Being Specific About Sparrows

We can all identify a sparrow, right? A small brown bird that you see in and around shrubbery and occasionally at your feeders. Would it surprise you to know that there are at least 35 species of sparrows and even subspecies of some of those types? And, since they are such a small and active bird, identification can be a definite challenge.   It’s no wonder they are often called LBJ….Little Brown Jobs.

Since we have several types that are common to our area in the winter, why not throw some black oil sun flower seeds on the ground around your shrubs and feeders and see if you can attract some sparrows and spot the differences. The most common that you may be seeing on Seabrook Island are the Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, the Savannah Sparrow, and the White Throated Sparrow (this one at least has a name that gives you a clue). This page from The Great Backyard Birding Count on The Cornell Lab site, Identifying Some Common Sparrows, keeps it simple by offering a quick reference to the best identifiers of some types of sparrows. 

Chipping Sparrow by Don Rash


The Chipping Sparrow has a rust red colored cap and a black line going through his eye. The adult lacks the streaked chest of some sparrows. You might also notice that he is one of the smaller of these four sparrows. 




Savannah Sparrow by Judy Howle

The Savannah Sparrow is another small sparrow, but with streaking on its chest. You will have to catch the yellow eyebrows and whitish crown stripe to correctly identify him. 




Song Sparrow by Aileen Barnes

The Song Sparrow has more prominent streaking on its chest that comes together in one central dark spot. Besides possibly being a little larger than the other sparrows, you may notice him scratching simultaneously with both feet to expose seeds.


White-throated Sparrow by Don Rash


A white throat and yellow patch between the eye and bill might be the best ways to identity the White-throated Sparrow. This larger sparrow also has a gray breast. However, you might identify the song first as he sings “Sweet Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada”.

So keep your binoculars and bird books handy and challenge yourself to identify some specific types of sparrows this winter.

Submitted by: Joleen Ardaiolo

Photos from The Great Backyard Birding Count on The Cornell Lab site, Identifying Some Common Sparrows


Learning Together at Jenkins Point

Thursday, January 17 at 10:00am – Jenkins Point
Location: Meet at First Lagoon on left
Max: 20
Cost: None for 2019 members; $5 donation for guests

Register to join us for a Learning Together on Jenkins Point.

The Roseatte Spoonbills continue to roost at the lagoon near the curve. A Coopers Hawk has been seen repeatedly on a branch on the left. A “rare” Red-breasted Nuthatch has been seen multiple times on Old Wharf. Seems like enough history to schedule a “last minute” Learning Together on Jenkins Point. The Roseatte Spoonbills are reported to arrive late morning so the walk has been scheduled accordingly. Hopefully we’ll see the birds mentioned above plus the Black-crowned Night Herons, ever popular Great Egrets and numerous songbirds. You can come on your bike, walk along the road or go from place to place in your car. Your choice of transportation as we traverse about a half mile down the road.

As always, be sure to bring your water, binoculars, hats and sunscreen.

If you are not yet a 2019 SIB member, you must first become a member for only $10 by following the instructions on our website: If you were a 2018 member but have yet to renew for 2019, you may renew following the instructions above or renew the day of the walk. Or you may pay the Guest Fee of $5.

Join SIB to Watch “The Big Year”

In preparation for SIB’s first evening event of 2019 on January 30th, at which Aija & Ed Konrad will share their 2018 experience of birding throughout the US, we thought it would be fun to watch the 2011 move, “The Big Year.”

The storyline (as found on IMDB):

the big year“In birding, a Big Year is seeing or hearing as many different species of birds as possible in a calendar year. Three men pursue the Birder of the Year title: Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson), who’s seen a record 732 in a past big year, Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), newly retired, and Brad Harris (Jack Black), who narrates the story. Life gets in the way: Bostick’s wife wants a baby, Stu’s firm needs him for sensitive negotiations, and Brad, divorced and underemployed at 36, has an encouraging mom and a disapproving dad. They criss-cross the continent (including a trip to Alaska’s westernmost island), follow migration patterns, and head for storms that force birds to ground. Who will win, at what cost, and with what rewards?”

Watch “The Big Year” trailer !

