Friday, November 30, 2012 Kenai Song Sparrow Study

Our Alaskan SONG SPARROW is so much darker and chunkier than the eastern subspecies. Since my subject posed so nicely today, I thought I'd share its photos in this Song Sparrow Study. It even showed me its pink tongue!

Ed Clark responded to my request for Song Sparrow comments. He noted there are SEVEN subspecies of SONG SPARROWS in Alaska.  The largest are on Attu in the western Aleutians and the smallest on Hyder in Southeast. This song sparrow (above) is a Kenai Song Sparrow.

Wikipedia sorts the 24 subspecies of this North American sparrow by geographic region. According to several scientific studies by Dr. Christin Pruett, there isn't enough genetic differentiation to make them into separate species, despite their obvious differences in body size, plumage coloration, and song dialects.

Thanks to Ed for his personal observations and to Wikipedia at

Here are the subspecies of Melospiza melodia and where they are found:

maxima, the Giant Song Sparrow: Attu, Shemya, Atka
         Very gray overall, long, diffuse streaks. Bill long and slender.

sanka, the Aleutian Song Sparrow: Dutch Harbor, Cold Bay, False Pass
          Similar to maxima; grayer still and bill even more slender.

insignis, Bischoff Song Sparrow: Kodiak Island and nearby islands
           Many migrate. A darkish grey, medium-sized form.

kenaiensis, Kenai Song Sparrow: Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound islands
         Some resident, some migrant. Smaller and browner than insignis.

caurina, Yakutat Song Sparrow: Cordova, Yakutat, Cape Yakataga, north Gulf of Alaska coast, many migrate to Pacific Northwest
         A smaller version of kenaiensis.

rufina, Sooty Song Sparrow: Sitka; Ketchikan, outer islands of Alexander Archipelago and Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands)
         A very dark, rufous, and small form.

merrilli: Merrill's Song Sparrow: Hyder, Stikine River corridor, also in N Nevada

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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