Bird #350 — Harris’s Sparrow

zonotrichia (from zone, girdle, and trichos, hair) querula (complaining)

Friday, May 10, 1996 — 3:00 pm

Wheaton, Illinois — Cantigny

I was on here with a group from work.  I had gotten advance notice that we were going to Cantigny.  I’d been there a few years previously and knew it was a pretty good place to see birds.  My friend and I brought our binoculars and birded while the rest of the group toured the museums.

It was a good plan. The gardens were loaded with birds. A cold front had caused a fallout. The migrants were stuck in the area and forced to feed close to the ground. (The entire weekend was incredible for cold weather and for the number and tameness of birds.)

We were wandering through the grove by the War Museum, by a strip of small trees and bushes with dirt and wood chips beneath.  We were looking at a Veery when my friend said, “What’s this with the black crown and face?”  I looked and saw a large sparrow facing away from me.  It had a streaked back and a black crown (rather like a Mohawk haircut) on a gray head.  I knew immediately what it was and said, “It’s a lifer for me.”  The bird moved around under the bushes, giving me a glimpse of a black face and throat.  It hopped on top of a low stone landscape wall, stood briefly, then disappeared behind the wall.  I got a quick look at its light-colored bill.  We walked around the area looking for it, but didn’t see it again.

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