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Harris's Sparrow - Life Bird!

Published November 15, 2015
Tags: Life List Happenings, Harris's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, leucistic

NYS Bird #350

Holly Sweeney, Celeste, and I drove the long journey to Albany today to see a Harris's Sparrow that was being seen at a private residence. This is our largest sparrow and is somewhat similar to the White-throated Sparrow in song and in appearance. It's a mid-western bird and an infrequent visitor to New York State, so this adult male somehow got blown or wandered way off course.

We were worried we wouldn't see the sparrow because a Cooper's Hawk furiously zipped through the yard shortly after we had gotten there. Holly went in search of it just in case the hawk had any intentions of scaring off our quarry - but on her way back, we were already motioning her to hurry because the Harris's Sparrow had appeared and was busily poking around under the feeders foraging for food.

We all had great views of this adult male and enjoyed observing its large frame, huge, pink bill, and its black face and throat. For my first time seeing this species, I was thrilled to see a male still in breeding plumage.

The two photos below are pretty poor because of the distance we had to put between us and the bird - but at least they document our brief encounter with this rarity.  While we were there, we also saw an unusually marked White-throated Sparrow. It was leucistic, having a large white patch around the side of its face.  Cool!
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Harris's Sparrow
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Harris's Sparrow
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White-throated Sparrow