Little Brown Headache

White-crowned Sparrow (immature)

I was looking for Burrowing Owls on the northeast corner of the park when a scurrying low in the fennel caught my eye.  The scurrier was definitely not an owl.  It was a sparrow.  But what kind of sparrow?  The orange beak and the reddish stripes on the head threw me.  I combed the Cornell bird site and the Audubon site looking at sparrows.  Song?  No.  House?  No.  Field?  No.  Lincoln? No.  And so on.  It gave me a bit of a headache.  Then, by pure luck, I saw a photo of an immature White-crowned Sparrow: orange beak, reddish stripes on head.  Bingo! The mature White-crowned are really easy to identify:  black and white stripes on head.  They’re quite common in the park in fall and winter.  The youngsters, like this one,  just need a bit more time to develop those iconic grown-up colors.  

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