White-Crowned Sparrows In The Baboquivaris
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Louisa and I are back from a wonderful week at the Elkhorn Ranch in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson. It’s a beautiful place and I highly recommend it for a vacation. It offers horseback riding, abundant opportunities to walk and hike, great food, super hospitality, and convivial fellow guests. It’s managed by the Miller family, the third generation of Millers to run the ranch. Definitely check it out.
The ranch and its environs are a super place to photograph songbirds. In winter one can easily find numerous species of birds on the ranch property or a short drive from the ranch. The ranch is located just at the altitude where grasslands begin to give way to oak, pine and juniper forests and that makes for a habitat that attracts all sorts of birds.
Today, I’m posting about White-crowned Sparrows. Some sparrow species are extremely picky about their preferred habitats. White-crowned Sparrows are a bit more cosmopolitan in their tastes than are some species: one may find them in brushy terrain all over the Tucson area. I’ve seen them at Sweetwater Wetlands and at Tohono Chul Park on Tucson’s west side. They are extremely common on the brushy parts of the Elkhorn Ranch, where I made today’s images.
Some sparrows are tricky to identify. That is definitely not the case with adult White-crowned Sparrows. The distinctive black and white stripes on these little birds’ heads are a dead giveaway.
These sparrows aren’t particularly timid, as is the case with some other sparrow species. I was able to approach them fairly closely in order to take their pictures.
Now, although the adults of this species are very easy to identify, the youngsters are a bit trickier. Young White-crowned Sparrows lack the distinctive black and white stripes of their elders. Their crowns are colored rufous and gray.
There are a few other sparrow species whose adults have heads with color patterns that are similar to the juvenile White-crowned Sparrows. One way of distinguishing the young White Crowns from other species is by looking at the birds’ beaks. That big, wedge-shaped yellow beak is a unique trait on both juveniles and adults of this species. Other species lack that that characteristic.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 zoom ISII lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting. First two images shot at ISO 500, f8 @ 1/1000. Second two images shot at ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640.