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A Sparrow with Two Possible Stories

By Brandon Breen, Klamath Bird Observatory Science Communications

sosp_bandedOn the morning of June 14th, 2014, Linda and Peter Kreisman noticed a Song Sparrow with a small metal band on its right leg. The bird was seen at Ashland Pond, a small water body on the northern edge of town and adjacent to Bear Creek, a tributary of the Rogue River. Peter was able to capture the photograph shown on the right, which reveals a few of the identifying numbers etched into the metal band. Once Linda and Peter returned home, they contacted KBO.

Robert Frey, KBO’s Banding Project Lead, took a look at the photo. The full band number was not visible, but from the digits that Robert could see he thought he might be able to narrow down the date when the bird was first captured and banded, to within a month or so, and possibly determine the location as well.

The busy field season kept Robert occupied for most of June and July, but once back in the office his detective work yielded results. Linda and Peter’s Song Sparrow has two possible stories.

Story One: The sparrow was banded on May 8th, 2012 at KBO’s long-term monitoring station along Bear Creek and behind the Willow Wind Community Learning Center in Ashland, Oregon. The full band number is 1641-01151.

Story Two: The sparrow was banded on May 12th, 2012 at North Mountain Park in Ashland, Oregon during a banding demonstration along Bear Creek for Rogue Valley Bird Day, a local celebration of International Migratory Bird Day. The full band number is 1641-01153.

In both cases, the Song Sparrows were males in breeding condition that had hatched in 2011 or earlier.


We know from past KBO data that several year-round resident songbird species, such as Bewick’s Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, Song Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee, move along Bear Creek following the seasons and available resources.

The Song Sparrow is perhaps the most familiar sparrow in the United States. They keep relatively low to the ground as they utilize grasses and shrubs for nesting and foraging, and feed on seeds, berries, and a variety of invertebrates. Song Sparrows are habitat generalists and they will inhabit numerous habitats containing low, dense thickets near wet or marshy areas.