The tide was especially high today, so we decided to take advantage by setting up an additional mist net in the marsh. High tides force birds that prefer living in the marsh to concentrate in small patches of habitat that aren't flooded. With a little bit of effort, we managed to flush up and capture 3 species of marsh sparrows. Sparrow species that live in marsh habitat all belong to the genus Ammodramus, and the 3 that we caught are those most expected to be in saltwater marsh areas.
Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus) is the most common, and only year round resident marsh sparrow, on Kiawah Island. It is considered the easiest of the bunch to identify due to its overall gray coloration and large, bulky size. Seaside Sparrows are also notable for their yellow supraloral (area between the eye and bill) patch.
|Seaside Sparrow - Note overall gray coloration and yellow lore|
Saltmarsh Sparrow is the larger of the two, and is relatively longer billed and has a darker ear covert patch. More objectively observable is the species' pale breast and flanks compared to the orange coloration of the face, along with distinct dark flank streaks.
|Saltmarsh Sparrow - Note long bill, dark gray ear covert, pale breast, and dark flank streaks|
|Nelson's Sparrow - note duller gray ear covert patch, indistinct flank streaking, and not as long of a bill|
At one point we had the opportunity to photograph Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson's Sparrow simultaneously, creating the excellent comparison photo below. More obvious in this photo, but not in the picture above, is the orange coloration of the breast and flank of Nelson's Sparrow, compared to the pale breast of Saltmarsh Sparrow.
|Saltmarsh Sparrow (left) and Nelson's Sparrow (right) - note the longer bill of the Saltmarsh Sparrow, and more orangish breast/flank coloration of the Nelson's Sparrow|
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5 Gray Catbird
11 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
3 Song Sparrow
2 Swamp Sparrow
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 House Wren
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Hermit Thrush
2 Gray Catbird
2 Northern Mockingbird
5 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
1 Northern Cardinal
1 Song Sparrow
# of Birds Banded: 23
# of Recaptures: 17
# of Species: 11
Effort: 93.1 net-hours
Capture Rate: 43.0 birds/100 net-hours
# of Nets: 17 (3 additional nets closed early due to wind)