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Kansas School Naturalist


KSN - Vol 6, No 3 - The Sparrow Family

THE COVER PICTURE, an action photograph of a cardinal, is used by courtesy of the National Audubon Society. Card­inals are much-loved birds, and they seem to return the compliment by bring­ing their own joyful existence close to the lives of their human friends. Little wonder that they are the official state bird of no less than seven states. Once thought of as typically southern, the cardinal has extended its year-round range further and further northward. Audubon Screen Tours are a revelation of fun and adventure. Leading roles in these color films are played by the birds and animals themselves.

Photographs other than the cover pic­ture were taken by members of the Department of Biology, incident to field trips. Sketches were drawn by Harold Willis, sophomore biology student.

Volume 6, Number 3 - February 1960

The Sparrow Family

by Bernadette R. Menhusen

Published by The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia

Prepared and Issued by The Department of Biology, with the cooperation of the Division of Education

Editor: John Breukelman, Department of Biology

Editorial Committee: Ina M. Borman, Robert F. Clarke, Helen M. Douglass, Gilbert A. Leisman, David Parmelee, Dixon Smith

Online format by: Terri Weast

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge, to Kansas teachers and others interested in nature education. Back numbers are sent free as long as the supply lasts, except Vol. 5, No.3, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas. Copies of this issue may be obtained for 25 cents each postpaid. Send orders to The Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biology, State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April of each year by The Kansas State Teachers Col­lege, 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas. Second-class post­age paid at Emporia, Kansas.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The author of  this issue of The Kansas School Naturalist is graduate student in biology, working to the degree Master of Science. Her special interest is conservation education. She has taught in rural schools in Jewell and Mitchell counties. She is at present a graduate assistant in biology and also holds a Fellowship awarded by the National Wildlife Federation.


THE SPARROW FAMILY

by Bernadette R. Menhusen
Department of Biology,  Kansas State Teachers College

The bird family Fringillidae is commonly referred to as the spar­row family. The family, which is one of the largest of the bird families, includes such well known species as cardinals, buntings, gros­beaks, finches, cross bills, juncos, towhees, longspurs, and sparrows. Of the approximately 375 species of birds which are known to be residents of or migrants through Kansas, more than 50 are members of the sparrow family.

EXTERNAL FEATURES

Kansas members of the sparrow family range in size from the tiny Henslow's sparrow and chipping sparrow, of which the adults may be less than four inches in overall length, to the cardinal which at-· tains a length of nine inches.

There are three types of bills within the Fringillidae. The most typical is the short, stout, conical bill adapted for seed cracking; this type is possessed by most of the sparrows, buntings, and finches. Another type is the thick, large, and rounded bill of the grosbeak. The third type is most distinctive; it is that of the crossbill in which the mandibles are crossed at the tips. Rills of many of the buntings, finches, and grosbeaks are highly
colored; those of the sparrows are typically brownish-gray or streaked with brown.

There is extreme variation in the length and shape of the tails of the members of the family. The wings also are variable, although all have nine primary wing feathers. These are the longest of the stiff feathers attached to the wings, and are often called wing feathers or flight feathers.

The Fringillidae, in general, have strong feet and legs. The length of the lower leg is variable; both lower legs and feet are cover­ed by overlapping scales. The feet are of the perching type; all of the toes are easily movable.

The nostrils are sometimes par­tially concealed by bristle-like feathers. Birds have remarkable powers of Sight. This is undoubtedly accounted for by the abun­dance of visual cells of the birds' eyes.

see caption below  see caption below see caption below 
Three types of bills found among Fringillidae-left, most sparrows, buntings, and finches; middle, grosbeaks; right, crossbills.

 

see caption below
A brood of grasshopper sparrows, a few days after hatching (left) and five days later (right).

 

PLUMAGES AND PLUMAGE COLORATION

Most birds have a definite se­quence of molts and plumages. 0Aolting is a process by which the hirds shed and renew their feathers periodically. In most Fringillidae molting of flight feathers is a slow process proceeding gradually over a period of a month or so; these feathers are shed one by one on each wing so that flight is possible throughout the molting period. A few species of Fringillidae, such as the snow bunting, are, however, nearly flightless during this period.

