Friday, January 30, 2015

One-legged Sparrow

I first saw the one-legged sparrow in my November 2014 garden

The cute one-legged sparrow has visited my garden every day for the past three months. He (or she) pecks at the seeds that fall to the ground under the bird feeder, sometimes for hours. The song sparrow, Melospiza melodia, is a common brown sparrow with heavy dark streaks on on its chest coalescing into a central dark spot. The female song sparrow's appearance is the same as the male's, which is why I don't know if my one-legged friend is a 'he' or a 'she.' Sparrows are ground feeders, so it doesn't matter that he can't land on the bird feeder above him.

In the winter months H.H. provides a heated water dish near the bird feeder. The one-legged sparrow has no trouble hopping onto the rim for a drink. When the water is at a low level, I sometimes think he will fall in, but he doesn't ...

When I made a Google search, I found sparrows with only one leg are not unusual. They are resilient and unfazed by their disability. I hope mine is around for the Bird Count that is taking place from February 13 through 16 this year. Click here for more information.
Launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird Count was the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.
Since then, more than 100,000 people of all ages and walks of life have joined the four-day count each February to create an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. -- Cornell University
I urge my gardening friends to join in the count this year. It's simple to do and can be done anywhere in the world.

Some of the birds in my garden this week, in addition to my one-legged sparrow ...

Male Eastern Bluebird
Feemale Eastern Bluebird

I think the female bluebird, while not such a bright blue as the male, is extremely pretty! Don't you agree?

Female and Male Eastern Bluebirds

I bought H.H. a new squirrel-proof bird feeder for Christmas. The nuthatch was the first to check it out.

White Breasted Nuthatch before the latest snow storm
Male Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch waiting for his turn at the feeder
American Goldfinch
White Breasted Nuthatch

I love all the birds, but my favorite (today anyway) is the cheeky titmouse. His character always comes through in pictures of him.

Tufted Titmouse

As well as the seed feeder and the heated water dish, H.H. also provides suet.

Female Downy Woodpecker on the suet feeder

Back to my one-legged visitor: Song sparrows return to the same area each year, defending their small territory by singing from thick shrubs. Their song consists of three short notes followed by a varied trill, sometimes interpreted as Madge-Madge-Madge, put on your teakettle-ettle-ettle. They can live for 5+ years, so I hope my resilient one-legged friend is around for that long.

Time for me to put on my teakettle. A cup of tea in my favorite chair looking out at the birds visiting feeders and water dish: Bliss!

Happy backyard birding!
Pamela x

Cardinal checks out the suet.

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  1. What great pictures! We have bluebirds in our neighborhood, but I never see them in the winter. I just thought they migrated. I keep birdfeeders and suet on the front porch, where I can see them out the computer room window. The cardinals can be quite demanding when the feeders are empty--they sit in the rhododendron bush and chirp urgently at me! I love the little titmouses; they truly do show a lot of personality. Your one-legged song sparrow is a sweet little thing!

    1. I hope you are taking part in the bird count, Kimberley!

    2. I plan to this year. I just marked it on my calendar so I won't forget, as I have done in previous years!

  2. I have been watching your wonderful birds with open mouth. In our country we have a totally different bird population, except the sparrows. But I never saw before one with only one leg. The Cardinals are so beautiful, so are the Eastern bluebirds and than the funny titmouse. Bird count was here a few weeks ago.
    Have a nice weekend!

  3. Super pictures Pam You have some very pretty birds visiting. I hope you get a good count when it comes. We had our bird count last weekend and as is usual, the birds were not as abundant as they are on every other day! I swear they know!
    I had a couple of Magpies last year, both with, what seemed like deformed legs. Neither bird used this leg and yet they got around just like your Sparrow, sad to say I have not seen them both since the end of summer.

  4. Did you get caught in that recent blizzard?
    I see LOTS of snow!

    1. Didn't get as much snow as our neighbors in New England.

  5. Oh what a cutie pie and I am always amazed at how resilient animals can be....I really like the new bird house too. I have that suet feeder and have noticed more birds visiting it this year.

    1. Are you taking part in the bird count this year, Donna?

  6. Oh you captured some lovely bird shots and your feeders are just like ornaments too. We used to have a 1 legged robin visit.

    1. A lovely comment from a wonderful photographer. I am honored, Rosie. Thanks so much!

  7. It's not easy to take good pictures of birds. I love your pictures, Pam!
    Why don't you give a name to this lovely one-legged sparrow? Well, maybe, it's not a good idea. We are getting attached to animals with names...

  8. Wonderful photos. You look after your feathered friends so well, I'm sure your one legged sparrow will be with you for a long time to come. Our bird count was last week but the birds always seem to go in to hiding, I'm sure they know they're being watched.

  9. Very nice bird photos, Pam. I love your bird feeder too. I never heard that having one leg was not such a detriment to birds. It really seems like it would make them easy prey. Hope your sparrow lives a long life.

    1. When I get too close to the window, he is the first to fly away, Donna. He's very quick. Maybe he has an increased awareness of his surroundings. I hope so. I appreciate your kind comment about my photos -- yours are always so stunning! Thank you. P. x

  10. What nice pictures of some beautiful birds! I had no idea that the female bluebirds were so pretty. I'd love to have birds to watch, but the same outdoor dog that allows me to garden nearly deer-free keeps our yard nearly bird-free. I'll just enjoy your birds vicariously. Thanks for sharing! -Beth

  11. Aw, cute little thing. I've never seen a one-legged one before, but I don't usually look at the groups of sparrows that closely. I wouldn't have thought that it would be fairly common. I'm glad it doesn't seem to affect it at all. That is a lovely picture of the bluebirds together. Mine are very camera shy. I love the new bird feeder - so cute! The kids and I enjoy counting birds for the GBBC every year. They get quite into it!

  12. Sounds like a nice wintertime chore, I'm in! -although I suspect my counts will be low since there's no feeder up this winter.
    The photos are great, I love the bluebirds in the snow as well as the others. I was also one who thought they migrated.

  13. Great photos Pam, I have never seen a one-legged sparrow before! I have lots of sparrows in my tall thuja at the bottom of my garden, but to be able to see them up-close I have to be outside. Sadly the birds are too scared of me so they fly back into the tree as soon as I come outside so I never get to see them close or photograph them, but I can see them when I stand at my backdoor :-)