SIB will provide the popcorn and snacks! You can bring pillows to make the chairs more comfy and BYOB. Please SIGN UP to join us for this fun afternoon that will be full of laughs!

Tuesday January 22, 2019 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Location: Osprey 1, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Max: 25
Cost: FREE, but you must be a member of SIB (You may join at the event)

Seabrook Island Results of the Annual Christmas Bird Count

Birders of all ages participated in our event – Patricia & Page Schaefer’s grandchildren, Dallas & Page

On behalf of SIB, we would like to thank our 30 volunteers for taking time on Friday January 4, 2019, to contribute to the 2018-2019 Sea Island Christmas Bird Count (CBC)!  In total we had ten homes who submitted Backyard Birding forms and we had another ten groups who submitted the forms for all across Seabrook Island, including Camp St. Christopher, the beach, ponds, horse pastures and marshes.

Although the official counts for the CBC have not been finalized, our teams identified 99 species on our island.  This is less than the previous two years (112 & 116 respectively), I personally found it challenging due to the extremely foggy then rainy weather resulting in low number of birds seen. On that day, no one on Seabrook Island even saw a Wood Stork, Turkey or Black Vulture! I’m impressed that of the 20 locations, at least 14 of these reported a unique species!  Other interesting facts are we had 3 locations with a Baltimore Oriole and 6 locations with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird – all of which were seen in backyards, demonstrating the importance of our members participating from their home locations!

Several of our members captured great photos during the day including birds at the backyard feeders, birds through the fog at North Beach and some candids of our birders doing what they love!  Please enjoy the photos and we hope even more of our members will join us the first week of 2020 when we will again be counting birds on Seabrook Island for our annual Christmas Bird Count.

Continue reading “Seabrook Island Results of the Annual Christmas Bird Count”

Sign up for SIB’s Seminar: How to use eBird

eBird ( is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. A collaborative enterprise with hundreds of partner organizations, thousands of regional experts, and hundreds of thousands of users, eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. eBirdcontributes to the understanding and conservation of birds, how to explore the hundreds of millions of eBird observations, and how you can share your sightings with friends and researchers from every country in the world. Members of Seabrook Island Birders use eBird to track birds they see around the world and during our various activities.If you would like to learn more about eBird and how you can use this fabulous tool, we hope you will join us for a hands-on seminar.

Learn how to:

  • Load the app on your device or find the website on your computer (please bring your phone/tablet and/or your laptop computer)
  • Create a login for eBird
  • How to select a location
  • Input sightings both on the app and on the website
  • Share your sightings with others who have birded with you

If there is time, we will also show you how to:

  • Review your eBird statistics
  • How to create a Seabrook Island “Patch”
  • Search eBird to find the location of a specific bird species
  • Search eBird to learn which species are found at specific locations

Please sign up to join us for this seminar!

Date: Thursday January 17, 2019 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Location: Osprey 1, Lake House, Seabrook Island, SC
Max: 12
Cost: None for members; $5 donation for guests


“Tales of a Big Year” – SIB Evening Program January 30, 2019


Big Year Ed sml (1).jpg

We know most Seabrook Island Birder members enjoy watching the many birds around Seabrook Island. On one of SIB’s bird walks we may be lucky to see 25 different species. SIB members Aija and Ed Konrad decided to make 2018 a “Big Year” and set a goal to find 500 species in 365 days within the United States.

Join us at the Lake House for another fun and informative evening with Aija and Ed’s “Tales of a Big Year – the journey to 570”, highlighting their adventures as they crisscrossed the country from coast to coast.

Many of you have met Aija and Ed as they have led bird walks on the island. Aija became an avid birder after deer invaded her award-winning gardens in Atlanta. Ed soon followed as a photographer extraordinaire of the birds they see. Their home is in Atlanta but also enjoy their condo on Seabrook Island where you can often see them on North Beach with binoculars, spotting scope and long lens camera, enjoying the various sea and shore birds.

SIB will provide beverages including wine and coffee.  We ask everyone to RSVP no later than January 27, 2019 so we will know how much wine to purchase and how many chairs to set up.

For only $10, you may join or renew your 2019 SIB membership the night of the event. Non-members will pay $5 to attend.

