"Needle in a Haystack"

White-throated Sparrow

    The White-throated Sparrow is a great find in Utah. Some people look for years before they see one. They are numerous in eastern United States, and Canada. Fact is, they are so common in their breeding grounds of Canada that the bird song sung is "Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada". People in the New York area, where the White-throated is found year-round, will debate that the song they hear is "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". Same bird, same song, different sides of the border.sparrow

    If you know who the White-throated Sparrows chum with, you have a very good chance of seeing one. Look for flocks of White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows. You could very well find a White-throated mixed in with them as I did. All three have striking striped heads and are easily mistaken. It is the yellow lore that makes the difference, and the white throat. Not a grayish white, but an extremely white throat. It’s like finding a needle in the haystack when there are oodles of White-crowned Sparrows, and suddenly, one stands out.... a White-throated! This is when an ordinary bird field trip turns into one you will never forget.

    The White-throated Sparrow has an estimated 10-20 million pairs across North America. In spite of the numbers, they are rapidly declining through much of their breeding range. Habitat loss is the culprit in the decline. Habitat that surrounds the White-throated is critical to its survival, just as the habitat surrounding you and I is critical to our survival.

    Utah, at one time, was host to large numbers of Mule Deer. People came from all over the west and east to hunt Utah deer herds. During deer season, St. George was full of out-of-state hunters, buying guns, ammunition, groceries, camping gear, sleeping in motels, etc. It was a big business. I remember the hunter’s cars lined up at the Santa Clara Game Checking Station with a deer tied to each fender as they started home with their trophies. Habitat loss has caused the deer herd numbers to crash. Along with the large game animals, habitat loss is devastating to bird life. Some species adapt to the changes, other species cannot adapt... and their numbers crash as habitat is cleared or fragmented. We have heroes among us in outdoor groups making contributions to the quality of the habitat like Nature Conservancy, Mule Deer Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Elk Foundation, National Audubon Society, etc. Efforts to add guzzlers or water tanks for big game animals in the west, to supply them with drinking water and to open up more habitat, has huge benefits for the little creatures we so often overlook.

    The White-throated Sparrow is a color pencil painting by Brenda Rusnell. Thank you Brenda for an opportunity to see this rarely seen bird up close. If you want to come on an Audubon Field Trip with experienced birders, and learn the birds in your area, call Marilyn Davis 435 673-0996.

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