Southern Utah has some great wild places. Wild places to me are . . . when the paved road ends, and the gravel and dirt begins. This week the Turkey Farm road, one of those wild places north of St. George, was host to Kingbirds, Yellow Warblers, and Black-throated Sparrows. What a treat! This is the road where St. George used to take its garbage to burn. Today it is one of the most scenic places around to view Pinevalley, Kolob, Zion, Hurricane Cliffs, Beaver Dam Mountains, Arizona Strip mountains . . . and the Black-throated Sparrow. This beautiful bird seemed to be sitting on every other plant and bush on the side of the road, singing its heart out, telling us that ‘Spring is here’.
The Black-throated Sparrow is a typical bird of the wild western desert. Black-throated Sparrows can survive long periods of time without supplemental water. The seeds and insects that make up their diet provide them moisture. But when temperatures reach really high marks, they must find water. The timing of the breeding season will vary depending on rainfall and available food. They are migratory and spend the breeding season from California north to western Canada. In winter they move back to southwestern United States and Mexico.
The Black-throated Sparrow has declined in areas with increasing development. They do not adapt well to suburban environments. The only place this bird has been found around houses in southern Utah is Kayenta. Kayenta is bounded by the Red Mountain on one side and the Ivins Reservoir on the other side. The homes in this area have native landscaping and blend with the natural terrain features. Take a ride to Kayenta or up the Turkey Farm road. Look for this small, slim bird with the black triangular mark on the throat. The song is unforgettable. A mechanical tinkling swik swik sweeee te-errrr with variations. So many times I hear the song before I see the Black-throated Sparrow.
If you would like to learn more about birds of southern Utah, their habitat, and their peculiarities, visit our website at redcliffsaudubon.org , come along on our next Field Trip, or call 435 673-0996. The Black-throated Sparrow was drawn by Marilyn Davis.