IBO Banding Crew: Joni Clapsadle (banded the bird), Elizeth Cinto Mejia, Nik Kronick, and volunteers: Mike Gindling, Barb Howard
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Intermountain Bird Observatory's Boise River Research Station (under the highway 21 bridge near where 21 and Warmsprings ave meet). 43°32'32.5"N 116°05'51.6"W or
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Mix of cottonwood gallery forest, upland shrub dominated by golden currant, and willow riparian. Bird was caught in IBO net #7 which is just 2 m from the river edge and in 100% willow habitat.
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Bird was banded by IBO on the first day of our river fall migration research. We observed it closely in the hand and took morphometric measurements before releasing it. Bird was held less than 10 minutes.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, during the observation
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, during the observation
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
We referenced the Sibley phone app and double checked in the Pyle's identification guide to make sure we documented all the distinguishing field marks properly.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
A small, dainty spizella sparrow. This was a hatch-year individual of unknown sex. Brighter and more contrasty in color than a Brewer's Sparrow, and smaller than a Chipping Sparrow. Distinguishing marks included: wing and tail measurements (58mm wing 59mm tail--chipping sparrow wing range is 62-77mm), lack of eye line on lores between eye and bill (compare CHSP), lack of rufous crown feathers, distinct median crown stripe, gray nape that contrasted strongly with head and back color, lack of rump streaking (compare BRSP) and lack of contrasting rump (compare CHSP), and distinct malar stripe. (Abbreviated description given because of the high quality photos attached to the report).
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Bird was viewed in the hand. When released it flew quickly to a patch of upland habitat on a berm near our banding station. Banding measurements taken: Wing 58mm, Tail 59mm, mass 10.2, fat 4 (on a scale from 0-6).
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
When Joni pulled the bird out of the holding bag I knew immediately that it was a Clay-colored. Initially my identification was "clinched" by the fact that the bird had such a different overall look. I further confirmed the identification based on median crown stripe, size, gray nape, and lack of loral stripe.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
See above description of the individual.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I have banded one other Clay-colored Sparrow at this same location last year. I have banded many hundreds of Chipping Sparrows and hundreds of Brewer's Sparrows at IBO's Lucky Peak station. I have observed ~50 Clay-coloreds out birding, and thousands of Brewer's and Chipping in the field.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
I have been seriously birding since 2008 and have worked for the Intermountain Bird Observatory as a songbird bander for 10 years. I would consider myself most familiar with the identification of passerines, and know Idaho's expected species very well.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
I can provide further details if needed, but I hope the photos speak for themselves?
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
FIRST ROUND VOTING:
Description and photo support the identification of Clay-colored Sparrow.
excellent photos -
This superb rare bird report with great quality photos was utterly convincing, and I'm sure that the bird was a Clay-colored Sparrow.
Photos and description are diagnostic of Clay-colored Sparrow. Measurements support elimination of Chipping, though it might have been nice to include bill measurement, to further rule out Brewer's (but not needed).
Photos show gray nape, buffy brown color on uppersides, etc.
This is a great report, that shows the difficulty in separating these young birds. The description and photographs eliminate similar species.
Excellent description, particularly in differentiating from other candidates in this very tough group. The obviously excellent photos, while in hand so can’t get a feel for posture and structure, do indicate the key marks for this species. What the photos also bring to light is how tough Fall Spizellas can be.