The subtly plumaged Lincoln’s Sparrow is often described as retiring or secretive, though it is widespread over much of North America during migration and winter. On its breeding grounds, the Lincoln’s Sparrow has a relatively loud song often described as wren-like.
Lincoln’s Sparrow nests are rarely parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds because much of the breeding range of the sparrow is outside the range of the cowbird. The oldest known Lincoln’s Sparrow was over 7 years old.
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Description of the Lincoln’s Sparrow
The Lincoln’s Sparrow has a streaked back, reddish wings, a gray supercilium, a buffy eye ring, and a buffy breast with fine, dark streaks. Length: 6 in. Wingspan: 7 in.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles lack the gray supercilium and have more streaking below.
Lincoln’s Sparrows inhabit alder and willow thickets and brushy bogs during the breeding season, but in migration and winter they occur in low, dense vegetation and overgrown fields.
Lincoln’s Sparrows eat insects and seeds.
Lincoln’s Sparrows forage on the ground near cover.
Lincoln’s Sparrows breed from Alaska across southern Canada, and in mountainous parts of the western U.S. They winter along the West Coast and southern U.S. as well as in Mexico. The population is stable.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Lincoln’s Sparrow.
The shape of a bird’s wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species’ identification.
Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History
Lincoln’s Sparrows are usually seen singly, and they generally remain in or close to cover.
There are three subspecies of Lincoln’s Sparrows, but plumage variation among them is modest.
The song consists of a long series of bubbly trills. A sharp “chip” call is given as well.
Vesper Sparrows have white outer tail feathers, lack buufy wach on breast and are often seen in more open habitat than Lincoln’s.
Song Sparrows lack the buffy breast, and have thicker streaking below.
The Lincoln’s Sparrow’s nest is a cup of grasses and sedges and is lined with finer materials. It is placed on the ground hidden by dense vegetation.
Number: Usually lay 3-5 eggs.
Color: Greenish with darker markings.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 10-14 days, and fledge at about 9-12 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Lincoln’s Sparrow
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Lincoln’s Sparrow – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
MELOSPIZA LINCOLNII LINCOLNII (Audubon)Contributed by J. MURRAY SPEIRS AND DORIS HUESTIS SPEIRS
Those who know the Lincoln’s sparrow no doubt think of it as the little bird that is “afraid of its own shadow,” or perhaps as the sparrow that sings like a house wren, or again perhaps, as the bird that looks so like an immature swamp sparrow that experts often hesitate to identify it. If you have not yet met the elusive Lincoln’s sparrow this will serve as an introduction to some of its most noteworthy characteristics.
Audubon (t834) tells how this species came by its name.
We had been in Labrador nearly three weeks before this Finch was discovered. One morning while the sun was doing his best to enliven the gloomy aspect of the country, I chanced to enter one of those singular small valleys here and there to be seen. The beautiful verdure of the vegetation, the numerous flowers that grew sprinkled over the ground, the half-smothered pipings of some frogs, and the multitudes of mosquitoes and flies of various sorts, seemed to belong to a region very different from any that I had previously explored. But if the view of this favoured spot was pleasing to my eye, how much more to my ear were the sweet notes of this bird as they came thrilling on my sense, surpassing in vigour those of any American Finch with which I am acquainted, and forming a song which seemed a compound of those of the Canary and Wood-Lark of Europe. I immediately shouted to my companions, who were not far distant. They came, and we all followed the songster as it flitted from one bush to another to evade our pursuit. No sooner would it alight than it renewed its song; but we found more wildness in this species than in any other inhabiting the same country, and it was with difficulty that we at last procured it. Chance placed my young companion, THOMAS LINCOLN, in a situation where he saw it alight within shot, and with his usual unerring aim, he cut short its career. On seizing it, I found it to be a species which I had not previously seen; and supposing it to be new, I named it Tom’s Finch, in honour of our friend LINCOLN, who was a great favourite among us.
By the time that Audubon came to write the original description of this bird, which was indeed new to science: although he found specimens already existed undescribed in the collection of William Cooper of New York: he used the more formal name “Lincoln’s Finch, Fringilla Lincolnii.” It has since become customary to call the typical American Emberizinae “sparrows,” and we now know this bird as Lincoln’s sparrow.
During the summers of 1955, 1956, and 1957 we investigated the life history of Lincoln’s sparrow in the vicinity of Dorion, a scattered community in Stirling Township, Thunder Bay District, about 50 miles northeast of Port Arthur, Ontario near the north shore of Lake Superior. Incidental observations were made at various other points along the north shore. Most of the literature dealing with this bird has to do with its occurrence and behavior on migration and with its song. A few accounts of nests and their contents have been published, but there is no study of the activities of the birds during the nesting cycle. Our studies were undertaken to fill in this gap in their life history. A good deal yet remains to be learned, particularly of the birds’ relationships with other species and ‘with the later stages of the nesting cycle. We have no personal observations of this species on its winter range. Reports of its winter activities in Central America suggest that its behavior and apparent abundance there are very different from our general concept of a secretive, uncommon species.
Lincoln’s sparrow is found over a wide range, from its wintering area in Mexico and Guatemala to the limit of trees in northern Canada during the breeding season, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Throughout this range, it is largely a bird of shrublands. It occupies the scrub growth after a forest has been cut over, also the natural brush strips around the edges of bogs and along water courses, the new growth following forest fires, and the “permanent” scrub zones of the western mountains.
An essential feature of Lincoln’s sparrow habitat appears to be the presence of low bush growth, usually from 4 to 8 feet high, and with openings in which tufts of grasses or sedges occur. It is often swampy or definitely wet underfoot, though this is not always the case. Lester L. Snyder told us that in the Abitibi region of northern Ontario he frequently found Lincoln’s sparrow in dry, upland openings in the forest. In the Nipigon region he found the species in raspberry patches; farther south in the province, in wet places with swamp sparrows. At Grandview in the Thunder Bay District of Ontario the bird lives on generally dry and rocky hillsides with low shrub growth of dogwood, alder, willow and birch, occasional taller aspens and birches, and with openings where clumps of grasses and sedges grow around temporary rock pools.
We found Lincoln s sparrows in the Dorion region generally in recently cutover areas full of brush piles and stumps, fallen logs and new growth interspersed with grassy openings arid rain pools. Marsh marigolds were a conspicuous feature of many territories in early June. Other plants frequently found were Labrador tea, sweet coltsfoot (Petasites), wood anemone, and young wild cherry shrubs. Small spruces, alders, willows, dogwoods, and saplings of birch and aspen were features of most of the territories. Many were adjacent to stands of larger trees of aspen, birch, and spruce, and the birds some-sometimes retired into these forests when disturbed. Many territories included isolated large trees of these same species left by the loggers because of imperfections, and which the bird occasionally used as song perches.
Lincoln’s sparrows now appear to be invading the sort of manmade “forest edge” found along roadsides and after cuttings in forest country, but originally they must have depended for edge on fires and water, the edges of lakes, streams, and bogs. Many of the recorded nests have been in open sphagnum bogs in spruce forest.
Spring: Lincoln’s sparrows move northward in spring to their breeding territories from the wintering grounds. These lie as far south as El Salvador, Guatemala, Baja California, and Florida, and so the little birds move over most of the United States and much of Canada as they journey northward for nesting. Of their occurrence in New York, Ludlow Griscom (1923) writes:
While uncommon it is a regular transient in our area, but will never be seen, except by a lucky “fluke,” unless specially looked for. In spring it is particularly fond of water courses, the banks of which are grown with bushes, where it remains down among the roots and disappears at the slightest noise. By going as rapidly and noisily as possible through such a tract, a trim, small, grayish-brown Song Sparrow will sometimes flash into view for a second as it dives headlong into the bushes a few feet ahead. Making every possible effort to be quiet, the student should next make a wide detour and return to the bank ahead of where the bird was seen to enter. In this way I have had the bird come to me within six feet. *** Lincoln’s Sparrow will occur, however, in dense shrubbery almost everywhere, and I see it every spring in Central Park. It is exceptional to see more than one or two a season, and then it will occur on the big waves only.
At Toronto, migrating white-crowned sparrows and Lincoln’s sparrows usually arrive at the same time. As the former is more conspicuous and noticed first, keen bird students in the area immediately become alert to the possibility of Lincoln’s lurking in the underbrush. Considering the apparent rarity of the species, a surprising number of these tiny sparrows are caught in banding traps in spring. Thus the trap reveals a species ever-watchful eyes may have missed.
William Brewster (1936) made some interesting notes on the appearance of six different Lincoln’s sparrows in May 1899 at his October Farm, near Concord, Mass. One bird was of particular interest to him:
It appeared * * * on the 15th and remained until the forenoon of the 22nd, spending its whole time within or on the outskirts of the thicket of bushes between the smaller cabin and the canoe landing. In a bed of ferns on the edge of this thicket, directly in front of the small cabin and some fifteen feet from the door, we kept a quantity of millet seed scattered about over the ground. This was visited by the Finch at frequent intervals and, no doubt, constituted his chief food supply during his stay. It may have had something to do with the length of his stay, also, hut the weather was very cool during this period and a number of other birds stayed in the same thicket for nearly the same length of time.
The Lincoln’s Finch was very shy at first and at all times exceedingly alert and suspicious but he showed a nice and, on the whole, wise discrimination in his judgment of different sights and sounds. A keen, intelligent little traveller, evidently, quite alive to the fact that dangers threatened at all times, but too cool-headed and experienced to be subject to the needless and foolish panics which seize upon many of the smaller birds. He soon learned to disregard the movements and noises which we made within the cabin, and the trains thundering by on the other side of the river did not disturb him in the least but if our door was suddenly thrown open or if a footstep was heard approaching along the river path, he at once retreated into the thickets behind the ferns, dodging from hush to bush and keeping behind anything that would serve as a screen until all was quiet again, when he would presently reappear at the edge of the covert and, after a short reconnaisance, begin feeding again.