Newly-hatched Fringillidae are covered or partially covered by natal down which is soon lost in the postnatal molt. The juvenal plum­age which follows is mostly lost by the postjuvenal molt and is fol­lowed by the first winter or imma­ture plumage. In early spring the prenuptial molt begins and the first nuptial or breeding plumage de­velops. In late summer the first postnuptial molt occurs. The sec­ond winter plumage may be the same or different from the first winter plumage and the second nuptial plumage may be different from the first. Some birds require several years to reach maturity and may acquire several nuptial plum­ages before reaching full adult feathering. The white-throated sparrow, for example, breeds in subadult plumage.

In a feather counting project which was carried out at the Smith­sonian Institution in 1933 it was found that birds had their thinnest plumage in late summer just before the postnuptial molt and the thick­est in winter. An adult goldfinch was found to have nearly a thousand more feathers in winter plumage than in summer plumage.

see caption below

Young cardinal beginning to develop flight feathers; nest and eggs.

 see caption below

Lark sparrow about one week old; nest and eggs.

see caption below

Summer and winter ranges of Harris'
sparrow and rose-breasted grosbeak:
Hs: summer range of Harris' sparrow
Hw: winter range of Harris' sparrow
Rs: summer range of rose-boreasted gros­
beak
Rw: winter range of rose-breasted gros­
beak

The broken lines mark the area in which Harris' sparrows may be found during migration, and the solid lines mark the migration area of the rose-breasted grosbeak.

see caption below

Some of the common migration routes between North and South America. The Kansas Fringillidae which winter south of the United States use routes 2 and 3.

see caption below

Birds may seem conspicuous when out in the open or mounted in a museum, but in the play of light and shadow about their nests they may be hard to see. The female blue grosbeak is on the nest; do you see the male?

The goldfinch has only a bit of natal down on the crown of the head and on the back when it hatches; the remainder of the body is naked. By the time the birds are ready to leave the nest in approxi­mately 14 days the entire body is covered by feathers called juvenal plumage. The yellow breast, striped wings, and shades of olive and brown give them the appearance of the mother except for the short tail and tufts of down clinging to the ends of the feathers. Many species, as juncos, cross bills, and indigo buntings which have no breast streaks in adult plumage do have streaks in the immature stage, but there is no sign of streaks in the first plumage of the goldfinch. The young male and female birds in first winter or immature plumage look much like adult females in winter plumage. In the prenuptial molt in the spring, the young acquire their first adult, or nuptial plumage, which is retained during the breeding season. The male does not acquire the distinctive gold­finch markings of bright yellow and black until the second breeding season. By autumn the male has molted again and has an olive­-tinged grayish color back, with chest and throat of dull yellow and sides of brownish-buff. Female goldfinches molt periodically, also, but there is little noticeable differ­ence between the plumages. The striking change from the dull winter plumage to the brilliant summer plumage is due to new body feathers, not to new wing or tail feathers.

Many of the sparrows are of dull shades of gray and brown. Few birds can be found which are more colorful than the cardinal gold­finch, painted bunting, and indigo bunting. Coloration tends to camouflage a bird in its environ­ment, to cause it to become conspicuous in flight, and to bring sexes together during breeding seasons.

DISTRIBUTION AND MIGRATION

Most of the Fringillidae are migratory birds; they spend their sum­mers in breeding ranges in the north and return to winter ranges in the south. For anyone area, such as Kansas, this results in a seasonal distribution, as shown in the fol­lowing outline.

  1. SUMMER RESIDENTS
    These are birds which occur in an area during the summer; they come from the south in the spring to breed and return south in the fall.

  2. TRANSIENTS
    These are birds which stop tem­porarily during their spring or fall migrations.

  3. WINTER RESIDENTS
    These are species which occur in an area during the winter; they come from the north in the fall and return to the north in the spring.

  4. PERMANENT RESIDENTS
    These are species which remain in an area throughout the year. Among common Kansas Fringil­lidae only the cardinal is in­cluded in this group.

Migration is sometimes defined as any regular movement between two geographical or ecological areas. There are numerous daily migrations, such as those to and from a feeding area or roosting area. More often the term migration means the seasonal move­ment of animals from one area to another. This involves the round trip from the winter area to the summer nesting area and return. Migration often occurs with re­markable regularity. One of the most puzzling aspects of migration which scientists have not yet been able to explain is the way in which the birds determine their direction.

Men have observed migration of birds for centuries. Today they are still studying migration, but even yet the causes and processes are not fully understood.

