidence behind that assumption.

On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 2:25 PM spw49 via <> wrote:

Thanks so much for the added info, Russell!

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021 russell bright <birdbright@...> wrote:
Hi Birders,
    This appears to be a Savannah Sparrow, likely P. s. sandwichensis, apparently an uncommon to rare wintering bird in SF along the bay. Thanks to Peter Pyle for recently reviewing my photos of a similar bird from a small flock, at Pier 94 from 4-5 years ago and suggesting this ID, after having been a mystery to me for years! Good find for anyone interested.
Russ Bright

On Jan 6, 2021, at 2:00 PM, spw49 via <> wrote:

I think this is some sort of sparrow, but can't figure out which one. It was foraging around the ground in the low lying vegetation at Heron's Head on Sunday 1/3/21, by itself as far as I could see. It seemed a bit bigger in size than the white-crowned or golden-crowned sparrows. I also saw groups of yellow meadowlarks and groups of other types of sparrows, including golden-crowned there. There was a beautiful red-tailed hawk around 1pm or so on the fence near the lagoon where you enter the park. It posed for photos for quite awhile, flew off, and apparently returned about 2 hours later. A real treat.
Thanks for the ID help!
Sally Whitehead 

Join to automatically receive all group messages.