But however busily engaged at the seed, no sight or sound escaped him. If a Chipmunk rustled the dry leaves on the neighboring hillside, he would stand erect and crane his neck, turning his head slowly from side to side to watch and listen. When a Swift, of which there were many flying about, passed close overhead with a sound of rushing wings, the Sparrow would crouch close to the ground and remain motionless for a minute or more. But when nothing occurred to excite his suspicions, he would feed busily and unconcernedly for minutes at a time. Some of the seed had sifted down among the dry leaves and for this he scratched precisely in the manner of the Fox Sparrow, making first a forward hop of about two inches and then a vigorously backward jump and kick which scattered behind him all the leaves that his feet had clutched. In this manner he would quickly clear a considerable space and then devote himself to the uncovered seeds, which he would pick up one by one and roll in his bill after the manner of most Sparrows.
He was invariably silent when at the seed bed, but within the recesses of his favorite thicket he sang freely at all hours, especially in the morning or early forenoon or when the sun had just emerged from a cloud. He never sang from the top of a bush like a Song Sparrow but usually from some perch only a yard or so above the ground in the depths of the covert and not infrequently on the ground itself as he rambled from place to place hopping slowly over the dry leaves.
In 1956 we arrived at Dorion before the Lincoln’s sparrows had settled on their nesting territories. May 16, 17, and 18 were cool with northwest winds and showers. Lincoln’s sparrows were seen on each of these cool days at Mrs. Rita Taylor’s feeding station in Dorion. There they, and various other species of sparrows, had been attracted by the scattering of rolled oats on the ground. On the nesting grounds 5 miles to the north, no Lincoln’s sparrows were seen or heard singing. However, on May 19 the sky cleared, the wind shifted to the south, the temperature rose, and three males were heard singing. May 20 and 21 continued warm and 9 of the 10 nesting territories under special study were occupied by singing males.
Roland C. Clement, who has observed the species in the interior of Quebec and Labrador during the breeding season writes us (in litt.):
“The birds are shy or wary, and though they sing well enough when the frequent rains and wind abate, they are difficult to see. In 1957 I heard the first song in the Knob Lake region on May 31st In 1945 I found a few birds at Indian House Lake (lat. 56° N.), where arrival was as late as June 19. This bird is much more common in that Canadian Zone pocket which is the Goose Bay region in Newfoundland Labrador. The species arrived there on May 30, 1944, and occupied alder runs or brushy brook borders near bogs.”
Courtship: At Dorion, Ontario, in 1957, we noted courtship behavior from May 28 to June 5, chiefly in mid-morning from 8:00 to 10:30 a.m. The birds were nest building.
In most eases the female appeared to take the initiative by crouching, fluttering her wings in the fashion of a baby bird begging for food, and uttering a special, excited, high-pitched, rather hoarse ‘dzee-dzee-dzee” note, very similar to notes song sparrows and swamp sparrows utter when inviting copulation. On June 9, 1956, a case was observed when a male appeared to take the initiative. He flew from a low stump to a small dogwood at the foot of a spruce, quivering his wings and “tit”ing excitedly. Launching forth over a bit of meadow, he planed gradually toward the ground and pounced on his mate, who rose from the grass apparently in anticipation of the pounce, just before he came to ground. In most cases the “dzzee-dzee-dzee” invitation of the female seemed sufficient to stimulate the male, but if this failed she might resort to slow, labored, fluttering flight inviting pursuit by her spouse. Pairs were seen to copulate on the ground, on brushpiles, on a picnic table, on a sign. One of our notes reads: “The mating took place about two feet off the ground along an alder branch which was in tiny leaf.”
The male’s behavior is very much as Margaret M. Nice (1937) describes for the song sparrow: Lincoln’s sparrow males “pounce” on their mates in much the same manner, although in most cases observed, they were encouraged to do so only after special vocal and behavioral invitations by their mates. After copulating the male quite frequently sang, sometimes while on the wing immediately after flying up from the female, at other times from a nearby branch.
A typical mating was observed at Dorion on June 2, 1956. The female was perched on a brushpile, quivering her wings and uttering intense, high-pitched “dzee-dzee-dzee” notes. After about 5 minutes of this the male flew down from a nearby spruce and pounced on her from above. A short chase took them out of sight behind the brushpile where, presumably, they copulated. The male then flew back into the spruce and sang. The female mounted to the top of the brushpile calling a slow “tit-tit-tit.” The male in the spruce fanned his tail as if displaying to the female, then flew off.
A pair may mate several times during the course of a morning. On May 29, 1957, a female Lincoln’s sparrow busily building her nest was seen to copulate with her mate seven times between 8:00 a.m. and 10:13 a.m. Once she had her bill full of long grasses and flew directly to the nest with them after the act.
In 1956 a second courtship cycle took place between July 1 and July 7. On July 1 a female Lincoln’s sparrow interrupted a heavy schedule of feeding 8-day-old young still in the nest by inviting copulation from her mate with begging flutterings. He obliged. This was probably the initial step in a second nesting that season.
Territory: Margaret M. Nice (1937) reports five stages in the establishment of territory by song sparrows. Our impressions after watching Lincoln’s sparrows at Dorion for 2 months in the late spring and early summer of 1956, were that the Lincoln’s sparrows did not fight among themselves for territories and that song was the only important territorial manifestation. We saw no threats of fighting between “rival” males during our many hours of observation that year.
On June 3, 1957, at least seven singing males were present on our 25-acre study area, which had no more than five in 1956. When we arrived on the territory of L3, a Lincoln’s sparrow flew down toward us from a height of about 25 feet from trees to the north. Another flew in low, also from the north. Both entered a brushpile right beside our parked car and chased each other in and out of the brushpile for several minutes. From their appearance and behavior, we felt both birds were females, both birds had their crests depressed, as is usual for females, and one uttered the female characteristic “zrrr” note. Finally one then the other left the brushpile and flew to the forest edge east of us and disappeared. Our field notes read: “After waiting some time for them to come back, I went over to the place where they had disappeared to see if they could be found again. A male was singing there at the southeast edge of his territory (L3). Another male was singing about 100 feet to the southeast (L2). The two sang thus for some time, then both flew out into the open and met in mid air. They climbed vertically upward, breast to breast, fighting on the wing to a height of about twenty feet; then one turned and flew to a tall spruce with the other in hot pursuit. The chase, and presumably the fight, continued near the top of the big spruce. L3’s mate called ‘zrrr’ from her territory, then flew to a branch of the spruce below the combatants as if to see better what was going on and cheer on her spouse. L2’s mate could he heard scolding from her territory, ‘tit’ing from cover.”
This account shows plainly that Lincoln’s sparrows are not immune from territorial fighting when competition becomes sufficiently severe. Seven pairs on 25 acres might not seem overly crowded, but one must remember that much of the area was pre-empted by other species, notably by man (this was a busy trout-rearing station) and by song sparrows that compete strongly and very successfully against the Lincoln’s sparrows. Swamp sparrows were also present in the more marshy areas along the creek; whether they competed with the Lincoln’s sparrows in this wetter part of the study area, we could not determine.
The nesting habitat at Dorion was the edge area between the forest and the buildings with their surrounding lawns and roads. Here were scattered bushes and small trees and a few large poplars and spruces. The area was “brushed” every few years to keep the forest from taking over the property, and the cuttings formed a layer on the ground into which at least one pair had sunk their nest. We found another nest in the grass bordering the roadside ditch. Much of the vegetation was about a foot high and included such plants as anemones, various grasses and sedges, wild roses and raspberries, small dogwood bushes and young evergreen trees, chiefly spruce and balsam fir. Some willows and alders grew along the creek. The actual species of plants are probably unimportant but their size and disposition probably are important. There should be shrub growth less than 8 feet high for concealment and from which the male can sing, openings carpeted with grasses, heaths, or annuals less than 2 feet high in which they can forage, and a substratum of brush cuttings, grass clumps, or sphagnum that the nest may be sunk into.
The actual size of the territory probably varies a good deal, as in other species. Those in the Dorion study area appeared to be about one acre in extent; some were a little larger and some a little smaller. Several of these were used for more than one year, though we did not do enough color-banding to be sure they were occupied by the same individuals.
In 1956 and 1957 Lincoln’s sparrows occupied their territories in the Dorion region as soon after their arrival as the weather warmed up, as manifested by the presence of singing males. Nesting may not begin for another 10 days to 2 weeks. On cool windy days during this interval it was often difficult or impossible to find the owners of the territories, either because they temporarily abandoned territories or perhaps because they did not sing in such weather. We were not able to stay through the summer in 1956 and 1957, but in 1955 the Lincoln’s sparrows were present and feeding young on the trout hatchery property until mid-September. It appears likely, therefore, that the territories are occupied until the birds migrate in autumn.
Nesting: Lewis McI. Terrill (MS.) has found a number of nests of the Lincoln’s sparrow in Quebec, most of them “in shallow depressions on sphagnum mounds concealed by Ledum bushes and resting on the accumulation of fallen Ledum leaves. The outstanding materials composing the rather frail structures were leached sedges, especially the filiform, wiry stems of such species as Carex trisperma and C. leptalea, which commonly drape the sphagnum mounds in the Lincoln’s sparrow’s habitat.”
He writes further (MS.):
In the St. Lawrence River Valley below Quebec this sparrow becomes decidedly more common, especially in the Rivière du Loup, Matane, and Gasp~ Counties. Preference is shown for the dryer, bushier portions of sphagnum bogs, particularly the older bogs suitable for the production of peat rather than the wet sphagnum of newer bogs. A typical nesting habitat is the extensive, rather dry savanne known as Caribou Plains, near Corner of the Beach, Gaspé County, where three were seen with food and about ten heard singing on July 7, 1941. Here they frequented the fringe of the hog amongst the heaths (chiefly Ledum, Kalmia, and Rhodora), with scattered shrubby conifers and a ground cover of Cloudberry (Rubus Chemaemorus) though somewhat farther out in the open bog than their principal nesting associates, the Yellow Palm warbler and the Yellow-throat, At Metis, Matane County, the Lincoln’s Sparrow also nests in boggy clearings where the old stumps are partly hidden in the new growth; also among low alder fringing streams. An unusual habitat was near the top of Mount Logan (Shickshock Mts.), Gaspé, where four were heard singing amongst scrubby conifers at an altitude of about 3000 feet on July 6, 1937. Several Black-poll warblers appeared to be their only companions.