Ornithologists today believe that the increase in day length in the spring brings about an increase in the activities of the glands of the body. This in turn brings about certain physiological changes in the body of the bird. An increased amount of fat is stored in the body of the bird with an increase in body weight; this gives the birds the ex­tra energy requirements necessary for the migratory flight. After the necessary physiological changes have occurred, a stimulus is re­quired to cause migration to begin. This stimulus is often an external condition as unusual weather con­ditions or sudden temperature changes.

Many small birds which are weak fliers migrate mainly at night; they spend the daylight hours searching for food. Birds which travel by day are in general strong, fast fliers which can capture food on wing or cover great distances to obtain food.

Migration is dangerous for all birds. Sudden and unseasonable weather changes may have serious or disastrous results. When forced to land because of adverse weather conditions, the birds must accept whatever environment is present; there may not be sufficient food or cover and they may be easy vic­tims of predators. Most migrating birds do not fly at high altitudes so collision accounts for many deaths. Radio and television towers, tall buildings, and other structures which men have erected have cre­ated many additional hazards for migrating birds.

Migratory movement is spread across our entire continent. There are certain north-south routes, or flyways, which are used by many species. The map shows these which seem to be most traveled by the birds. Some species of Fringillidae tend to wander in migration; they seem to follow no special route. For example, crossbills may be observed in a certain locality and not seen there again for several years. In mountainous areas, verti­cal migrations. take place up and down the mountains.

Some birds migrate in flocks of their own species, some migrate in mixed flocks of several species, and some tend to migrate individually. Thus crossbills migrate with their own kind only, while most other species of Fringillidae migrate in mixed groups containing other spe­cies of birds of the same general size and of similar habits.

TERRITORY

The territory of a bird is a cer­tain area which the bird actively defends. Most species of birds dis­play some type of territorialism. The two types of territories which are most often observed are the breeding territory and the non­breeding or feeding territory. The breeding territory may include the mating or nesting areas and may not include the feeding area.

Male birds usually arrive in flocks at the nesting area early in the season. Each male proceeds to establish a breeding territory. At this time there is much fighting, pursuit flying, and singing. The females of the same species arrive a few days to several weeks after the males. Mating may occur soon after the arrival of the females. The pair may remain mated until the young are reared, or for longer periods of time.

Among Fringillidae the male usually establishes the territory. He does this by fighting other males of the same species in the area, by pursuit flying, and by a display of plumage. Singing sometimes seems to be a method of announcing to other birds the establishment of a territory and to warn other birds against trespassing. Songs seem to reveal the sex of the singer and to attract birds of the opposite sex.

SONGS

Many birds can be identified by their distinctive songs or calls. Singing ability varies among spe­cies and between male and female. In some species the females do not produce sounds that could be called songs. Songs vary from the simple, clear call of the cardinal to the complex song of the Henslow's sparrow. The songs of the cardinal and grosbeak are unequaled in richness of musical quality.

Most of the Fringillidae are ac­tive in the daytime, so singing hours are chiefly from dawn to dark. Song sparrows and cardinals sometimes sing at night. The fre­quency of singing varies. One sci­entist found that an individual song sparrow sang more than 2,000 times in one day from dawn to dark. The singing range is about 1,000 to 10,000 cycles per second. Birds which have been tested seem to have a narrower auditory range than humans. Many humans can hear sounds ranging from 20 to 17,000 cycles per second, or about 9 octaves.

see caption below

Nests of dickcissel (left) and field sparrow (right).

NESTS

The nests of any one species are surprisingly uniform in structure and location. The nesting site is most often chosen in a concealed location. It is usually further con­cealed by construction of materials that blend into the surroundings. The floor and sides of the nest are constructed with twigs and grass, and lined with soft material such as fine grass, hair, feathers or milk­weed floss. The time required for nest building varies with such con­ditions as weather, available ma­terials, and perhaps experience of the bird. Nest construction in the song sparrow may range from three to fourteen days.

The first egg is usually laid with­in a short time after the nest is completed. The number of eggs laid in one nest by one bird is called a clutch. The size of the clutch varies from species to species. Many Fringillidae lay from three to five eggs per clutch. Several factors seem to affect the number of eggs, such as age of birds, weather conditions, the time of the breeding season, and individual variation.

After the eggs are laid, the in­cubation period begins. One or both parents may participate in the process. If the male bird is color­ful, he usually does not take part in incubation. There are exceptions, for the brilliantly colored male rose-breasted grosbeak shares in the incubation of the eggs. In spe­cies in which the male and female coloration is similar, the male sometimes shares in the process.

