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Friday, June 09, 2017

Friday's Foto

Last weekend I went with two friends to Shawangunk Grasslands NWR in Wallkill, New York to look for the increasingly rare Henslow’s Sparrow. One had been reported there a few days earlier.

This short-tailed, small songbird of grassland habitats is distinctive with its flat-headed profile, olive-colored head and facial plumage, buffy breast and sides with black streaks and rust-colored wings. Conspicuously singing from an exposed perch, their song is a thin, cricket-like "tsi-di-lick”.

The breeding range of the Henslow’s Sparrow is from South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario and Massachusetts south to Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina and locally in Texas. Populations in New York State are primarily in the central and western parts of the state, especially the Appalachian Plateau and Great Lakes Plain. In eastern New York, it may also be found in the Mohawk Valley. Their diet consist of large numbers of crickets, beetles, caterpillars, ants and other insect pests, providing an economic benefit. They also consume seeds of weeds, grasses, and sedges. They winters along the coast from southeast North Carolina to Florida and west to eastern Texas.

According for the IUCN Red List, the Henslow’s Sparrow is listed as “Near Threatened” due to sharp declines over the past 3 decades, primarily because of loss or degradation of grassland habitat. In New York State it is listed as “Threatened”. In fact, it is listed as threatened or endangered in 12 states. It is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List.

This sparrow’s scientific name, Ammodramus henslowii, means desert racer or runner; Henslow (after Rev. John Stevens Henslow (1796–1861), English botanist, naturalist good friend of Audubon, and teacher of Charles Darwin).

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