In our experience, the nest of Lincoln’s sparrow is very difficult to find. Although we made a special effort in the Thunder Bay District of Ontario in 1956, we failed to find a nest with eggs. By the time incubation was underway, we had settled down to watch one pair whose activities could be conveniently observed from our parked car. With black flies, “no-see-ums,” and mosquitoes active and plentiful, a parked and closed car seemed the only livable observation point in the country. After several days we had the nest nearly pinpointed, but, alas, not definitely located. We determined its approximate position by making minute-by-minute notes for more than 7 hours on June 23 and June 24. On the latter day we pointed out the place where we thought the nest should be to Dr. and Mrs. A. E. Allin of Fort William. All four of us set out to comb the area on hands and knees. We flushed the bird from the indicated spot but found no nest.
After supper on June 24 Neil Atkinson came puffing into our house, having run the mile from the nest site, to announce that he had succeeded in locating the nest. Immediately we went back with him, and there the nest was, right where we had looked, but set well down into the ground under a pile of last year’s brush cuttings. It looked like a little black hole.
The nest contained three young about a day old and one infertile egg. It was situated 16 feet from the access road into the trout rearing station and 8 feet from the forest edge. The main cover plants were grasses, wild rose, anemones, raspberry, cut off shrubs of dogwood, willow, alder, a little balsam, and brush one or two feet high. Brush cuttings from other years formed an interlacing mat below this new growth, which grew profusely to a height of 1 or 2 feet. The nest measured 3½ inches in outside diameter, about 2 1/3 inches in inside diameter and about 1¼ inches deep outside. It was made of dried grasses. As early as June 21 we had searched for this nest but were driven back to the car by mosquitoes. The female at this time was silent while we searched but scolded us when we left off searching, so she was no help. After the young left the nest on June 2, we collected the nest and infertile egg and later presented them to the Royal Ontario Museum.
The following extracts are from the field notes of J. Murray Speirs:
On May 27, 1957, as I entered the property of the Dorion Trout Rearing Station about 8:00 a.m. E.S.T., two little sparrows flushed from the roadside just west of the Abitibi road and flew toward the alders at the forest edge north of the entrance road to the hatchery. They uttered little ‘tit’ing notes characteristic of Lincoln’s sparrows and one paused to eye me long enough for me to verify the identification. I thought “This must be Mr. and Mrs. A, the elusive little pair that occupied this territory in 1956 and raised a family so furtively that we saw nothing of the nesting until one day the young were seen being fed.” We suspected nesting right by this same corner in 1956 and made a few searches for the nest, but found nothing.
On May 29, 1957, however, fortune smiled on us. We had finished the morning watch in the hatchery property and were about to leave when a movement caught my eye and we waited. It was a Lincoln’s sparrow, sure enough, and IT HAD GRASS IN ITS BILL. So we waited.
Mrs. A, or to be more formal, L7 [female] – 1957, flew with her long, dried grasses trailing at each side like the tail of a comet, to the narrow vegetative border between the road and the roadside ditch. She worked along the ditch quickly toward us about eight or ten feet. She stopped briefly by a little clump of assorted bushes. This clump consisted of one sprig of alder with new green leaves about an inch across, several shoots of willow, and a small gooseberry bush, all about a foot high. After her pause here she flew off, without the grasses, directly away from the clump. This was at 7:40 a.m. Three more trips followed in quick succession, the last at 7:45 a.m. Each time she flew to the roadside border of the ditch and worked along the ditch, usually several feet toward the nest.
Sometimes she lit west of the nest site, sometimes east of it. When leaving she flew directly from the nest site or from a foot or so to the east of it. Just after her fourth trip, several cars carrying men to work at the hatchery passed by within inches of her nest and put a temporary stop to her nest building activities. At 7:58 a.m. and 8:02 a.m. she made two more trips with grasses to the nest-site, remaining some time after the second trip.
As she left the nest at 8:07 am., the male, who had been waiting in a cedar by the forest’s edge, flew east about thirty feet and intercepted her as she reached the edge. He pounced on her in typical Melospizan style. There was a short skirmish, after which be mounted singing to a bough a few feet overhead while she remained on the ground, saying shurr-shurr, shurr, shurr, shurr (DHS interpretation) or ZRRRR, ZRRRR, ZRRRR, ZRRRR, ZRRRR (JMS interpretation). Both male and female of this pair have quite a pronounced centre spot. The male keeps his crest raised much of the time and has pronounced orangy-buff malar stripes. At 8:21 a.m. she made another trip to the nest with bill full of grass, stopping en route to invite copulation on a sloping alder branch about two feet off the ground. The male made three attempts to mount her and mating appeared to be successful on the second and perhaps th rd attempts. As she left the nest after delivering this load, he pounced from a vantage point about ten feet up in a spruce at the forest edge, intercepting her as she flew just above the ground before she reached the woods. More matings, with soft singing on his part and zrrring on her part followed for several minutes, until we left at 8:25 upon the approach of two school boys, Scott and Neil Atkinson. Yesterday Scott announced that he thought there must be a “ground sparrow” nest near this corner, where they wait for the school bus. He made a cursory search but stopped when other children appeared for the bus so as not to draw attention to the possibility.
We returned at 9:30 a.m. She brought nesting material at 9:48 and again at 9:59 a.m. We left at 10:40 a.m. One of the pair was seen atop a stump in the territory with two short, thick straws, very unlike the long, flexible pieces she had taken to the nest. After holding them listlessly they were dropped, one at a time. I suspect this was the male bird showing some token interest in the building. Interest in mating continued at a high pitch during this observation period: the female zrrring frequently and the male pouncing and singing quietly, chiefly following these pounces. On the 9:59 trip she flew directly to the nest, an exception to her general rule, in spite of the fact that we were parked directly across the road not more than 15 feet from the nest. The female apparently did all the nest building though the male was ever on hand.
We did not search for the nest until we were sure it would be completed. We found it with no difficulty on May 31 when it was finished but still empty. It was in a grass clump between the road and the roadside ditch, so close to the road that we could have looked right into it from our parked car had it not been concealed by the over-arching grasses. This nest was about 30 feet from the forest edge. The cover between the road and the forest was very similar to that in which the 1956 nest bad been located; grasses, annuals, cut-off shrubs, and small trees. It was somewhat wetter (the ditch was usually partly full of water) and this was reflected in a greater abundance of alder. The first egg was laid on June 1 and the others on June 2, 3, and 4. Further details of this nest are given in later sections.
Eggs: Lincoln’s sparrow lays from 3 to 6 eggs with 4 or 5 comprising the usual set. They are ovate with some tendency to elongate ovate and are slightly glossy. The ground of freshly laid eggs is ~’pale Niagara green,” but this fades upon exposure to a greenish white. The markings are of reddish browns such as “Verona brown,” “cinnamon brown,” “Prout’s brown,” or “Argus brown.” These are usually heavy and may be in the form of fine speckles and spots or large clouded blotches. Often the ground is entirely obscured and appears to be a light brown. Some eggs may have undermarkings of pale neutral gray.” They are practically indistinguishable from those of the song sparrow, but in a series they will average slightly smaller. The measurements of 130 of all three races average 19.4, by 14.4 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 921.6 by 14.9, 20.0 by 16.0,17.92 by 13.5, and 18.0 by 13.92 millimeter. The measurements of 50 eggs of M. l. lincolnii average 19.7 by 14.6 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 921.6 by 14.9, 20.0 by 16.0, and 17.92 by 13.5 millimeters.
Incubation: The chief purpose of our studies at Dorion during 1956 and 1957 was to obtain information on the incubation and fledging of Lincoln’s sparrow, about which practically nothing had been published prior to that time.
Edward A. Preble (1908) wrote: During their trip to the Mackenzie my brother and Cary noted it at Hay River, June 29, and the following day found a nest containing five heavily incubated eggs. The male bird was shot just after being flushed from the eggs, showing that it assists in incubation.”
Nice (1943) cites six instances of male song sparrows seen visiting the nest during the incubation period, but gives no record of actual incubation by the male. She states that “only females regularly incubate with * * * American Sparrows.” In our studies at Dorion we never saw a male Lincoln’s sparrow incubating.
In a nest we found on May 31, 1957, by the side of t.he entrance road into the Dorion Trout-Rearing Station, the first, second and third eggs were laid on June 1, 2, and 3 respectively. We marked each egg as we discovered it in the nest using a grass blade dipped in India ink. The final (fourth) egg was laid after 7:35 p.m. on June 3 and before 7:20 a.m. on June 4. An attentivity recorder in the nest indicated that the female was on the nest during the night between 8:15 p.m. on June 3 and 2:22 am. on June 4, and again between 4:11 a.m. and 6:02 a.m. on June 4. On June 17 at 7:05 a.m. the nest contained three young and the unhatched fourth egg. By 12:35 p.m. the fourth egg had hatched. This established the incubation period of the fourth egg as between 13 days, 1 hour, 3 minutes and 13 days, 16 hours, 20 minutes, and most probably about 13 days and 6 hours, from about 5 a.m. June 4 to about 11 a.m. June 17.
The attentivity rhythm at this nest was determined with a thermistor bridge recorder (Speirs and Andofl, 1958) which showed that on June 5 the female spent more time off than on the nest. Four attentive periods averaged 34 minutes in length (13, 45, 46, and 33 minutes) while four inattentive periods averaged 62 minutes (83, 28, 12, and 127 minutes), this in spite of the fact that it was a cool day with some light rain. This was the second day of incubation and the attentivity rhythm apparently was not yet fully established. On June 8, the fifth day of incubation, and a clear, mild day, the 10 attentive periods averaged 20.4 minutes ranging from 17 to 40 minutes, while 11 inattentive periods averaged 6.9 minutes ranging from 2 to 15 minutes; from 9:32 a.m. to 2:12 p.m. the incubating bird spent 75 percent of its time on the nest and 25 percent off. On the morning of June 11, the eighth day of incubation, attentive periods of 25, 54, and 19 minutes were broken by inattentive periods of 3 minutes and 1 minute. The increased attentivity on this day may have been influenced by the overcast weather though temperatures remained about the same, or may have been an expression of the intensification of the incubation habit. Nice (1937) found a similar shortening of the inattentive periods in the song sparrow as incabation progressed.
