Tuesday, 31 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)

At first glance it seems that when nature's treasures were being distributed among North America's birds, sparrows in general (and the clay-colored in particular) must have waited near the end of the line. Next to the party-dress finery of the wood warblers, sparrows seem to be outfitted like chain-gang workers, clothed mostly in a blend of uniform grey and commonplace brown. As songsters, too, they are far behind the music hall voices to orioles, or the exquisite, liquid calls of thrushes. The clay-colorer sparrow typifies the generally undistinguished musicianship of the sparrow family, announcing himself with a sonorous, insect-like call of three or four buzzes.

For all these seeming drawbacks, however, there is nothing hand-me-down about this bird. Perched atop a bush on a summer morning, this little sparrow has an unmistakable gentrified air. Its soft grey and crisp brown feathers are subtly woven like a fine English tweed, well cut  and expertly fitted. The younger birds wear a warm, buff-brown sweater with a grey collar before growing into the tweedy look, and both parents tend to their welfare in the meantime. The male sometimes feeds his mate while she nests, and the female is an adept impersonator, luring predators away from her hatchlings by feigning an injury that promises an easy meal - but hardly ever delivers it.

Cornell Lab: Clay-Colored Sparrow                                                         Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds