Rufous-collared Sparrow

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Sat 2 Oct 2010 22:28
Rufous-collared Sparrow

 

 

We have seen these little chaps in Trinidad, Machu Picchu and Huaraz. PhD's have done enormous work on their song, distribution and there is a huge amount of information on the internet, we like them because they are so cute. The Rufous-collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis, is an American sparrow found in a wide range of habitats, often near humans, from the extreme southeast of Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, and on the island of Hispaniola. It is famous for its diverse vocalizations which have been intensely studied since the 1970's, particularly by Paul Handford and Stephen C. Lougheed (UWO), Fernando Nottebohm (Rockefeller University) and Pablo Luis Tubaro (UBA). Local names for this bird include the Portuguese tico-tico and the Spanish chingolo.

Description: The Rufous-collared Sparrow is 13.5–15 cm long and weighs 20–25 g. The adult has a stubby grey bill and a grey head with broad black stripes on the crown sides and thinner stripes through the eye and below the cheeks. The nape and breast sides are rufous and the upperpart are black-streaked buff-brown. There are two white wing bars. The throat is white, and the underparts are off-white, becoming brown on the flanks and with a black breast patch. Young birds have a duller, indistinct head pattern, with brown stripes and a buff ground colour. They lack the rufous collar, and have streaked underparts. There are between twenty five and twenty nine subspecies. In general, the smaller forms occur in coastal mountains, intermediate birds in the Andes, and large, darker, forms breed on the tepuis. The largest of the tepui subspecies, Z. c. perezchincillae, has grey underparts, and the rufous collar extends as a black band of freckles across the breast. This form might be separable as a distinct species, or it might just be a particularly distinct population due to genetic bottleneck effects.

 

 

Ecology: In the northern and western part of its range, this generally abundant bird is typically found at altitudes between 600 and 4000 m, but in the southern and eastern part it is commonly found down to near sea level. It can be seen in virtually any open or semi-open habitat, including cultivation, gardens, parks, grassland and scrubby second growth or cerrado. It copes well with urban and suburban environments, but is absent from the densely forested sections of the Amazon Basin. It is also scarce on the Guiana Shield, occurring mainly on some tepuis and in the Pakaraima Mountains of GuyanaExplaining the presence of this species in the island of Hispaniola and absence from the rest of the Caribbean basin, may be a similar theory to the one proposed for the Hispaniolan Crossbill (Loxia megaplaga). In that scenario, the bird's ancestors were present across the region during the much cooler climes of the last glacial period, but was left marooned in the highest Hispaniolan mountains once warming began. The Rufous-collared Sparrow feeds on the ground on seeds, fallen grain, insects and spiders. It will sometimes join mixed-species feeding flocks and has been observed to pick termites from spider webs. It is usually seen in pairs which hold small territories, or in small flocks. Tame and approachable, it is common throughout its large range and not considered threatened by the IUCN.

 

 

The breeding season is limited by food availability and ultimately rainfall. In the subtropical yungas of NW Argentina, females begin to build nests around the end of October, when the wet season comes, but by early December most nesting activity has already finished. By contrast, 2,000 meters ASL in the Andes of Pichincha Province (Ecuador), eggs were being incubated in December, and nest-building activity recorded in March and April, suggesting extended breeding throughout the wet season. The open cup nest consists of plant material lined with fine grasses. It is constructed in matted vegetation on the ground, low in a tree or bush, or in a niche in a wall, perhaps two meters high at best but usually less than half a meter above ground.

 

 

The female lays two or three pale greenish-blue eggs with reddish-brown blotches. The eggs measure approximately 19–21 mm by 15–16 mm and weigh 2.6–2.8 grams each. They are incubated by the female for twelve to fourteen days, during which she spends about two-thirds of the daytime brood or attend the nest in some other way. The male helps in feeding the chicks however, which stay in the nest for about two more weeks. They are not very voracious, and even as they approach fledging the parents will only feed them every 10 minutes or so. Brood parasitism, e.g. by the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), may occur, and breeding failure due to predation is very frequent during the incubation period. Predation on nestlings, on the other hand, does not seem to occur more often than in similar-sized Passeroidea.

 

 

 

ALL IN ALL A LOVELY LITTLE CHAP