The incubation time of eggs of Fringillidae ranges from a little over ten days to fourteen or more days. The newly hatched birds are usually fed some form of animal life, such as worms, and insects, even though adults eat plant foods. Goldfinches feed partially digested seeds to their young. Young Fringillidae remain in the nest from eight to twenty days.


SPACE DOES NOT PERMIT discussing the broad topic of economic importance, but it should be pointed out that the Fringil­lidae are decidedly beneficial. While we do not directly use them or their eggs, we do owe them a vote of thanks for the help they give us in "pest" control. As will be seen in the tabular summary on pages 12 to 15, the most common foods eaten by these birds are weed seeds and insects. A small amount of cultivated grains and fruits, and some beneficial insects, may be eaten, but overall the Fringillidae do many times more good than harm. Moreover, esthetic values should not be ignored. In this family are some of the most colorful plumages and brilliant songs of the North American bird world.


CHECK-LIST OF FRINCILLIDAE OF KANSAS

(From Check-list of the Birds of Kansas by Harrison B. Tordoff)

In order to keep the necessary space to a minimum, the following symbols are used:

C-common
U-uncommon
O-rare
R-resident
T-transient
V-visitant
SR-summer resident
WR-winter resident
E-east
W-west
Ct-central
SW-southwest

  1. Cardinal-CR in E, U in W
  2. Rose-breasted Grosbeak-SR in E and CT 
  3. Black-headed Grosbeak-CT and SR in W 
  4. Blue Grosbeak-CT and SR 
  5. Indigo Bunting-CT and SR 
  6. Lazuli Bunting-CT 
  7. Painted Bunting-SR in E
  8. Dickcissel-T and Sr, C in E
  9. Evening Grosbeak-O winter V
  10. Purple Finch-CT and WR in E 
  11. House Finch-C in SW
  12. Redpoll-O winter V 
  13. Pine Siskin-CT and WR 
  14. Eastern Goldfinch-CR 
  15. Red Crossbill-Irregular winter V 
  16. White-winged Crosshill-O winter V 
  17. Green-tailed Towhee-CT in W, O winter V in E 
  18. Red-eyed Towhee-CT and WR, U SR 
  19. Lark Bunting-CT and SR in W, O T in E 
  20. Savannah Sparrow-CT and O WR
  21. Grasshopper Sparrow-CT and SR
  22. Baird Sparrow-O
  23. Leconte Sparrow-CT and C WR in E and Ct
  24. Henslow Sparrow-U T and U SR in E 
  25. Sharp-tailed Sparrow-O T in E
  26. Vesper Sparrow-CT
  27. Lark Sparrow-CT and SR
  28. Rufous-crowned Sparrow-O
  29. Pine-woods Sparrow-O
  30. Cassin Sparrow-C SR in SW
  31. Black-throated Sparrow-O 
  32. White-winged Junco-CT and WR in W
  33. Slate-colored Junco-CT and WR
  34. Oregon Junc~CT and WR in W, U in E
  35. Tree Sparrow-CT and WR
  36. Chipping Sparrow-CT and SR in E
  37. Clay-colored Sparrow-CT
  38. Brewer Sparrow-CT in W
  39. Field Sparrow-Ct and SR and U WR
  40. Harris' Sparrow-CT and WR in E, U in W
  41. White-crowned Sparrow-CT and WR
  42. White-throated Sparrow-CT and U WR in E
  43. Fox Sparrow-CT and U WR in E
  44. Lincoln Sparrow-CT and U WR
  45. Swamp Sparrow-CT and U WR in E
  46. Song Sparrow-CT and WR 
  47. McCown Longspur-CT in W, O in E, and O WR
  48. Lapland Longspur-CT and WR
  49. Smith Longspur-CT and WR except E
  50. Chestnut-collared Longspur-CT and WR in W, U in E
  51. Snow Bunting-U winter V

 

SELECTED REFERENCES


IDENTIFICATlON HANDBOOKS

CHAPMAN, FRANK M. 1932. Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America. Ap­pleton-Century-Crofts, New York.

JAQUES, H. E. 1947. How to Know the Land Birds. Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa.

PETERSON, ROGER T. 1941. A Field Guide to Western Birds. Houghton Mif­flin Co.. Boston.

