Photo courtesy Byron Greco
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Brewer’s sparrow.
This small, plain sparrow is known for a lack of identifying marks which set it apart from others. It easily fits into the birders’ category called LBB, little brown bird. It is streaky gray-brown on top, grayish underneath and has a long, notched tail. It does have a thin white eye ring and a stripe over the eye, but these marks are not always visible.
The Brewer’s sparrow is unremarkable until the male breaks into song. In spring and early summer he perches to sing a long musical song of trills and buzzes that is one of the most complex of birds on our continent. He sings to defend a nesting territory and to attract a mate. Once paired, his song is much shorter.
These are birds of arid habitat and are among the birds that are sagebrush obligate. This ecosystem of tall sagebrush, bunchgrass and bare ground is found only in the western United States. Other birds that depend on this habitat for breeding are the sagebrush sparrow, the sage thrasher, and the greater and Gunnison sage grouse.
During breeding season, they eat mainly small insects and spiders and, in winter, mainly seeds. They are so well adapted to their dry environment that they can go weeks without drinking water.
The western sagebrush sea is shrinking and threatened by impacts from cattle grazing, energy development and the introduction of invasive cheatgrass fueling massive wildfire events. Through its Sagebrush Ecosystem Initiative, Audubon Rockies strives to preserve this valuable resource. You can learn more at rockies.audubon.org
For information on activities, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.