Birds at Work

Golden-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia atricapilla)

It was a sunny afternoon after a morning shower. On the middle path in the Native Plant Area, where contractors with power tools had exposed a great deal of dirt a few weeks earlier, dozens of Golden-crowned Sparrows were hard at work picking up seeds and the occasional fresh blade of grass. They had help from a couple of Ground Squirrels with a similar diet. I was impressed by the birds’ energy and endurance. The birds pecked at the ground about 70 times a minute, each time at a specific target. Occasionally an extra-large bite slowed their pecking while they compacted it. Mostly they swallowed as quickly as they pecked. They kept going, moving after each peck, until some alarm scattered the whole flock and sent them running into the bushes, only to emerge as soon as the coast was clear. Their foraging will slow down but not completely stop the progress of weeds that will colonize the newly bared ground.

In the winter, the Golden-crowned Sparrow’s iconic yellow head sign tends to fade. You can see it most plainly on one of the birds toward the end of the video, but still not as sharp and clear as in spring and summer, when the head paint matters a lot to breeding partners. Wouldn’t it be odd if humans were only interested in sex during spring and summer, but not the rest of the year?

On the sound track you can faintly hear the Bahianatos band playing near the parking circle at the end of Spinnaker Way.

Golden-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia atricapilla)

More about these birds: Wikipedia Audubon Cornell In Chavez Park

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