by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"Rarely, but Possible"

Harris's Sparrow

harris's sparrow        A Harris’s Sparrow is the largest sparrow in North America and the only bird species that breeds in Canada, and nowhere else in the world. The breeding habitat is in the Northwest Territories, northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Each bird species does what it has to for survival. When winds blow migrating flocks of birds off course, when humans destroy bird habitat and build structures where migrants must stop, and when there's a lack of food or water, birds have to go to unknown areas. Harris’ Sparrows are rarely found far east or west of the middle of North America, but we spotted one right here in southern Utah. We found a Harris’s Sparrow in the vicinity of Jacob Hamblin’s Home, where there are Pyracantha bushes, Pecan trees, grapevines, and close to the Santa Clara River. This is the perfect place for migrating birds to stop, refill, rest up, and then be on the road again. It happens you know . . . rarely, but possible, for birds to show in unfamiliar places. That’s what make ‘birdwatching’ interesting. If there are eyes out there looking, it’s possible to see rare birds every year.

        Each species has their own peculiarities. Each is unique. Harris’s Sparrows have some linear dominance hierarchies that determine access to food and roost sites. Oldest males have the largest bibs on the breast, and therefore become the most dominant. The larger the bib, the greater the dominancy. Their nest is built upon the ground. It looks much like an open cup of mosses, small twigs, and lichens, lined with dried grass and maybe caribou hair. They nest in remote areas and because of this, their nests are hard to find. The first one was not found until 1931. The remoteness protects Harris’s Sparrows from human development. Potential threats are not from man but from fire and the effects of global warming.

        Look for a black crown, face, and bib encircling a pink bill. You too could spot a Harris’s Sparrow and live to tell the world. Judy Warren is the artist this week. Her picture is done in water color. For more information about birds, or Red Cliff Audubon activities, call 435 673-0996.

Red Cliffs Audubon