Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hawkwatch rarity photos

Here are a few photos of interesting birds of the last few days. On November 1st, Vince Elia found a pale-lored adult White-crowned Sparrow at the hawkwatch at Cape May Point State Park, and yesterday (November 2nd), Melissa Roach located a White-winged Dove that ended up flying right over the hawkwatch platform and perching in the open for a good view before disappearing to wherever vagrants go. Here are some photos with a bit of discussion on the sparrow.

The White-winged Dove showed us what it's working with just before it disappeared at Cape May Point State Park yesterday morning.

This adult White-crowned Sparrow is a candidate for the subspecies gambelii (Gambel's or West Taiga White-crowned Sparrow). The pale gray lores and small, orange-ish bill are suggestive of a "different" White-crown: the standard local birds are of the subspecies leucophrys with pinkish bills and black interruptions in the lores. The problem with calling such a bird a Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow outright is that there is lots of intergradation between breeding gambelii and leucophrys along Hudson Bay (one of the reasons these taxa aren't split out as separate species is that they freely interbreed where their ranges meet) - indeed, this bird's bill had some ambiguous pink tinges, and there was at least some suggestion of small bits of black in the lores, especially when its head feathers were fully flared out. Anyway, this is probably an unsolvable problem at the moment, but we can feel confident with at the very least calling it a White-crowned Sparrow with characteristics of Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow. David Sibley has some more extensive discussion of White-crowned Sparrow identification on his website).

[photos copyright Tom Johnson]

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