By Dave Hanks

Sparrows make up one of the largest groups of birds in the USA. There are 37 species. They are known as LBJs by many birders. LBJ stands for “little brown jobs” because it is sometimes hard to differentiate between some species. In fact, some females of other species, such as House Finch, are often misidentified as sparrows. The bird that most folks think of as “Oh that’s just a sparrow,” is the House Sparrow. But it is not a sparrow at all. It has been misnamed. It is a weaver finch and was introduced to our country in 1851 from England. Sadly, like most introductions, it has spread across our country becoming a great nuisance.

Though most sparrows are small and usually brown or gray, some sport colors or have other interesting markings. One of my favorites is the White-Throated Sparrow that has one of the prettiest calls of the bird world. My introduction to this bird was on a hillside in Vermont. I mastered its beautiful call, and we talked back and forth for quite awhile. Finally, it appeared from a nearby bush.

Another is the Lark Sparrow, with a white head that is heavily streaked with maroon markings. An attractive sparrow - a sparrow that I was pursuing in North Dakota, when a warning rattle made me adjust my pursuit in mid air to avoid stepping on a rattlesnake.

The species pictured – the Black-Throated Sparrow is a southwestern scrub inhabitant. It is a small, attractive bird that is a ground feeder. The ground is usually where you’ll see it – scurrying back and forth from cover to open feeding areas. It likes dry slopes that are sparsely vegetated. Creosote bush and Cholla Cactus are preferred nesting areas. The nest is built close to the ground – never higher than two feet. It is a sparrow that I’m always glad to encounter when in scrubby southerly locales.

(Foraging on the ground for stray seeds)