Friday, October 13, 2017


Harris's Sparrow

Hmm ... I wonder where the under-birded areas of Pheasant Branch prairie are? Perhaps I might find Harris's Sparrows there. Having birded the conservancy's prairie during fall migration for nearly two decades, I've found around a dozen of these dapper birds at this parcel of habitat. Well, we're still within the window for Harris's Sparrow, but it's closing. Here are the spots I've observed this species in the past:


A: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2016
B: 2012
C: 2014, 2016
D: 2007, 2016
E: 2013
F: 2014, 2015

Corners and edges.

By far, location "A" has been the best spot for this species. The reason is that flocks of Zono sparrows roost around the willow line on the south side of the gravel trail and the birds make a lot of noise when they awake in the morning. This, I believe, attracts other nearby sparrows. Additionally, there are loads of seed-rich plants between the retention pond and the trail. Plus, easy access to grit and cover.

Cover. Water. Grit. Food. Roost. It just makes sense.

Where they've been spotted so far this fall (

Winds have been out of the southeast once again, but if we have a night of northwest winds, that might prompt some Harris's Sparrows to migrate into southern Wisconsin. However, if the winds are north, or northeast, they might miss my neck of the prairie. There can always be nonconformist birds, though. Note the Chicago sighting. There was even a slightly off-course Harris's in Plymouth, Massachusetts mid-September!

Harris's Sparrow © 2017 Mike McDowell

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