Answering a Call in the Woods

By Dave Hanks

I was first introduced to the WHITE-THROATED SPARROW in the deciduous woodlands of the Green Mountains of Vermont. In the freshness of mid-morning springtime, the clear, high whistle of “Old Sam Peabody-Peabody-Peabody” resounded through the underbrush. As if it were a ventriloquist, one could never be certain from whence the call came. However, I quickly mastered the mimicry. For about a half-hour, that bird and I exchanged words through those woods. That bird (one of the finer singers of the avian world) and I both finally tired of our game and went our separate ways.

Crisp facial markings make the White-Throated Sparrow an attractive bird. It has a black eye-stripe, a white crown and supercilium (eyebrow), and yellow lores (between eye and upper edge of the bill), and a white throat. Look for this species at forest edges, and especially in re-growth areas caused by logging or fire. Here they forage on the ground under or near thickets or in low vegetation. They can be seen scratching through the leaf litter searching for seeds, insects, and berries. They nest, either on the ground under shrubs, or in low trees, in deciduous or mixed woodlands where they lay 3 – 5 eggs that are either brown-marked with blue, or greenish-white.

These forest sparrows breed mostly across Canada, but we have seen them in the late autumn and winter in more southerly climes. On a couple of occasions we have been in Arkansas at Petit Jean State Park in November, and we have always seen and photographed them there.

The moments when one can step into the inner world of our wild associates are precious. They are impressionable times that reach into your very soul to find a place to permanently reside.

(In the leaf litter)