Friday, December 6, 2013

Seeding The Flocks

It's been 10 years since the Tucson Valley CBC has had Harris's Sparrow. In fact, it has been found on only 4 out of the 40 years of data for the current circle. In 1972 there were four, an unusually large number. Will we get one this year?

Harris's Sparrows are usually found in the same sorts of places you find flocks of White-crowned Sparrows – brushy lots, washes, feeders. But what if you don't have any feeders in your area? Well then make one! All you have to do is scatter some seed on the ground.

Spreading seed during the week or two before a CBC in a likely spot to hold rare sparrows is a time-honored tradition, but one that few people think of doing. If, during the scouting of your area (you've been birding every morning so far in advance, right?), you find a few sparrows flitting off into a thicket, go back to your car, get a bucket of bird seed, and spread it around where you can stand at a distance and see it. It would be fantastic if everyone had 3 or 4 such spots in their areas.

What kind of seed you use is up to you, and since it involves quantity, price may be an issue. I find that our native sparrows (Zonotrichiae and Spizellae) like small seed and aren't as fond of millet. Mixtures that contain finely cracked corn are probably best, or an untreated grass seed mix is also good. I have found the latter in 50-pound sacks at about $1/pound at Ewing Irrigation at 4905 North Shamrock Place in Tucson; other turf stores might also have options.

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