We have no evidence of the male Lincoln’s sparrow calling its mate off the nest at intervals during incubation as M. M. Nice (1943) writes that song sparrow males do. The Lincoln’s sparrow males apparently sing very little during the incubation period; in this also they differ from the song sparrow. In fact, we did not see nor hear our particular Lincoln’s sparrow male after the day the fourth egg was laid until the young hatched. The male bird at our 1956 nest did some singing during the incubation period, chiefly in the very early morning.
When the female was flushed from the nest on June 7, 1957, instead of flying, she ran out along the ditch. Again on June 9 she did not flush until the last minute and then ran along the ditch “like a little mouse” for a yard or two, then flew very low, just clearing the ground cover, to the forest edge north of the nest. She did not scold or utter any sound when flushed, and she did not leave the nest until the grass over it was parted to show it to a visiting naturalist. On June 12 while changing the chart on the nest recorder the observer twice jumped the ditch within a few feet of the nest, and the bird did not leave the nest.
Young: Notes were made on the development of the 1956 Dorion young five times during their nest life. On June 24, when, presumably, the nestlings were a day old, they had an egg tooth on the upper mandible which had disappeared by the next day. The eyes were tightly closed on June 24 and 25, mere slits on June 27, open on June 28, and wide open on June 29. On June 24 only a dark line indicated the future whereabouts of the primary flight feathers. By June 27 the longest sheaths of the primaries measured 8% millimeters. By June 29 these had grown to 15 millimeters.
The young in our 1957 nest at Dorion hatched on June 16 and June 17. On June 18, when 1 and 2 days old, the four together weighed 14.7 grams (average 3.7 grams apiece). One was noticeably larger than the others. At this age they were naked except for dark grey, almost black down on top of the head, along the middle of the back, on the wings (no signs of quills yet) and on the thighs. They had a sharp ridge on top of the culmen but no egg tooth. When they opened their mouths they showed a reddish mouth lining and whitish gape.
On June 19, when 2 and 3 days old, the young together weighed 23.1 grams (average 5.8 grams each). In the process, one excreted a fecal sac that weighed 0.2 grams. The young were weighed late in the evening.
On June 21, when 4 and 5 days old, the four young together weighed 40.2 grams (average 10.0 grams). This was at 8:00 p.m. One young had its eyes partly open. Their pin feathers were by this time very black and conspicuous, the primary quills estimated to be about 10 millimeters long. All feather tracts now were conspicuous: primaries, secondaries, tertials, dorsal and capital tracts, ventral, crural and even little pill feathers on the “drumsticks.” Their skin was a deep tan color. The young in the nest appeared very black in contrast to young song sparrows in a nearby nest that looked mottled grey. The mouth lining of the young Lincoln’s was a brilliant cherry red, the edges of the mouth creamy white.
On June 22, when the nestlings were 5 and 6 days old, we weighed and color-banded the young individually at 8:00 p.m. They weighed 13.3 grams, 13.2 grams, 12.1 grams and 11.5 grams, averaging 12.5 grams. The eyes of the two larger ones were wide open, the smallest just showed a slit, while the other had its eyes partly open. Their primary shafts were estimated to be 15 mm. long. The ventral tracts showed a buffy-tan color, while the dorsal tracts were grey black.
On June 23, when 6 and 7 days old, we weighed the young again in the evening. They weighed 15.0 grams, 14.4 grams, 12.9 grams and 13.2 grams (average 13.9 grams). A male and female Kenneth C. Parkes (1954) collected June 25, 1953, near Madawaska, N.Y., weighed 16.5 and 15.1 grams, respectively. Our adult female weighed 17.3 grams when we banded her at 9:05 a.m. on June 19.
On June 23 the eyes of all were wide open. Their mouth linings were now a very bright crimson, the cutting edge of the mandibles yellowish. Pin feathers covered most of the skin and were chiefly blackish. For fear of causing the fledglings to leave prematurely, we did not handle them again. On June 25, when we looked into the nest carefully at 5:30 p.m., they stretched their necks and gaped to be fed. The gape now appeared bright yellow instead of creamy white as earlier (June 21, above).
The female did practically all of the feeding while the young were in the nest according to our 1956 and 1957 observations. We were never positive that either male actually delivered any food to the young, although both were seen with food in their bills, and the 1957 male made several false starts as though to go to the nest. Perhaps he was unnerved by our proximity, for he never quite made it while we were watching. In both cases the female flew to and from the nest with little hesitation and both broods left the nest successfully. That the males do sometimes assist in brooding young is attested by the observations of Maurice G. Street (in litt.) and Lawrence H. Walkinshaw (in litt.). We believe that the male of our 1957 pair looked after two of the young after they left the nest, and that the female looked after the other two, but their secretive habits made this too difficult to ascertain. The color-banded female was noted near the nest as were some young, while the male (as determined by his singing) spent most of his time about 100 yards west of the nest where the two color-banded young were seen in mid July.
As nothing appears to have been written about the feeding rhythm of Lincoln’s sparrow, we spent a good deal of time studying it in 1956. Although we did not actually see the 1956 nest until Neil Atkinson found it on June 24, we knew its approximate position several days previously. On June 23 at 10 .22 a.m. we saw the female fly from beyond the creek to a spruce just across the road from her nest. She had in her bill a tiny white moth and a half-inch green caterpillar. These she took to the nest —the first feeding that we noticed. At 11:10 she flew east from the nest into the forest edge and at 11:40 we saw her return with a green caterpillar in her bill. During a watch of 1 hour and 55 minutes in midafternoon, we saw her make three more feedings. This was an overcast day with showers in the morning and rain in the afternoon.
It was raining on the morning of June 24, but her rate of feeding had already speeded up. In the early morning we saw her make 3 feedings in an hour and 5 minutes, and 3 more in the course of 50 minutes later in the morning. By midafternoon it had cleared and turned warmer and we saw her make three more visits during a watch of 1 hour and 15 minutes.
On June 25 between 4:37 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. she made 8 visits, averaging 22 minutes between visits to the nest.. She made 7 visits between 11:00 am, and 12:10 p.m., averaging 11 minutes between visits. The intervals between feedings became gradually shorter day by day until by July 1 we noted 23 visits between 6:48 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., at average intervals of only 6 minutes.
On July 2 between 6:40 am, and 8:00 am, we saw 11 visits at an average interval of 7 minutes. At 2:35 p.m. the nest was empty. Twice we saw the father with food on this day but we did not see him take it to the nest. No relationship was discernible between the time of day and the rate of feeding. On some days the mother made more frequent visits to the nest near midday than early in the morning, as on June 25, and on other days the reverse was true. On July 13 and again on July 14 when the young were 12 days out of the nest we saw the mother still carrying food (green larvae) to them.
One reason for the long intervals between feedings in the early nest life of the young was the necessity for the mother to spend a good deal of time brooding because of the wet, cold weather. Also the young had smaller food requirements at that time. As we could not actually see her on the nest because of the dense growth of grasses, wild flowers, and low shrubs that surrounded it, we could not make any accurate determination of the amount of time spent brooding the nestlings. It was not determined, either, how many young were fed at each visit. These aspects of the life history remain to be determined.
The 1956 mother Lincoln’s had a standard routine in her feeding trips. She would leave the nest, with or without a fecal sac, and fly to a spruce at the forest edge east of the nest. If she were carrying a fecal sac, she would leave it on a horizontal branch of this spruce, fly to a dead balsam south of the nest, then across the road to a meadow near the river where she foraged. Then she would fly to a spruce where the male usually sang across the road from the nest, then to a raspberry patch between the spruce and the road, then very low across the road to the nest. On June 25 these trips averaged 15 minutes, varying from 5 to 29 minutes. She varied t.his routine somewhat in the later stages of nest life, foraging fairly often in the foliage of the spruces and balsams at the forest edge and sometimes on the forest floor.
The 1957 mother also had a definite route that she usually followed in her comings and goings. This route included a slanting alder limb on which she deposited the feed sacs in a neat row.
The young Lincoln’s sparrows left the 1956 nest on July 2 and the 1957 nest on June 26. While we have no definite proof that two broods are raised at Dorion, we have circumstantial evidence of it in a second courtship cycle in early July and a September record of an immature bird.
Of a nest she found containing three newly hatched young on July 5, 1946, near Sandwich Bay, Labrador, Virginia Orr (1948) writes: “The parent allowed me to approach within two feet slipping off the nest and running back into denser growth. * * * the bird never flew away directly, but ran along the partially covered tunnel for several feet before taking wing. It used the same route when bringing food to the young. * * * The fledglings left the nest in a flightless condition on the twelfth day after discovery.”
In our 1956 nest, which was not found until June 24, the young left the nest on July 2 between 8:00 a.m. and 2:35 p.m. If, as we believe, the young hatched on June 23 when we first noted the female carrying food, then these young left on the ninth day after hatching. In our 1957 nest the first young batched on ,June 16 between 10:00 a.m. and 4:25 p.m. the next two between 8:55 p.m. on June 16 and 7:10 a.m. on June 17, and the final young between 7:10 am. and 12:35 p.m. on June 17. All four were in the nest when it was checked at 5:30 p.m. on June 25; all had left when Neil Atkinson checked it at 6:00 p.m. on June 26. Thus they left the nest on the ninth or tenth day after hatching.
In 1956, we heard the first begging calls from the young on July 14, 12 days after leaving the nest and about three weeks after hatching. We color banded the young in our 1957 nest on June 23. On July 14 we saw the blue-banded youngster about 100 yards west of the nest, and on July 15, the red-banded one in about the same place. An adult Lincoln’s sparrow which we took to be the male of the pair appeared still to he accompanying these two young birds, which were then 27 to 28 days old and 19 to 20 days out of the nest. Maurice G. Street of Nipawin, Saskatchewan wrote us that he found a nest of Lincoln’s sparrows that contained three eggs on June 10, 1946, that both the male (regularly) and the femalè (occasionally) visited his feeding station and “both parents were noted feeding young at my station in late July.” As the three eggs could scarcely have hatched any later than June 23, this would imply a period of dependence probably in excess of the 28 days that Nice (1943) gives as the “age of independence” for Emberizines.
Lawrence H. Walkinshaw gives us in a letter some interesting data on a Lincoln’s sparrow’s nest with two eggs, William Dyer found on June 22, 1956. The nest still contained two eggs on June 25 and had two young on June 28. The young left the nest when they were banded on July 4 when they could not have been more than nine days old. The disturbance of banding may have caused them to leave the nest prematurely. “Both adults fed the young at the nest.”