PETERSON, ROGER T. 1947. A Fie!d Guide to the Birds. Second Edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

POUGH, RICHARD H. 1949. Audubon Bird Guide: Small Land Birds Double­Day and Co., Inc., Garden City, New York.


PAPERBACKS

CRUICKSHANK, ALLAN. 1953. The Pocket Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Pocket Books, Inc., New York. 509.

PETERSON, ROGER T. 1957. How tv Know the Birds. Signet Key Book by The New American Library, Inc., New York. (available in clothbound edition by Houghton Mifflin, Co., Boston.) 50¢.

ZIM, HERBERT, and IRA N. GABRIEL­SON. 1947. Birds. A Golden Nature Guide, Simon and Schuster, New York. $1.00.

CARSON. L. B. 1957. Introduction to Our Bird Friends. Vol. I and II. Capper Pub­lications, Inc., Topeka. Kansas. 25¢ each.


TEXTBOOKS OF ORNITHOLOGY

VAN TYNE, JOSSELYN, and ANDREW J. BERGER. 1959. Fundamentals of Ornithology. John WHey & Sons, Inc., New York.

WALLACE, GEORGE J. 1955. An Intro­duction to Ornithology. The Macmillan Co., New York. 


MANUALS OF ORNITHOLOGY

ALLEN, ARTHUR A. 1947. Ornithology Laboratory Notebook. Comstock Pub!. Co., Inc.; Ithaca, New York. (Contains keys for identification and provides a place and system for recording field ob­servations.)

PETTINGILL, OLIN S., Jr. 1946. A Lab­oratory and Field Manual of Ornitholo­gy. Burgess Publishing Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota. (References on nearly all topics.)


CHECK-LISTS

AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1957. Check-List of North American Birds. Fifth Edition. The Lord Baltimore Press, Inc., Baltimore, Mary­land.

TORDOFF, HARRISON B. 1956. Check-­List of Birds of Kansas. University vf Kansas Publications, Lawrence, Kansas.


PERIODICALS

AUDUBON MAGAZINE, published by the National Audubon Society, 1130 Fifth Avenue, New York 28, New York.

THE AUK, A Quarterly Journal of Ornith­ology, published by The American Ornithologists' Union. Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

THE CONDOR, published bimonthly by the Cooper Ornithological Society, Berkeley, California.

NATURAL HISTORY (Incorporating Na­ture Magazine since December, 1959) Journal of the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West, 79th Street, New York 24, New York.
Junior Natural History published by the American Museum of Natural History for junior readers.

WILSON BULLETIN, A Quarterly Maga­zine of Ornithology, published by The Wilson Ornithological Society, Kalamazoo, Michigan.


MANY READERS MAY NOTE the omission of the familiar house sparrow, Passer do­mesticus, often inappropriately called the English sparrow. The house sparrow is not one of the Fringillidae, but belongs to the Ploceidae, or weaver finches. It is a native of Eurasia, and has been intro­duced into many countries; it seems to adapt well to new environments and is now at home over much of the world. It was introduced into North America about 1850.

One other member of the Ploceidae, the European tree sparrow, Passer mon­tanus, was introduced into our country, near St. Louis, Mo., in 1870. This species did not make much progress and after 90 years is still found in only a few counties in the St. Louis area.


PREVIOUS ISSUES

Oct. 1954, Window Nature Study;

Dec. 1954, Wildlife in Winter;

Feb. 1955, Chil­drens' Books for Nature Study (First in a series);

April 1955, Let's Go Outdoors;

Oct. 1955, Fall Wildflowers;

Dec. 1955, Snow;

Feb. 1956, Spring Wildflowers;

April 1956, Turtles in Kansas;

Oct. 1956, Hawks in Kansas;

Dec. 1956, Childrens' Books for Nature Study (Second in the series);

Feb. 1957, Life in a Pond;

April 1957, Spiders;

Oct. 1957, Along the Roadside;

Dec. 1957, An Online for Conservation Teaching in Kansas;

Feb. 1958, Trees;

April 1958, Sum­mer Wildflowers;

Oct. 1958, Watersheds in Kansas;

Dec. 1958, Let's Build Equipment;

Feb. 1959, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas;

April 1959, Life in a Stream;

Oct. 1959, Field Trips;

Dec. 1959, Conservation Arith­metic.

