06.06.21: Singing Song Sparrow

A Song Sparrow sings from a plant in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

A Song Sparrow sings from a plant in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Hunting warblers, but finding a nice sparrow

Tech specs

  • Date/time: May 18, 2016 8:35 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 200

The Song Sparrow is one of the most common and most familiar North American sparrows. If you see a brown streaky bird fly by there’s a good chance it’s a Song Sparrow.

I have hundreds of photos of Song Sparrows in my files. My favorites are the photos showing the birds in full song, their heads thrown back and their beaks wide open.

I found this Song Sparrow singing from a branch in Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, a park in Oak Harbor, Ohio, along Lake Erie. I like the visit that area in the spring when warblers are migrating north to their summer breeding grounds in Canada from their winter homes in Central and South America. The warblers gather along the south coast of Lake Erie to feed and rest before making the long flight across the lake. The massive number — and variety — of colorful warblers attracts wildlife photographers around the world.

I’ve photographed more than 25 different types of warblers during my spring trips to the area.

But many other varieties of birds hang around that area in the spring. I’ve photographed Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanagers, killdeer, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, Bald Eagles, osprey, swans, a wide variety of gulls and many types of waterfowl during my visits.

And Song Sparrows, of course.

I found this Song Sparrow singing from a branch during a 2016 visit. I was watching Yellow Warblers, waiting for one to land where I could get a shot, when this Song Sparrow landed right in front of me and started singing. As I was framing the shot in my camera’s viewfinder I liked how the green leaves bracketed the bird and how the scene stood out against the defocused background.

In general, a Song Sparrow’s feathers are a rich brown and gray with a streaky brown and white chest, but this can vary among the more than 50 forms of Song Sparrows described by scientists. I’ve photographed a number of Song Sparrows with heads that are more brown and white — like this one — than brown and gray as described in the various field guides.

Song Sparrows are year-round residents in Ohio and can often be seen visiting feeders on snow-covered winter days.

I liked how the green leaves bracketed the bird and how the scene stood out against the defocused background.

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Photographs and text: Copyright - Pat D. Hemlepp. All rights reserved. Photographs may not be used without permission.

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