Plumages: The natal down of the newly hatched young at Dorion appeared to be very dark grey, almost black. It was about half an inch long and covered the body rather scantily on top of the head, along the middle of the back, on the wings and thighs. The general impression upon looking into a nest of newly hatched young of this species is like looking into a black hole. The down persists for some time after the juvenal plumage is acquired, particularly on the top of the head. In specimens examined at the Royal Ontario Museum, this down appeared brownish against a black background but almost black against a light background.
Richard R. Graber (1955) describes the juvenal plumage which is acquired by a complete postnatal molt as follows: “Forehead rich brown with rather fine black streaks. Median stripe buffy, laterally rich brown, streaked with blackish. Superciliary region gray, finely streaked with blackish. Nape finely mottled, shades of brown, buff, gray, and blackish. Back streaked bully gray, light brown, and blackish. Rump slightly darker, streaking more obscure. Upper tail coverts and rectrices brownish, black along the shaft. Remiges dark gray; primaries light edged; secondaries, tertials, and coverts edged with rusty. Median and greater coverts tipped narrowly with bull. Tertials blackish with buff tips. Lores grayish. Auriculars rich rusty brown, margined with blackish; sub-auriculars buff. Chin and throat white, finely spotted and streaked with blackish. Chest, sides, and flanks buff, finely streaked with blackish. Belly and crissum whitish, unmarked. Leg feathers light brown.”
A juvenal Lincoln’s sparrow 12 days out of the nest on July 14, 1956, still had a stubby, partially grown tail; the breast streaks were broader and continued lower down on the breast than in the adults. The dark lines above and below the ear coverts were also broader and more distinct than in adult plumage, the lower line having a blotchy appearance. In the juvenal plumage they are very similar to song sparrows and swamp sparrows in the same plumage. (See Field marks.)
According to Dwight (1900) the first winter plumage is “acquired by a partial postjuvenal moult * * * which involves the body plumage and the wing coverts but not the rest of the wings nor the tail.” In eastern Canada this postjuvenal molt takes place during August. The latest juvenal plumage Lincoln’s sparrow in the Royal Ontario Museum collections was taken on August 9.
Dwight continues: The first nuptial plumage is “acquired by wear * * * from the first winter dress.” The adult winter plumage is “acquired by a complete postnuptial moult in August.” The adult nuptial plumage is “acquired by wear as in the young bird. The sexes are practically indistinguishable in all plumages, and the moults are the same in both sexes.”
Although indistinguishable by plumage, the sexes may be distinguished during the breeding season by behavioral differences (see Behavior). The female of the 1956 pair at Dorion had a brownish central-breast spot, while the male’s breast spot was black. This was undoubtedly an individual variation: some adults of both sexes have breast spots, others have none.
Food: The most thorough account of the food of this species in the east is in Sylvester D. Judd (1901) from which we quote:
Only 31 stomachs of this species have been examined. These were collected during the months of February, April, May, September, and October, mainly in Massachusetts and New York. The food during these months, as indicated by the stomachs, consists of animal matter, 42 percent, and of vegetable matter, 58 percent. The animal matter is made up of 2 percent spiders and millipeds and 40 percent insects. Useful insects, largely Hymenoptera, with some predacious beetles form 4 percent of the food, and injurious insects, 12 percent. Neutral insects, including beetles, ants, flies, and some bugs, amount to a fourth of the food. More ants (principally Myrmicidae) and fewer grasshoppers are destroyed than by the song sparrow. The vegetable matter is divided as follows: grain, 2 percent; seeds of ragweed and various species of Polygonum, 13 percent; grass seed, 27 percent, and miscellaneous seeds, principally weeds, 16 percent.
McAtee (1911) records the “Lincoln Finch” among those species that eat the clover-root curculio Sitones, a beetle that does “a large amount of obscure damage” to clover.
The most frequently noted food items taken to the young of our 1956 nest were green caterpillars (probably geometrid larvae), greyish larvae (possibly noctuids), small whitish moths (possibly leaf-miners), yellowish larvae (possibly beetle larvae), small green grasshoppers, and brownish larvae (possibly spruce budworm).
Lincoln’s sparrows frequent feeding stations during migration and are often taken in banding traps. At Dorion at least two frequented the feeding station of Rita Taylor daily during the latter half of May but deserted it at the beginning of June. When feeding the birds scratch with both feet at once to uncover concealed food, in the manner of most small sparrows.
On June 7, 1956 we saw a Lincoln’s sparrow jump from the ground under a little spruce tree, fly almost vertically upward two or three feet, snap up a flying insect and, returning to the ground with it, carry it under the spruce tree to dispose of it.
Voice: Audubon (1834) has this to say of the song of Lincoln’s sparrow: “But if the view of this favoured spot was pleasing to my eye, how much more to my ear were the sweet notes of this bird as they came thrilling on my sense, surpassing in rigour those of any American Finch with which I am acquainted, and forming a song which seemed a compound of those of the Canary and Wood-lark of Europe. The habits of this sweet songster resemble those of the Song Sparrow. Like it, mounted on the topmost twig of the tallest shrub or tree it can find, it chants for hours.”
F. H. Allen heard the Lincoln’s sparrow sing at West Roxbury, Mass., on May 13, 1915, and sent the following notes to Mr. Bent:
One singing near the house this morning. Heard it first when I got out, about 6.30. It was in the Norway spruces northwest of the house and kept itself hidden for over half an hour, frequently singing, sometimes with a ventriloquial effect sounding far away. Never having heard the song before, I did not recognize it and I could not satisfy myself at first as to what bird it came from. When I first heard it I thought of the northern water-thrush, but I soon perceived that it was not that. Then I thought successively of chat, catbird, house wren, goldfinch, and white-winged crossbill. It sounded most like an abbreviated and low-pitched strain from a goldfinch, but the secretive habit of the bird seemed to prove that it could not be that. It was about as long as the indigo bunting’s song, perhaps a little longer, but more varied and of different quality. At or near the end there was a short, sweet bubbling or rippling trill suggestive of the house wren, but high-pitched, I should say. The song had two forms, one of which, the more emphatic of the two, was given more frequently than the other. There were periods of silence, and during one of these I gave the bird up for the time and went into the house. Then it began again and I went on the upper piazza to look for it. Presently it flitted into a pear tree and sang there, and I saw it was a Lincoln’s sparrow. A beautiful and interesting song.
William Brewster (1936) describes four different songs, and their variations, of one Lincoln’s sparrow as follows:
1. A simple, level, woodeny trill usually indistinguishable from the summer song of the Juncos, but at times with a resonant, lyrical quality approaching that of the Yellow-rump’s song; both forms given at short but distinct intervals.
2. The same trills with the intervals completely filled with short, soft, liquid notes, the whole forming a medley exactly like that uttered by the Junco in early spring with the Junco tsup or tup coming in frequently among the short, connecting notes. This song should perhaps be regarded as a variation of No. 1, but I did not once hear this bird change from one to the other. That both songs were literal copies of those of the Junco can admit of no doubt.
3. A rapid warble, at times flowing smoothly and evenly and in general effect exceedingly like the song of the Purple Finch; at others brighter and more glancing, the notes rolling one over another and suggesting those of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet; again, with a rich, throaty quality and in form as well as tone very closely like the song of the House Wren; still again guttural and somewhat broken or stuttering and very suggestive of the song of the Long-billed Marsh Wren. Although the first and last of these songs were very unlike, I have classified them under one head because the bird often gave them all during one singing period and, moreover, changed from one to another by insensible gradations.
4. Song in slow, measured bars or cadences, separated by brief intervals, swelling and sinking, some of the notes trilled or shaken, the whole given after the manner of the songs of the Hermit Thrush and Bachman’s Finch and almost equally spiritual in quality.
Aretas A. Saunders (1935) transliterates two songs of the Lincoln’s sparrow as: ” ??-??-??-??-?? eeyayeeyayeeyayeeseseesosee” and “ootle ootle ootle weetle weetle eeteeteety?yt??.” He illustrates these with his distinctive pictographs and continues: “The song of Lincoln’s Sparrow is entirely distinctive, and not particularly like that of a Song Sparrow or other bird. It consists in part of notes sung with a true musician s trill, varying up and down a half tone in pitch, with liquid l-like consonants between the notes. Notes that are not of the trill type are inclined to be sibilant. The voice is sweet and clearly musical, and the song often suggests the House Wren or the Purple Finch. It is decidedly more pleasing than a House Wren’s song, however.”
In a personal note to Mr. Bent, Saunders adds the following more detailed analysis: “Songs consist of 13 to 16 notes each, though the character of the song is such that one cannot be too sure of separating the notes and counting them exactly. Songs vary from 2.4 to 2.8 seconds in length, and from C#”‘ to C”” in pitch. The pitch interval is from 3½ to 5 tones.”
Roland C. Clement wrote us of his Lincoln’s sparrow observations in the Goose Bay region of Newfoundland Labrador in 1944: “On August 16 I ‘squeaked up’ eight birds in a tall stand of streamside alders, finding them very curious. ‘The song,’ I wrote in my journal, ‘is soft but sweet and varied.’ My own crude literal rendition of it was ‘phreu-u-deer-e-e, teuu teu tree,’ the two overscored notes being almost bell-like in richness of tone.”
Almost all accounts of this species stress its song. This is owing no doubt to the apparent belief by Lincoln’s sparrows that little birds should be heard but not seen. The Lincoln’s sparrows we have observed singing have done little to bolster our faith in the advertising function of song perches. Usually the singer at Dorion, Ont., was well hidden in the cover of tall grasses or low shrubs in the marsh bordering the stream along which our observations were made. Occasionally one was found, after a considerable search, singing from a perch part way up a sheltering evergreen. When we did find one singing from an overhead wire or dead tree top or other conspicous perch, it was cause for special comment in our notes, Audubon notwithstanding. In the choice of its singing perch it resembles the swamp sparrow, but differs from its other congeneric species, the song sparrow.
