Thursday, November 12, 2015

Snow Geese, Ross's Geese and - Sparrows

Snow or Ross's??

By Jack Chiles 

Now that the geese are arriving at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and considering that most of the geese will be white geese, I would like to assist those of you who have problems telling the geese apart. There are two species of white geese at the refuge, Snow Geese and Ross's Geese. At first glance, they look very similar but upon closer examination you will see some distinct differences. Looking at the geese in the photo, the front right-most goose is a Snow Goose and the goose immediately to its left is a Ross's Goose. Comparing the two, notice the larger size of the Snow Goose, longer neck, less rounded head, longer bill and the dark "grinning patch" on the bill. In turn the Ross's Goose is smaller in size, has a shorter neck, more rounded head and a stubby bill. For me the really defining characteristic that separates the two is a more vertical demarcation between the feathering of the head and the base of the bill of the Ross's. Both of these species occur in a dark phase (the dark birds in the photo). The dark phase is much more common in the Snow Goose than in the Ross's. The dark phase is sometimes referred to as Blue Goose. Take time studying these two species and you will soon be amazed at how easy it is to tell them apart. 

Geese at HNWR by Jack Chiles

Now that you know your geese, find out your Sparrow  IQ!

On Saturday, November 14, Dr. Wayne Meyer will speak on Sparrows at Hagerman NWR.  The HNWR Bird Check List shows more than 20 species of Sparrows, Towhees and Allies.  Let’s see how familiar you are with some of these!  (Questions derived from Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds and the Sibley Guide to Birds)

1.             1.  House Sparrows aren’t related to other North American sparrows.

             True       False

 2.    The _ _ _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ _ _  Sparrow is a large sparrow with a small pale pink or yellow bill and a long tail and very bold black-and-white stripes on the head.
 3.    The Sparrow with the black eyestripe, the white crown and supercilium, the yellow lores, the white throat bordered by a black whisker, or malar stripe is.  (Choose one)
Song Sparrow              White-throated Sparrow           Harris’s Sparrow
 4.    If you see a rich russet-and-gray sparrow with bold streaks converging in a central breast spot on its white chest, in an open, shrubby, or wet area, it is probably a (Choose one).
Song Sparrow              Vesper Sparrow           Harris Sparrow
  5.     The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sparrow takes its name not only from its diet but also from its insect-like song.
  6.     The striking Harris's Sparrow breeds along the edge of boreal forest and tundra in north-central Canada and spends the winter in South America.
True     False
   7.     Dark-eyed Juncos are Sparrows.
True     False
     8.      Sparrows are exclusively seed-eaters.
      True     False
     9.      A white breast with a bold central spot and distinctive outer white tail feathers is: (Choose one)
Lark Bunting    Savannah Sparrow      Lark Sparrow
10.  A small sparrow with a reddish crown, a gray breast and dark eyeline is (Choose one)
Chipping Sparrow        Lincoln’s Sparrow        Field Sparrow

Answers:  1. True; 2. White-crowned; 3. White-throated Sparrow; 4. Song; 5. Grasshopper; 6. False; 7. True; 8. False 9. Lark Sparrow; 10. Chipping Sparrow

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