Don’t miss this chance to have another fun filled evening with our flock of Seabrook Island Birders!

 Learn how to join SIB 

Contact us if you have questions:

Happy Holidays!

Northern Cardinal from Wingscapes 12 Birds of Christmas

Happy Holidays from Seabrook Island Birders!  May the season bring you many joys and maybe even a few wonderous feathered finds.

American Robin – Ed Konrad



Pictures of Northern Cardinals, American Robins, Canada Geese and ducks are often seen on holiday cards.  A little research shows how many different birds are in the popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  (Information provided by sites noted below.)

A Partridge in a Pear tree – The “partridge in a pear tree” is probably the Red-legged Partridge, a rotund seed-eater native to continental Europe.

A red-legged partridge surveys the Midlands of England in winter. (Photo: Erni/Shutterstock)

It was introduced to England as a game bird in the 1770s, and it’s still common in the U.K. today. Another candidate might be the Grey Partridge.   This small, chicken-like bird, also known as the Hungarian partridge, is native to Eurasia but now makes its home in agricultural grasslands along the United States–Canadian border. Gray Partridge hens produce a clutch of up to 22 eggs—one of the largest clutches of any bird species—meaning you’ll usually find more than just one partridge in a pear tree.

Two Turtle Doves -Were probably originally European turtle doves, native birds that were widespread in the U.K. when “The 12 Days of Christmas” was introduced.   In the U.S. it would more likely be mourning doves.   Male and female mourning doves work together to feed their babies “crop milk” or “pigeon milk” that’s secreted by their crop lining. These adult pairs tend to mate for life, which may be why the song’s composer reserved this bird for the second slot in the holiday countdown.

Three French Hens – The “French hen” referenced in this Christmas classic could be any chicken breed (as chickens are native to France).  Unfortunately, if you spot a domesticated chicken, you can’t post in eBird as domesticated birds aren’t counted.

Four Calling Birds – Although recent renditions refer to them as “calling birds,” the original version uses “colly birds”—a colloquial British term that means “black as coal”—to describe this bird. Therefore, the common blackbird is widely considered the lover’s intended gift.

Five Golden Rings –  A birder’s interpretation of this gift could be Ring-Necked Pheasants.  The males’ bright copper and gold plumage makes it the perfect “gift”.  Another site suggest five gold rings could refer to five “gold spinks” or Goldfinches.

A greylag goose trudges through snow in central England. (Photo: Erni/Shutterstock)

Six Geese a laying – As a British Christmas carol, the reference is likely to the British bird, the Greylag goose.  We of course are more likely to think of a Canada Goose.

One mute swam goes a-swimming at Forfar Loch in Angus, Scotland. (Photo: Mark Caunt/Shutterstock)

Seven Swans a swimming – the seven swimming waterfowl are most likely mute swans. These large birds were long kept in semi-domesticity in England, where they were considered property of the Crown.


The remaining gifts are not as obvious birding gifts.

Eight Maids-a-milking – Two sites stretched it to be Magpies. They chose the black-billed magpie for its milky white belly.

Nine Ladies dancing – One site said the Parotia, “ballet dancing bird,” is the perfect choice to replace the Christmas carol’s “nine ladies dancing.” Male Parotias learn their unique dance moves from their fathers who use this display to attract a mate. Their decorative, six-quill plumes are dramatic and dazzling. These birds of paradise aren’t native to the song’s country of origin, but you can spot them in New Guinea, a former British territory.

Ten Lords-a-leaping – We sing the song with the ten lords a-leaping, but in  the earliest known variant found in North America, on the Tenth Day of Christmas, the true love sent ten Cocks A-Crowing.

Eleven Pipers piping – Sandpipers could be the easy bird interpretation.

Drummers drumming – The most common drumming bird is said to be the Snipe but another site suggested the Ruffed Grouse is the drumming bird. When displaying for females or defending its territory, the male Ruffed Grouse beats its wings in the air to create a drumming sound that scares off potential threats. Another interesting Ruffed Grouse fact: the bird’s toes grow projections that act as snowshoes in the winter months.

Sites used in submitting this article:

12 Birds of Christmas

The bird songs behind ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’

The 12 Birds of Christmas by John R. Henderson