We transcribed the song of a Lincoln’s sparrow heard at Dorion May 15, 1955, in our field notes as “churr-ehurr-churr-wee-wee-weewah; quality like house wren or purple finch.” This appears to be the most typical of northern Ontario songs, although we have heard several variations. W. W. H. Gunn was good enough to provide us with tape recordings of a variety of the songs of the Lincoln’s sparrow, from which we selected the song most like this typical one. From this with the cooperation of Bruce Falls and the Royal Canadian Air Force, we had an audiospectrograph made. This gives a visual picture of the song with time as the horizontal axis and frequency of the notes on the vertical scale.
The audiospectograph showed that there were six “churrs,” seven “wees” and two final “walis,” rather than the three, three, and one we thought we heard, and also a longish “taa” note between the churrs and wees that we missed. The audiospectograph further showed that all the notes were far from simple but had introductory grace notes and various harmonics. The song was about two seconds in length, about as long as it takes to say “churr-churr-churr-taa-wee-wee-weewah.” This transliteration gives us the best picture of what the Lincoln’s sparrow says. We must remember that the reaction time of small birds is about twice as fast as ours, so it gets in two notes ‘itile we register one. On May 23, 1956, one bird sang a song which steadily rose in pitch, transliterated as “churr-churr-churr-wah-wahwah-wee?” Another variation heard at Dorion June 12, 1956, we transliterated as “cheer-cheer-cbeer-wah-wah-titi-wah-tsidlee-wah.” In 1957 we added mourning warbler to the list of birds whose songs were similar to that of Lincoln’s sparrow, though more in quality than in pattern in this case.
Sometimes Lincoln’s sparrow sings on the wing. On May 25, 1956, at Grandview we saw one launch forth from a perch about 10 feet up a little birch and sing as it flew on fluttering wings some 12 feet above the ground, in an arc of about 50 feet. The flight song was introduced by a series of high, excited “tic” notes, and we transliterated it as “tic-tic-tic-churr-churr-churr-wee-wee-wee-wah.” This bird had just returned from a chase involving a neighboring Lincoln’s sparrow on the border of the adjacent territory.
Another flight song we heard at Dorion appeared to be caused by our shaking some branches of a brushpile in which we suspected the bird might have a nest. Still another flight song apparently was stimulated by courtship excitement; on June 9,1956, after pouncing on the female and mating with her in the grass, the male flew toward us on quivering wings in slightly rising flight for about 50 feet, singing his normal song as he flew.
We made several counts of song frequency at Dorion and found three or four songs per minute usual during an active singing period, very rarely five songs per minute. Frequencies less than three per minute were usually correlated with change in singing position, which is not infrequent. Birds often sang from the ground while foraging. Song perches above the ground have been noted in low evergreens, tops of stumps, once on a branch about 20 feet up in a dead Jack pine, once on an overhead power wire (two unusually conspicuous perches), and most commonly in alders, willows, and, birches from 4 to 8 feet high. As a full song lasts from two to three seconds, the birds are silent about 90 per cent of the time, even during an active singing period.
Singing shows marked seasonal and daily variations in amount. Birds are seldom heard singing during migration, and we have no record of their singing in winter. Even when they first arrive in breeding territory, they may be silent for several days if the weather stays cloudy and cold. At Dorion we noted that there was little singing on cold or rainy or windy mornings but a good deal on sunny, calm, warm mornings.
At Dorion, the birds sang at all times of day, but we never heard them after dark. J. Satterly, however, writes us in a letter: “This species begins to sing very early in the morning long before sunrise, probably as early as 2 a.m.” His observations were made in Michaud Township, Cochrane District, Ont., in 1946. T. M. Shortt told us in conversation that at Fraserdale, Cochrane District, Ont., all the Lincoln’s sparrows burst into song as the sky clouded over. Then as the sun came out all the singing ceased, to commence again as clouds darkened the sky. Lester L. Snyder confirmed this observation.
We found that singing practically ceased during the incubation period except for a few songs early in the morning, then increased again greatly when the young were about to leave the nest.
When singing ceased we generally found the birds by tracking down their rather faint, scolding “tit : tit : tit,” notes often uttered from a low perch in spruce saplings, or in alders, or grassy undergrowth by both male and female. It somewhat resembles the chipping sparrow’s scold notes hut lacks the “s” sound of the chipping sparrow’s “tsick.”
We have mentioned in other sections the special “dzeee-dzeee” note the female utters with fluttering wings and squatting position when inviting copulation. One conversational greeting when a pair met under a small sheltering spruce we transliterated as “zu-zu-zu-zu” (u as in tut, not as in toot). This apparently was an excitement note of lesser intensity than the “zeee” note inviting mating.
Behavior: We removed the 1957 nestlings from day to day to weigh them and make notes on their plumage development. When handled on June 18 when 1 and 2 days old they gaped as if to be fed. On June 21 at 4 and 5 days of age they uttered a complaining “zeeee” when taken from the nest. The following day they really squealed when picked up. On June 23, now 6 and 7 days old, when the mother arrived at the nest to feed them they uttered a high-pitched “zizz’ zizz,” and for the first time they made feeble efforts to scramble out of the dish in which we weighed them. On June 25 at 8 and 9 days they were well feathered and stretched their necks up for food when we parted the grass above the nest at 5:30 p.m. to see if they were still there. They left the nest on the following day. On June 27, when the fledglings were 10 and 11 days old and one day out of the nest, both parents were feeding them, each apparently feeding two young. We heard one of the young the father was looking after utter a high-pitched “zeeee” when fed.
Most observers who have written about Lincoln’s sparrow have emphasized its shy, secretive, mousy, elusive behavior during migration and on the breeding ground. For instance, Audubon (1834) states “we found more wildness in this species than in any other inhabiting the same country” and again “It moves swiftly off when it discovers an enemy; and, if forced to take wing, flies low and rapidly to some considerable distance, jerking its tail as it proceeds, and throwing itself at the foot of the thickest bush it meets.” Roberts (1932) calls it: “one of the shyest and most secretive of our Sparrows ***”. It passes by rather quickly in the spring, and, although usually common, keeps so well concealed in the thickest undergrowth and matted weeds and grass that only the keenest observers can discover it. It is at this season a silent bird and scurries away over the ground or along fallen tree-trunks with the speed and agility of a mouse, which adds to the difficulty in locating it. Taverner says, ‘On migration * * * Lincoln’s is one of the shyest and most elusive of birds. It skulks in the brush and has reduced concealment to a fine art’ (Birds of Western Canada, 1926).”
On June 6, 1956, we were observing a pair at Dorion, in thin cover which consisted mainly of grass pastured the previous summer and just starting new growth, some low raspberry bushes just coming into leaf, and a small group of three or four spruces not over 3 feet high. We watched steadily from 6:12 a.m. to 6:37 a.m., when the male pounced on the female in the raspberry canes and returned to the spruce. We saw nothing stir from that time until we became restless at the lack of activity at 7:05 a.m. We then searched both the raspberry canes and the spruces, and could flush neither bird yet neither had been seen to leave. We had many similar demonstrations of their almost magical ability to disappear. This facility is due in part, no doubt, to their habit of “mousing off” through the grass instead of flying. Their behavior in their winter quarters, however, appears to differ from that familiar to observers in Canada and the United States. Alexander Wetmore (1944) writes:
On their wintering grounds these sparrows seem completely at home, and here in Mexico I was able to fully appreciate the statements of E. A. Preble that this species is the song sparrow of the far north. *** at Tres Zapotes in less than two months I actually learned more of their mannerisms than in 35 years of previous observations. Here instead of being shy skulkers that never left the dense shelter of weeds and shrubbery, their habit in migration, they came out like song sparrows to feed around the borders of the little clearing that we had made about our camp. At any time of the day if all was peaceful I had only to raise my eyes to see one or two feeding quietly on the ground, sometimes only 15 feet away. They pecked steadily at the earth, often scratching in typical finch fashion by jumping forward and then hack, dragging the forward claws on the earth on the return, and then feeding again in the soil disturbed by this action. Others remained under the thin screen of leaves of the bordering shrubbery, and sometimes I found them running along on the earth in the protecting shelter of cornfields. When alarmed they retreated instantly to cover, where sometimes I heard them scolding sharply, the notes being suggestive of those of the swamp sparrow. I saw one driving petulantly at a little blue-black grassquit (Volatinia jacarina atronitens) that came too near. At dusk sometimes several came down from a weed grown field back of camp to roost in or near dense clumps of bushes. The daily appearance of this bird is to me one of the many pleasant memories of my work in this interesting locality.
So far as we have been able to determine, the Lincoln’s sparrow hops and never, or rarely, walks. It seldom ventures far from cover, into which it retreats with amazing speed at the least sign of disturbance, crouching low and hopping so fast as to appear a mere streak of brown.
The nervous side-to-side tail-twitching so characteristic of agitated song sparrows is not customary for Lincoln’s sparrows, which instead tend to crouch with neck outstretched and crest raised, muttering “tit: tit,” followed by one of their celebrated exits.
The flight behavior of this species, at least near the nest, appears to be characterized by a fluttering directness rather than the bouncy flight of some fringillids. The females noted at Dorion during their foraging expeditions merely skimmed the tops of the low vegetation. Compared with the tail-pumping action of a song sparrow in flight, the Lincoln’s sparrow’s normal flight seems much more purposeful and direct.
On June 6, 1956, we watched a rather bedraggled, wet female perched in a little spruce energetically preening herself, concentrating on the upper breast with its characteristic buffy band. As this was a fine sunny morning with little dew, she had no doubt just come from a bath in the nearby creek edge. The male was seen preening in the same tree on the following morning, again concentrating on its upper breast as well as the base of the tail behind the wings. Our field notes for June 7, 1956, say: “Scratches behind both ears with both feet.” Our notes for June 27, 1956, comment on the “very fast preening” of a parent that had just fed its young in the nest. “Not only does it use its beak in preening, but the feet come into play to scratch areas not easily reached with its bill.”
The behavior of the female changes noticeably in the course of the breeding season. When flushed from a nest with eggs she usually utters no note while the observers are near the nest, but may begin to scold as they leave. When we flushed the female from the nest on June 18, 1957, when the young were just 1 and 2 days old, she ran through the grass about half way to the forest edge, fluttering part of the way as if she had a broken wing, but was too concealed by the grass to be seen well. She then flew the rest of the way to the forest edge where she emitted the first of several “tit” notes. The male answered with a quiet “tit.” This was our only observation of injury feigning by Lincoln’s sparrow.
