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My Life’s Birds: #351

November 11, 2009

January 21, 1995 – Greene Co, Mo – Missouri doesn’t really have any birds that you’d consider specific to the state.  Being as it is in the middle of the continent, its avifauna is a mix of eastern and western, winter birds from the far north and the expanded ranges of those from the southwest.  It’s hardly a state with a obvious special species that can be nailed down.  One that you’d say “yes, I must travel to Missouri to see this bird”, except for one.  A small introduced population of urban dwelling weaver finch that can only be found in the vicinity of St. Louis, heretofore known as Gateway to the Tree Sparrow.

Wait, what?  They’ve got an American Tree Sparrow now?

American Tree SparrowIt seems like this would be important to know.  I mean, two Tree Sparrows?  Granted, most of North America needs only to be familiar with our native Tree Sparrow, the bird that shows up across most of the continent in winter.  It can readily be confused with it’s cogener, the Chipping Sparrow, but one would be hard pressed to confuse the ruddy-capped Spizella with its Eurasian doppelganger, a usurper to this hemisphere sullying the good Tree Sparrow name with black-hatted (or rather, black-cheeked) relish.  That one is far too similar to the nefarious House Sparrow, a scourge, if a remarkably adaptive one, to our shores.  No, this true red, white and blue (and red and white too, lest we forget our Canadian friends) Emberizid goes to extremes to display it’s gentility.  The soft gray face unmarred by mask or beady little eye, the round head and dainty bill as if genetically engineered specifically for cuteness.

No, there’s no way these birds could be confused, and ours, the Tree Sparrow we all can hang our hat on, is clearly superior.

photo from wikipedia

  1. November 11, 2009 9:46 am

    Whoa, what a post!!!!
    Okay, I might disagree with your last paragraph unless we stress the geographic context – which I assume we do.

    And then of course, for the split-conscious birder, there are the “heartland races” of Bewick’s Wren and Bell’s Vireo.

    But really, what a magnificent post!!

  2. Nate permalink*
    November 11, 2009 12:10 pm

    @Jochen- Thanks! Consider geographic context stressed. And also no small amount of bitterness that, in all the time I lived in Missouri, I never made the trip up to to St Louis to nail down the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. And now I don’t live there anymore. A missed opportunity to say the least.

  3. November 12, 2009 5:18 am

    You know what’s good about the Eurasian Tree Sparrows of St. Louis?
    Even if you’re a commited and true red, white & blue birder who despises invasives, you can always say you went there for the isolated population of Western Kingbirds and the Euro Tree Sparrows just hung around in the background – so there was simply no avoiding them, no matter how hard you tried!
    Or, ahumm humm humm *couch*, you can always visit Germany and see them where they are supposed to be, along with breeding-plumaged Common Mergansers / Goosanders and a Smew or two.
    You know, just mentioning it, in a casual way…

  4. November 12, 2009 5:22 am

    Of course I meant *cough* not *couch*, but am not entirely sure if it was a true typo or subconscious wishful thinking on a grey day at the office.

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