Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chondestes Grammacus Lark Sparrow

The Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) is a fairly large American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Chondestes.
This passerine bird breeds in southern Canada, much of the United States, and northern Mexico. It is much less common in the east, where its range is contracting. The populations in Mexico and adjacent states of the United States are resident, but other birds are migratory, wintering in the southern United States, Mexico and south to Guatemala.
It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe, with two accepted records in Great Britain in 1981 and 1991.
Lark Sparrow is distinctive. Adults have a typically sparrow-like dark-streaked brown back, and white underparts except for a dark central spot. The cheeks and crown sides are chestnut, with white eyebrow and crown stripes. The dark tail's corners are also white. Young Lark Sparrows are duller, and the underparts are streaked.
These birds forage on the ground or in low bushes. They mainly eat seeds, but insects, including grasshoppers are also eaten in the breeding season. They form flocks on migration or in winter.
The breeding habitat is a variety of open habitats including grasslands and cultivation. Lark Sparrows nest on the ground, laying 3-6 eggs in a grass cup nest sheltered by a clump of grass or other vegetation. The eggs are white with black scrawling.
The song is two clear notes followed by a mixture of buzzes and trills. The flight call is a thin sit.

Kicau Nusantara Rare Duo in New Brunswick
Lark Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow - rare winter finds!
It was Thursday, February 4, when Janet MacMillan first spotted an unusual sparrow near the grape arbor in her yard in Moncton, New Brunswick. While updating her daily list of feeder birds, Janet caught several glimpses of the new sparrow, but she did not get a good look until February 8, when the bird finally moved to her front feeder. Janet was able to photograph the bird and identified it as an adult Lark Sparrow.
Chondestes Grammacus Lark Sparrow,burung gereja,lark sparrowLark Sparrow (above) and
Chipping Sparrow seen at the
home of FeederWatcher Janet
MacMillan in Moncton, New
Brunswick. Photo by Nelson Poirier.

The Lark Sparrow is typically found in open habitats in the Great Plains and the arid west and predominantly winters in Texas and Mexico. Vagrant individuals rarely visit the east coast. Jim Wilson, one of New Brunswick's most avid birders, noted, "Although we do get a few Lark Sparrows annually, mostly in late summer and fall, they are considered rare here. There are very few winter records, so this bird is certainly exceptional."

Janet phoned the Rare Bird Alert line in New Brunswick and about 30 people came to visit. While birders flocked to Janet's yard to see the Lark Sparrow, guests were treated to another rarity--a winter plumage Chipping Sparrow. The Chipping Sparrow appeared to be travelling with the Lark Sparrow!

The Chipping Sparrow is a common summer breeder in New Brunswick, and normally returns north in late April or the first half of May. They nest across the province during spring and summer, often raising two broods of young. According to Jim Wilson, "We see a few Chipping Sparrows linger into late October or November before migrating south, but the species is very rare here in winter."

Lark Sparrow photographed in Moncton, New Brunswick,
by Nelson Poirier.
The Lark Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow have put on a great show for birders, and are often seen together. Both favor the heavy vines on Janet's fence, and the lattice work beside a crab apple tree in her yard. "How this 'odd couple' got together is an interesting question, but Janet MacMillan in Moncton is a very fortunate FeederWatcher," Jim Wilson told us. "To host one would be an event, but to have two is like winning the lottery. I hope she's gone out and bought a ticket"

As of March 8, both birds were still hanging around Janet's yard. Visitors continue to drop by to see the birds, and some are lucky enough to hear the Lark Sparrow sing. wikipedia and birds.cornell.edu


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