These printed in boldface type are still available, free of charge except Poisonous Snakes of Kansas, which is sold for 25 cents, per copy postpaid, to pay for the increased printing costs due to the color plates.

The out-of-print issues may be found in many school and public libraries in Kan­sas.


 

  cardinal indigo bunting
COMMON NAME CARDINAL INDIGO BUNTING
SCIENTIFIC NAME Richmondena cardinalis Passerina cyanea
DESCRIPTION Male - red body, crest, black patch at base of bill.
Female - reddish brown with crest.
Heavy conical red bill. Length 8 to 9 inches
Male - brilliant blue over entire body, darker on head, browner in fall.
Female - dingy brown with no distinct stripes and no wing bars.
Length - 5 3/4 inches.
SONG Typical loud whistle seems to say, "Sweet, sweet, sweet, what-cheer, what-cheer, what-cheer, sweet, sweet, sweet!" Male seems to call "Fire, where where, here here, see it, see it!"
RANGE East of Rocky Mountains; north to Canada and south to Gulf Coast. Range moving northward and westward. Canada to central parts of Gulf states; winters in Cuba and Central America.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of twigs, bark, and rootlets; lined with grasses or rootlets; in thick bushes or vines 1 to 30 feet from ground. Eggs pale bluish white with brown, purple, and reddish-brown spots; 2 to 4. Constructed of twigs, grass, leaves, weed stalks, plant fibers; in bushes or low shrubs about 3 feet above ground. Eggs pale bluish white; 3 or 4.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Non-migratory; found in towns, on farms, roadside bushes, or hedges. Eats weed seeds, insects, and wild fruits. Found around pastures, woodlands, and edges of fields and streams. Eat insects and weed seeds.

 

  dickcissel eastern goldfinch
COMMON NAME DICKCISSEL EASTERN GOLDFINCH
SCIENTIFIC NAME Spiza americana Spinus tristis
DESCRIPTION Male - similar to a small meadowlark with yellow breast and black bib.
Female - like a female house sparrow, but lighter, with a white stripe over the eye, bluish bill, and a touch of yellow on breast. Length 6 to 7 inches
Male - summer plumage is only small yellow bird with black wings, tail and forehead; winter plumage similar to the female.
Female - olive-green with dull yellow breast; wings marked with white bars.
Small triangular-shaped bill and short forked tail. Undulating flight pattern. Length 5 to 5 1/2 inches.
SONG Unmusical staccato call seems to say "Dick, dick, ciss-ciss-cissel." Musical, clear, and high pitched voice with song of endless trills and twitters. Much chorus singing in early spring. Flight call sounds like "Per-chic-o-ree."
RANGE Southern Canada and south to Alabama and Texas, chiefly between Allegheny and Rocky Mountains; winter in Central and South America. Southern Canada to Oklahoma and northern parts of Gulf States; winters in nesting areas and south to Gulf Coast.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of grasses and leaves; lined with rootlets, hair and soft grass; on or close to the ground in open field. Eggs light blue; 3 to 5. Constructed of fine grass, bark, plant down, and moss; lined with thistle-down; in trees or bushes 5 to 30 feet from ground. Eggs light bluish-white, unspotted; 3 to 6.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Found in prairie areas chiefly; alfalfa fields are a favored habitat. Feed mostly on seeds. May be abundant in an area one year and absent the next. Found in meadows, orchards, pastures, and roadsides; form flocks in winter and early spring. Eat weed seeds and some insects.

 

  rufous-sided towhee (red-eyed towhee) lark bunting
COMMON NAME RUFOUS-SIDED TOWHEE
(Red-eyed Towhee)
LARK BUNTING
SCIENTIFIC NAME Pipilo erythrophthalmus Calamospiza melanocorys
DESCRIPTION Male - black head, throat, and upper part of body; reddish-brown sides; upper part of body white.
Female - smaller than male; brown where male
has black markings.
Iris of eye is bright red; tail is long, rounded and white
tipped. Length 9 inches.
Male - black with large white wing patches.
Female, Young, and Autumn Male - brown with stripings on breast; may show white or buff wing-patches.
Length 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches.
SONG Loud whistled "Chewink!" and a plaintive whistle which seems to say "Drink -your- teeee-eeeeeee." Complex musical song with many trills:
flight call sounds like a soft "Hoo--ee."
RANGE Canada south to Gulf States; winters from
Nebraska south to Gulf of Mexico.
Rocky Monntains and eastward to
Dakota, eastern Nebraska and Kansas;
winters in Texas and Mexico.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of grasses and roots with fine lining of grass and rootlets; concealed in brush or under fallen logs, rarely over 3 feet above ground. Eggs white with brown speckles: 4 to 6. Loosely constructed of grass, rootlets,
and stems; lined with fine grasses or
hair; on ground or depression under plants. Eggs pale blue unmarked: 4 or 5.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Does not ordinarily live close to people. Found in woodland areas. Lives largely on ground beneath
bushes scratching in leaves and vines.
Found in grasslands and clover fields:
usually in flocks except during nesting;
may be abundant in area one year and
absent the next. Eats weed seeds and insects; seems to be especially fond of
grasshoppers.

