COREY ELLINGSON Bismarck-Mandan Bird Club
May 26, 2016
Corey Ellingson, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Bird Club, took this photo of a Eurasian tree sparrow a couple weeks ago.
An avid birder spends many hours outdoors in pursuit of colorful or rare birds. Each season brings a new collection of feathered friends to nearby neighborhoods and parks. However, sometimes even the most exotic birds find their way to a birder's backyard. Such was the case with a friend of mine a few weeks back.
An avid birder in North Dakota recently moved here from Washington State. He has spent countless hours pursuing a new world of birds here in the Central Plains, taking him to all corners of the state. On this day, he had just arrived home from a long day at work.
New birds were arriving each day to the oranges provided on a platform feeder within easy few of the kitchen window. Splashes of color were abundant with the arrivals of rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles and American goldfinches.
In the mix of migrant sparrows on the ground, one new visitor appeared. This bird baffled my friend's wife as it searched for seeds on the ground with the rest of the flock. She called to her expert husband who stared in disbelief. The new arrival was that of a Eurasian tree sparrow. Very similar to our house sparrow, this species sports a bold black spot in the middle of the cheek, and a white collar surrounding a warm brown cap.
In North America, the Eurasian tree sparrow arrived as a project to “enhance” the local birds. A dozen birds were imported from Germany and released in the St. Louis area in 1870. These birds, sometimes referred to as the German sparrow had to compete with the well-known house sparrow, also introduced from the Old World. The Eurasian tree sparrow is generally found in parks, farms and rural woods of St Louis area, neighboring parts of Illinois and southeast Iowa.
Their population has remained stable and localized for a century. Any hardcore birder who wanted one of these birds on their life list needed to make the trek to the center of the country to observe it. However, in recent years, this bird has begun to wander or so it appears to me. Several sightings have been recorded in our region, even up to Winnipeg.