‘1’his nesting female always came to the nest on foot, after mousing along the ditch, but she flew directly from the nest after feeding. She displayed great agitation when we handled the young for weighing and banding, “tit”ing loudly from the forest edge nearby.
On June 29, 1956, the mother was observed shielding the 5-day-old nestlings from the strong sun, at 12:25 p.m.
After the young had left the nest the parental solicitude continued to increase for a few days. On June 28, 1957, when the young were two days out of the nest, the mother scolded within 15 feet of the observer, and in plain sight, from a bare branch of a shrub by the roadside. The quality of the scold note had changed from the very weak “tit” heard early in the season, to the loud “tit,” and after the young left the nest it approached the quality of a scolding chipmunk’s “cork-puffing” note: “tot.”
The behavior of the male also changes with the nesting season. He is very inconspicuous during most of the incubation period, generally singing only in the early morning and very spasmodically later in the day. He takes no part in incubation so far as we could determine. When the young hatched we not infrequently saw the male near the nest with food but in both of the 1956 and 1957 nestings, the father was very hesitant actually to go to the nest. After the young were fledged, however, the father became a good provider and appeared to play as active a part as the mother in rearing the young.
Field marks: Peterson (1947) writes:
The Lincoln’s Sparrow is a skulker, “afraid of its own shadow,” and often hard to glimpse. Like Song Sparrow, with shorter tail; streakings on under parts much finer and often not aggregated into a central spot; best identified by broad band of creamy buff across breast.
Similar species: The buff y band and fine breast-streakings distinguish it from most Sparrows except the immature Swamp and Song Sparrows. It is grayer-backed than either, with a more contrastingly striped crown A narrow eye-ring is also quite characteristic. The immature Swamp Sparrow in spring migration is continually misidentified as the Lincoln’s Sparrow, but its breast is duller with dull blurry streaks (Lincoln’s fine and sharp). In the South the juvenile Pine Woods Sparrow can easily be mistaken for Lincoln’s.
Most of the salient field marks are mentioned in the above account:
The huffy breast band which also continues down the sides, the narrow and black streaking which is found not only on the breast but on the back and on top of the head, the short tail and the pronounced eye-ring which gives Lincoln’s sparrow a characteristically wide-eyed astonished expression enhanced by its tendency to stare at the observer with neck stretched and crest raised, semi-crouched, as if to dash off at the slightest movement.
The really difficult plumage in which to determine this species with accuracy is the juvenal plumage, as Peterson and others have pointed out, for this plumage very closely resembles that of the juvenal song and swamp sparrows. Peterson, in the account quoted, wrongly states: “The immature Swamp Sparrow in spring migration * * *” is misidentified as Lincoln’s. This should read “in autumn migration.” James L. Baillie kindly checked the immature swamp sparrows in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum and found that the latest date on which an immature swamp sparrow showed a streaked breast was September 10. After the end of September there should be little cause for confusing swamp with Lincoln’s sparrows.
In late summer and early autumn, however, it is really very difficult to distinguish the juvenals in the field. Wendell Taber wrote us: I am exceedingly skeptical about sight records of Lincoln Sparrows in autumn. I remember, vividly, a sparrow I just could not identify on the shore of a pond in Ipswich many years ago. I went and got my father-in-law, Dr. C. W. Townsend, from his house 200 yards distant. HE couldn’t identify the bird. I kept an eye on the bird until Dr. T. could get a gun. The bird was a Swamp Sparrow. But, even in the hand, Dr. T. couldn’t identify it until he had spent a good deal of time reading.”
The resemblance of juvenal song and swamp sparrows to Lincoln’s is vividly illustrated in Allan Brooks’ painting (Plate 72) in Forbush (1929) and his sketch of a juvenal Lincoln’s sparrow on page 98 where Forbush writes: “Young: Often indistinguishable in the field from young Song Sparrow, unless by narrowness of dark streaks on either side of throat.”
The crown pattern seems to be a good way for bird banders to distinguish the juvenals of swamp, song, and Lincoln’s sparrows. The crown is mostly black, like a black cap, in swamp sparrows. It is brown with no black streaks in song sparrows. In the Lincoln’s sparrow the crown is distinctly striped with about six fine black streaks on a brown background with a gray stripe in the center.
Enemies: Predatory mammals, chiefly red squirrels, and birds, notably pigeon hawk, sparrow hawk, broad-winged hawk, gray jay, crow, and raven, were observed on or flying over the territories of our nests at Dorion, but the sparrows all survived successfully. The secretive habits of the adults and silence of the young no doubt help them avoid predation. They do not always escape, however, as Frank W. Braund and John W. Aldrich (1914) mention “young being eaten by sharp shinned hawk” from a nest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Apparently cowbird parasitism is comparatively rare. Herbert Friedmann (1963) writes:
This sparrow has been recorded as a cowbird victim only a small number of times. S. S. Stansell, A. D. Henderson, and T. E. Randall informed me independently of parasitized nests, six in number, which they bad found in Alberta. Dr. Ian McTaggert Cowan wrote me of a parssitized nest found at Elk Island Park, Alberta, the notes on which are in the files of the University of British Columbia. The late J. H. Bowles wrote me that be bad in his collection a parasitized set of eggs taken at Kalevala, Manitoba, on June 6, 1920. G. Bancroft informed me of set found in Monroe County in northern New York on June 1, 1903. Street (Houston and Street, 1959, p. 19.5) found a nest at Nipawin, Saskatchewan, on June 3, containing only 1 egg of the sparrow; two days later it held 2 sparrow eggs and 2 cowbird eggs; and two days later, again, it held 3 cowbird eggs, no sparrow eggs, and the shell of another cowbird egg outside but near the nest. The New York Record refers to the eastern race of the Cowbird, M.a.ater; the others, to M.a.artemisiae. All refer to the typical race of the sparrow.
At Dorion the song sparrow appeared to be the Lincoln’s sparrow’s chief competitor. A song sparrow frequently sang from the same small spruce tree the male of our 1956 nesting pair favored as a singing perch. The Lincoln’s sparrow never disputed possession of this tree but always beat a hasty and unobtrusive retreat. On various occasions song sparrows were seen chasing Lincoln’s sparrows. The two species frequently had overlapping territories and, so far as could be determined, had identical territorial requirements. Possibly song sparrow competition is a factor determining the southern border of the nesting range of Lincoln’s sparrow. Some territories occupied by Lincoln’s early in the season were found later in undisputed possession of song sparrows. The smaller sparrows were able to remain in the same area in the face of song sparrow aggression only by dint of persistent passive resistance: they always fled and returned later by stealth. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
The Lincoln’s sparrows at Dorion frequently hunted for food in the territory of the other congeneric species there, the swamp sparrow, but no conflicts were observed between the two. Chipping sparrows nested within the territory of our 1956 pair but did not conflict, as they nested at a greater height and foraged largely high up in tall spruces. White-throated sparrows were observed to chase even the song sparrows when their ranges overlapped, though the whitethroats tended to confine most of their activities to more heavily forested areas.
Roy C. Anderson (1959) reports finding the air sacs of a Lincoln’s sparrow infested with the nematode Diplotriaena bargusinica. He believes that in some cases this may be an important disease factor. L. R. Penner (1939) reports a fluke, Tamerlania melospizae, from the ureter of a Lincoln’s sparrow found dead at Minneapolis May 1, 1938. Joseph C. Bequaert (1954) lists the species as host to louse flies (Hippoboscidae) of the following species: Ornithomyia fringillina and Ornithoica vicina. G. Robert Coatney and Evaline West (1938) write that the blood parasite Haemoproteus was found in a Lincoln’s sparrow collected near Peru, Nebr., in 1937: “but there were too few to allow for detailed study.”
Fall: We were never able to remain at Dorion until the Lincoln’s sparrows left for their autumn migration. When we departed Sept. 6,1955, the birds were still active on their summer territories. Rita Taylor, a resident of Dorion, wrote us: “We have had Lincoln’s sparrows feeding here quite often this fall, three at one time at the kitchen window. The last one was Sept. 19.”
The peak of the autumn migration in the Toronto region is generally in the third week of September, when they may be found in marshy places and in weedy fields, often in company with white-throated and white-crowned sparrows. We used to flush them from the former Ashbridge’s Bay marsh on the Toronto waterfront. They would keep well in cover, usually but some would yield to curiosity long enough to perch in some low bush, peek out at the observers with craned necks, raised crest, and wide-eyed wonderment, then drop down out of sight or dash away ahead to repeat the performance. The latest Toronto record is Nov. 19, 1932 (Speirs, in litt.).
Bird banders probably see more Lincoln’s sparrows on migration than most bird watchers. Ruth Brown, of Toronto, Ont., took them on Sept. 22, 23, and 30 in 1956 at her city banding station. Two banding recoveries are of interest to fall migration. One banded at Wantagh. Long Island, N.Y. May 8, 1935, was recovered Oct. 1, 1935. in Gasp~ County, Quebec. Another banded at Treesbank, Manitoba, Aug. 29, 1937, was recovered at Canarem, Iowa, Dec. 16, 1937.
Roberts (1932) has an interesting account of the fall migration through Minnesota:
In the fall it is rather easier to find for then it is very abundant and keeps company with the other migrating Sparrows, but it is still silent and much more timid than its companions. Mr. Kendall finds it common on the Mesabi Iron Range in the fall and speaks of its quiet ways and resemblance to the Song Sparrow, especially when the spot on the breast is well marked. Dr. Hvoslef refers frequently in his notes to its abundance at Lanesboro, in the valley of the Root River, occasionally for a couple of weeks rivaling in numbers the White-throat. It is often abundant in the vicinity of the Twin Cities in late September and early October, frequenting hedgerows, weed-patches, borders of woods, tamarack swamps, and similar dense coverts. Dr. Guilford found many at Lao qui Pane Lake, Chippewa County, early in October, feeding on the mud-flats just outside of the grass where the lake had dried; when flushed they took refuge in the grass farther back. From September 25 to October 3, 1907, the writer found it abundant at Heron Lake, Jackson County, frequenting thick, tangled weeds and grass on low places and also keeping company with Harris’s Sparrows and Whitethroats in high brushy and weedy places and plum thickets. It was common in corn-fields and old grass-grown gardens. It was sprightly and quick in its actions, never still, twitching and jerking all the time, and timidly inquisitive. When flushed in the open it flcw low in the same halting manner and with the same pumping of the tail as the Song Sparrow. When excited it erected the feathers of the crown to form a noticeable topknot. No sounds were heard from it except an occasion weak tsup.