 

   grasshopper sparrow vesper sparrow
COMMON NAME GRASSHOPPER SPARROW VESPER SPARROW
SCIENTIFIC NAME Ammodramus savannarum Pooecetes gramineus
DESCRIPTION Brown body with short tail and large flat head; light stripe through center of crown; buff colored unstreaked breast. Length 5 to 5 1/2 inches. Streaked breast with a reddish-brown patch at the bend of the wing; whitish
eye-ring; conspicious white outer tail
feathers in flight. Length 5 1/2 to 6 1/2
inches.
SONG High pitched insect-like buzz of notes which sounds like "Get-up zeeeeeee!" Song of short musical trills; preceded
by 2 low clear whistled notes followed
by 2 higher ones.
RANGE Southern Canada to Georgia and Texas; winterR from Texas
to Gulf of Mexico.
Southern Canada and northern two thirds of United States; winters in southern half of breeding range and south to Gulf states and Mexico.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of grass; lined with rootlets and hair; located on ground under plants. Eggs white, brown-speckled, chiefly around large end; 4 or 5. Constructed of grasses with fine
grass lining; located on dry ground along roadsides or in fields and pastures in small natural depression. Eggs white, many brown marks and speckles; 4 or 5.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Found in grasslands and hayfields; except in migration, seldom flies more than few feet above grass. Eats insects; seems to be especially fond of grasshoppers, beetles, and weevils. Found in pastures, hayflelds, hedgerows, roadsides. Eats insects.

 

  lark sparrow slate-colored junco
COMMON NAME LARK SPARROW SLATE-COLORED JUNCO
SCIENTIFIC NAME Chondeste grammacus Junco hyemalis
DESCRIPTION Striped crown with reddish-brown earpatches; brown wings and back; white breast with one dark spot; black fan-shaped tail has white on edges and corners. Length 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches. Dark slate-gray head and top of body; white breast and outer tail-feathers; pink bill. Length 6 1/2 inches.
SONG Song has 2 clear introductory notes followed by trills with pauses and buzzing sounds interspersed. Song is a slow trill, light click, and twittering notes.
RANGE Southern Canada to Louisiana; winters in Gulf states and Mexico. Northern Canada and south in mountains to northern Georgia; winters from Canada to Gulf coast.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed from grasses and rootlets; located on ground under plant or in low tree or bush. Eggs white with spots and pen lines of brown and black; 3 to 6. Constructed of grass, moss, and rootlets; lined with fine grass and hair; well hidden on or near the ground. Eggs pale bluish white, spotted with brown, spots may form ring at larger end; 4 to 5.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Found in open country, prairie areas, orchards, roadside, and near farms. Eats weed seeds and insects. Found in woods and along roadsides, fields, and borders. Flocks active in very cold weather. Eats weed seeds, caterpillars, and insects.

 

  tree sparrow  Harris' sparrow
COMMON NAME TREE SPARROW HARRIS' SPARROW
SCIENTIFIC NAME Spizella arborea Zonotrichia querula
DESCRIPTION Red-brown cap with 2 conspicuous wing bars and dark spot in middle of gray breast; striped and mottled back of
black and brown; upper bill is black and lower is yellow.
Length 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches.
Black crown, face, and throat; brown wings, tail, and back; white breast; two white bars on wings; reddish bill. Length 7 to 7 3/4 inches.
SONG Light chatter during feeding; warbling song in spring. Song is minor sounding series of whistles; clucking sounds among notes of winter song; in
fall and winter often sing in chorus just before sundown.
RANGE Canada and Alaska; winter from southern Canada to Texas. Breeds near tree line in Canada; winters from southern Canada to central Texas.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of grasses, roots, and hair; lined with fine grass and fur; located on or near ground in shelter of vegetation. Eggs greenish or bluish with brown marks; 4 or 5. Constructed of grass, leaves, moss, and lined with soft grass; located on ground protected by low vegetation. Eggs pale green with brown spotches; 3 to 5.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Prefers brushy areas, weedy roadsides, and farms. Eats weed and grass seeds. Found in weed patches, roadsides, or woody areas; feeds on seeds and some insects from the ground, often teen scratching in leaves and grass.

