Worthen’s Sparrow (Spizella wortheni) has been a creature of mystery ever since its discovery. It was first found in the southwestern United States, near Silver City, New Mexico, in June 1884, but it has never been found north of the border since then. Its total known range today is a limited area on the northern central plateau of Mexico. I have searched for the species several times but have seen it only once, in early spring 2005, when Kimberly and I went with Adrian Ganem Sada and other Mexican ornithologists to look at a known colony southwest of Monterrey. Worthen’s Sparrow has disappeared from most of its former known range and is now considered seriously endangered — in fact, its total population may now be fewer than 200 individuals. So it’s of great interest to conservationists as well as birders.
At first glance or in illustrations, Worthen’s Sparrow looks a lot like a Field Sparrow — and in fact, the photo at the top of this post is a photo of a Field Sparrow, because I don’t have any shots of Worthen’s! But in the field it doesn’t give the same impression, and its song is very different. Ornithologists have long assumed that it was a close relative (or even a subspecies) of Field Sparrow, just because of its superficial similarity. But now there’s molecular evidence that suggests otherwise. Ricardo Canales del Castillo and others have just published a paper in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution reporting on a genetic study of this and the other Spizella sparrows. Despite its similarity to Field Sparrow, Worthen’s is apparently more closely related to the very dull-colored Brewer’s Sparrow, a bird that nests on sagebrush plains of the western U.S. and Canada. A link to the abstract of the article is here.
Rich Hoyer: Cristalino Jungle Lodge Report: Sep 29-Oct 5, 2011: This week’s update from Cristalino Jungle Lodge takes the form of a series of photos of one of my fa
DaleForbes: Digiscoping the African Wattled Plover (Vanellus senegallus): The African Wattled Plover (Lapwing)is found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and while it can
Gunnar: Facebook Interest lists for birders: Facebook lists. You probably already use Facebook lists to group your Facebook friends. I have my Fa
Category:Social Media for birders
Rebecca Nason:A Fresh New Image for the BTO: New logo for BTO The British Trust for Ornithology has just revealed it’s new look website, logo and
Gunnar:African vultures also in Danger: Kenya Vultures declining! Most birders have heard of the critical state of the vultures of the Indea
Gunnar:Breeding Spoon-billed Sandpiper found in Chukotka: BirdLife Species Champions strike gold in Chukotka The other day, I listened to one of Charlie Moore
Grrlscientist:Journal Club: The decline and fall of showy bustards: SUMMARY: intense early reproductive effort takes a toll on long-term survival of individual male hou
Category:Bird ResearchBirding AfricaBirding News
Kenn Kaufman:Will and Kate: the prequel: If you pay close attention to the popular media, you may have noticed recent references to some coup