December 20, 2010

white-throated sparrows

When the snow and ice begin to pile up we most likely want to leave for the warmer climes of Puerto Rico or Panama.  And like us, the song birds that fill our summer airwaves are no fools they do leave the chilly New England fields and forests for the warmth of Florida, Central America and the Caribbean. But some hardy birds are unfazed by New England’s wintry grip and after a summer spent raising young in the Canadian arctic make their way to our backyards appearing in October and November ready to spend a balmy winter in New England.

One of these winter arrivals is the White-throated Sparrow. No larger than a small pear, the white-throated sparrow has a surprisingly striped head, with lines of white and brown running from its beak to the back of its neck, tinged with yellow in the front. The bird gets its name from a small flash of white feathers just under the beak- its white throat. The white-throated is known for its song, a melancholy series of clearly articulated notes, slow and proud, with a hint of waiver. New England Folklore translates the song as, “Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody” while Canadian bird watchers hear, “Oh sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada”.

The recently released Occurrence Maps created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology synthesizes data into a remarkable visual depiction of migration. Watch the map for the white-throated sparrow.

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