 

  fox sparrow  song sparrow
COMMON NAME FOX SPARROW  SONG SPARROW
SCIENTIFIC NAME Passerella iliaca Melos piza rnelodia
DESCRIPTION Bright rusty-red tail and heavily streaked breast resembles a thrush. Length 7 to 7 1/2 inches. Brown crown; brown and gray streaks on upper body; white or light gray breast with streaks of brown which converge into a large central spot; round tail which is pumped up and down in flight. Length 5 to 6 3/4 inches.
SONG Melodious call of clear notes and
slurred whistles.
Variable musical song; usually begins with 3 or 4 introductory notes on the same pitch and goes
into many trills and notes on other pitches.
RANGE Canada and Rocky Mountains to central Colorado; winters from Ohio Valley, Iowa, and eastern Kansas to Texas and
Gulf coast.
Canada and Alaska south to northeast Kansas and Missouri; winters from southern Alaska and
Canada to Texas and Gulf coast.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of grass, leaves, moss,
and lined with hair or feathers: located
on or near the ground in thickets or bushes. Eggs dull green with brown speckles; 1 or 5.
Constructed of grass and rootlets; lined with fine grass and hair; located on ground or low bushes up to 8 feet. Eggs white or pale green; brown spots; 4 or 5.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Found in hedges, thickets, or woodlands; forage for weed seeds and insects in leaf litter on the ground. Found on lawns at edge of city and on farms in bushy habitats near water; usually seen scattered among flocks of other species of sparrows; eats grass and weed seeds, caterpillars, and insects.

 

  lapland longspur
COMMON NAME LAPLAND LONGSPUR
SCIENTIFIC NAME Calcarius lapponiclls
DESCRIPTION Brown and dark gray to black striped back, tail and sides; 2 white wing bars; reddish brown markings on back of head and neck; dark streaks across the throat; white outer tail feathers; black or dusky legs; hind toenail as long or longer than toe; black throat feathers in summer. Length 6 3/4 inches.
SONG Song has a rattling sound followed by a whistle-like sound of "Ticky-tick-to."
RANGE Circumpolar; Arctic tundra in North America; winter from southern Canada to northern Texas.
EGGS AND NEST Constructed of grass and moss; lined with feathers and hair. Eggs greenish gray with brown and purple blotches; 4 to 6.
ECOLOGICAL HABITS Cold weather birds of pastures and open fields; often run instead of hopping; often associate with snow buntings or horned larks or in large flocks of own species; eats grass and weed seeds in winter.

 

WORKSHOP IN CONSERVATION

Plan now to attend the 1960 Workshop in Conservation, which will be part of the 1960 Summer Session of the Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia, June 6 to 24, and June 27 to July 15, 1960.

As in the past several years, the Workshop will cover water, soil, grassland, and wildlife conservation and conservation teaching. Such topics as geography and climate of Kansas, water resources, soil erosion problems and control, grass as a resource, bird banding, wildflowers, conservation clubs, and conservation teaching in various grades will be discussed.

There will be lectures, demonstrations, discussion groups, films, slides, field trips, projects and individual and group reports. You may enroll for undergraduate or graduate credit.

The first section is open to any interested person; there are no prerequisites. Since the second section is devoted almost entirely to the production of teaching aids, enrollment is limited to those who already have an established interest in conservation education and who have some teaching experience.

Fee for first section (3 hours credit): Residents of Kansas, $22.95; non-resident, $42.45.

Fee for second section (1, 2, or 3 hours credit): Residents of Kansas, $7.65 per hour; non-resident, $14.15 per hour.

For other information about the Workshop write the director, Robert F. Clarke, Department of Biology, KSTC, Emporia, Kansas.


The Kansas School Naturalist Department of Biology 
  College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 
Send questions / comments to
Kansas School Naturalist.
 Emporia State University