Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Le Conte's Sparrow

On this day in 1976, a Le Conte's Sparrow was found at Tuckerton in Ocean County by Richard Ryan, K. Richards, and Frank and Barb Haas; the bird stayed until 2 October and many others also saw it. This species, one of the skulking Ammodramus sparrows, has seen a marked upsurge in the Northeast in recent decades; at least some of this has to be due to the fact that there are more observers in the field, and more knowledge about identifying Le Conte's Sparrows. New York has a specimen record from 1897 near Ithaca, so the species is not a newcomer to the region (Levine 1998). It will always be a challenge for an observer to find a Le Conte's Sparrow, however, whether the birding technology of choice is optical equipment or a shotgun.

Of NJ's 24 records so far, 20 have come since 1990. Other Northeastern states show a similar temporal pattern. Although Cape May has seven Le Conte's records, Monmouth County has nine, helped in large part by the north end of Sandy Hook. The first state record was a tad early, as it turned out; about 50 percent of NJ Le Conte's records come from October. So get out your field guides and study up; both Grasshopper Sparrow and Sharp-tailed Seaside Sparrow bear a passing resemblance to Le Conte's Sparrow.

Levine, Emanuel. 1998. Bull's Birds of New York State. Comstock, Ithaca, NY.

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