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Golden-crowned Sparrow and Orange-crowned Warbler – Chesapeake Farms, MD

Alex Lamoreaux|

After chasing (and finding!) the Northern Wheatear this morning, Klye Aldinger, Ian Gardner, and I drove about an hour farther south to try and find the Golden-crowned Sparrow. This is a west coast species that is very rarely seen in the East. I was really doubting we would see it. It seemed like it wasnt very reliable and all birders HAD to stay in their cars to try and find the bird. When we pulled up to Chesapeake Farms, we had to drive down the driveway, which was lined with huge shrubs for about a fifth of a mile. The bushes were alive with sparrow; White-throated and White-crowned primarily. The little hope I did have for finding this rare sparrow was now all gone. How could we ever find the drabbest sparrow among all of these hundreds of sparrows? Well it only ended up taking about 5 minutes. The Golden-crowned Sparrow hopped out of the bushes and landed in the grass alongside the road. We got great looks at this bird, which was also a lifer for me! A few minutes later, Ian spotted a warbler at the top of a bush near the Golde-crowned Sparrow. It was an Orange-crowned Warbler! This is a very rare warbler for the Eastern US, especially this late in the year. The warbler flew in closer to us and with a little bit of pishing, the warbler came right in for nice, close-up photos. Below are some photos I took this morning.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Orange-crowned Warbler

Snow Geese in a field nearby (there were about 4500 total in one particular field)

  • Rob

    Maybe it’s just the pic but to me that warbler looks more like a MacGillivrays Warbler!?!. Of course this would be even much more rare than an OC–but if a GC Sparrow can show up why not a Mac Warbler?
    Congrats on all the great birds!
    -RF

    • I am not familiar with macGillivray’s Warbler since I have never seen one. But I do know that the female Mac Warbler has more of a gray hood on its head that ends very abrubtly at the breast whereas Orange-crowned Warbler’s gray head fades into the greenish-yellow of the breast (like the bird I have photographed, but both warblers have long, pointy, gray bills, and all other features are very similar. I will look into this possibility. Thanks for pointing it out!

  • Anonymous

    The warbler doesn’t look like a typical OC, but that’s because it’s a first year bird, which explains the contrast in color on the hood/rest of the body, as opposed to a uniformly yellow/gray adult. MacGillivray’s eye ring, among other features, would be much more “broken” in appearance and the pinkish bill would be obvious. Still, OC is a good December bird anywhere in the east.

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