William A. Squires (1952) gives the latest record for New Brunswick as a specimen in the American Museum taken on the Tobique River Sept. 28, 1894. For Maine Ralph S. Palmer (1949) writes: “As birds have been seen or collected in late August at places where they do not breed, there is some wandering or migration by then. A definite southward movement begins by the second week in September, with most birds seen from September 24 to October 13. * * * Late dates are: * * * October 17, 1918, on Monhegan (Wentworth in Jenney, 1919: 29).” Griscom and Snyder (1955) give autumn dates for Massachusetts as “September 12 (specimen) —October (November 1).” Norman A. Wood (1951) says that. in Michigan: “The fall migration, for which the records are more numerous than for the spring, occurs mainly between the last of August and early October.” The latest record for the Upper Peninsula is a report by Oscar M. Bryens (1939) near McMillan in Luce County, on October 17, 1937. The latest record for the Lower Peninsula appears to be one banded by E. M. Brigham, Jr. on October 17, 1938 (Walkinshaw, 1939). In central Pennsylvania Merrill Wood (1958) describes the Lincoln’s sparrow as “fall transient from early-September to late-October.”
Frances Westman (1960) records 7 Lincoln’s sparrows among the 936 birds killed during four late September nights at the Bane, Ontario, television tower. This indicates that Lincoln’s sparrow is a ni~rht migrant.
Winter: Griscom (1932) writes of the Lincoln’s sparrow in Guatemala as “A not uncommon winter visitant, which has been taken as late as April 8. Alfred W. Anthony reports that he found it chiefly in the pine woods above 3000 feet.”
Wetmore (1943) writes that Lincoln’s sparrows are common winter residents in southern Veracruz, Mexico. He collected a small series in grassy clearings near the village of Tres Zapotes Mar. 8, 18, and 30 and Apr. 3 and 13, 1939, and on Jan. 23, 1940; also by the riverside at Titacotalpam on Feb. 5, 1940, and in grassy pastures on old dunes at El Conejo on Feb. 12, 1940. About the migration through Veracruz he writes: “On March 30 there was sudden increase in their number, evidence of migration from farther south, as on that morning half a dozen came skipping about on the ground in our clearing. They were passing in increased numbers through the early days in April and were still present on April 15, when I left for return home.”
Dale A. Zimmerman (1957) describes his experience with Lincoln’s sparrow in Tamaulipas, Mexico: “In 1955, at Pano Ayuctle, we found Lincoln Sparrows familiar door-yard birds that were easily studied at close range as they fed on the lawn and about the buildings. Two individuals that frequented a much-used path leading from the house, seldom moved more than a few feet out of the way when people walked by. They were as fearless as House Sparrows of city parks. The contrast between this behavior and that of the species during migration, and particularly on its breeding grounds, was striking.”
Very rarely one of these sparrows remains north during the winter. On Jan. 3, 1960 Mrs. Else Rohner identified a Lincoln’s sparrow at her feeding station near Rochester, New York. It remained into April and was seen by a number of qualified observers from the Rochester and Buffalo areas. Mrs. Rohner reported (fide Allen Kemnitzer) that the bird was fairly responsive to the placing of seed in the feeder, that it held its own with other feeding birds and that it was not overly shy. Its behavior appeared to be quite typical of a Lincoln’s sparrow on its wintering grounds.
Range: Western Alaska, central Yukon, Mackenzie, northern Ontario, northern Quebec, central Labrador, and Newfoundland south to southern Mexico, El Salvador, the Gulf Coast, and central Florida.
Breeding range: The eastern Lincoln’s sparrow breeds from western and interior Alaska (upper Kobuk River, Iliamna Lake; Cordova Bay, intergrades with M. l. gracilis), central Yukon (Forty Mile), western and southern Mackenzie (Fort Good Hope, Fort Providence), northern Manitoba (Churchill), northern Ontario (Fort Severn), northern Quebec (Great Whale River, Fort Chimo), central Labrador (Hopedale), and Newfoundland (St. Anthony) south through interior British Columbia (Atlin, Chilcotin Lake) to the mountains of central and northeastern Washington (Mount Rainier, Windy Peak), northern Idaho (Potlatch River), northwestern Montana (Flathead Lake), southern and central Alberta (Waterton Lake Park, Battle River region), central Saskatchewan (Big River), southern Manitoba (Margaret), northern Minnesota (Leech Lake, Duluth), northern Wisconsin (Madeline Island, Oconto), central Michigan (Missaukee County), southern Ontario (casually to Pottageville and Wainfleet Marsh), western New York (Monroe County 15 miles northeast of Wihnurt), central and eastern Maine, and Nova Scotia (Advocate Harbour).
Winter range: Winters from northern California (Chico, Sob asto1)01), southern Nevada (Searchlight), northern Arizona (Flagstaff), northern New Mexico (Shiprock), northern Oklahoma (Copan), eastern Kansas, central Missouri (Kansas City), south-central Kentucky (Bowling Green), and northern Georgia (Kirkwood; Chatham County) south to southern Baja California (Victoria Mountains), El Salvador (Los Esesmiles), Quintana Roo (Camp Mengel), southern Louisiana (Cameron), southern Mississippi (Gulfport), Alabama, and central Florida (Orlando); casually north to Washington (Foster Island), northern Illinois (Beach), southern Ontario (Kingston), Pennsylvania (Jeffersonville), and North Carolina (Raleigh), and south to Canal Zone, southern Florida (Goulds), and Bermuda.
Accidental in Greenland (Nanortalik) and Jamaica (Blue Mountains).
Migration: The data deal with the species as a whole. Early dates of spring arrival are: Florida: Tallahassee, April 26. Alabama: Huntsville, May 2. South Carolina: Aiken County, April 24. Virginia: Lynchburg, April 4; Blacksburg, April 5. District of Columbia: April 21 (average of 10 years, May 5). Maryland: Laurel, May 3. Pennsylvania: Beaver, May 6; State College, May 7. New Jersey: Princeton, May 8. New York: -New York City, April 11; Ontario County, April 28; Orient, April 29. Connecticut: East Hartford, April 24. Massachusetts: Cambridge, May 7. New Hampshire: New Hampton, May 15 (median of 5 years, May 20). Maine: Bangor and Lake Umbagog, May 15. Quebec: Montreal area, May 6. New Brunswick: Grand Manan, May 2. Nova Scotia: Antigonish, May 19. Newfoundland: Tompkins, May 19. Arkansas: Little Rock, April 10. Tennessee: Nashville, April 25; Knox County, May 12. Missouri: St. Louis, April 1 (median of 13 years, April 20). Illinois: Urbana, April 1 (median of 19 years, May 3); Chicago, April 19 (average of 16 years, April 30). Indiana: Wayne County, April 28. Ohio: Oberlin, April 14 (median of 12 years, May 9); central Ohio, April 16 (median of 40 years, May 5). Michigan: Battle Creek, April 22; Detroit area, May 4 (mean of 10 years, May 7). Ontario: Meadowvale, April 14. Iowa: Sioux City, April 12. Wisconsin: Oconto County, April 12. Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul, April 19 (average of 6 years, April 26). Oklahoma: Norman, April 2. Kansas: northeastern Kansas, April 14 (median of 7 years, April 18). Nebraska: Holstein, April 18; Red Cloud. April 20 (average of 11 years, May 1). South Dakota-Sioux Falls, April 17 (average of 7 years, April 27); Mellette, April 20. North Dakota: Lower Souris Refuge, April 14; Cass County, April 27 (average, May 1). Manitoba: Treesbank, April 25 (average of 12 years, May 9). Saskatchewan: Eastend, May 1. Mackenzie: Hay River, May 12. New Mexico: Los Alamos, March 20. Colorado: Fort Lyon, April 2. Utah: Salt Lake City, March 21. Wyoming: Laramie, April 8 (average of 9 years, May 1). Idaho: Lewiston, April 1 (median of northern Idaho, April 13). Montana: Libby, April 28; Miles City, May 4. Alberta: Carvel, April 29. Nevada: Mercury, March 18. Oregon: Maiheur National Wildlife Refuge, April 14. Washington: Bellingham Bay, April 23. British Columbia: Okanagan, April 18. Alaska: Nulato, May 16.
Late dates of spring departure are: Florida: Lower Keys, May 14. Alabama: Florence, May 11. Georgia: Athens, May 13. North Carolina: Morganton, May 14. Virginia: Lexington, May 18; Blacksburg, May 16. District of Columbia: May 30 (average of 10 years, May 20). Maryland: Brookeville, June 1; Prince Georges County, May 30. Pennsylvania: Crawford County, May 24. New York: New York City area, June 7. Connecticut: Hartford, May 30. Massachusetts: Belmont, May 26. New Hampshire: New Hampton, June 1; Concord, May 23. Maine: Portland, May 12. New Brunswick: Grand Manan, May 26. Louisiana: Baton Rouge, April 14. Mississippi: Deer Island, May 7. Arkansas: Little Rock, May 16. Tennessee: Nashville, May 28 (median of 13 years, May 17). Kentucky: Bardstown, May 16. Missouri: St. Louis, May 30 (median of 13 years, May 14). Illinois: Chicago, June 1 (average of 16 years, May 27); Urbana, May 28 (median of 19 years, May 15). Indiana: Wayne County, May 22. Ohio: central Ohio, May 28 (median of 40 years, May 18); Oberlin, May 23 (median of 12 years, May 14). Michigan: Detroit area, May 24 (mean of 10 years, May 22). Ontario: London, May 19. Iowa: Sioux City, May 20. Wisconsin: Sheboygan, May 29. Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul, May 22 (average of 6 years, May 19). Texas: Sinton, May 16 (median of 5 years, May 4); Amarillo, May 12. Oklahoma: Norman, May 12. Kansas: northeastern Kansas, May 19 (median of 9 years, May 6). Nebraska: Holstein, May 17. South Dakota: Sioux Falls, May 23 (average of 6 years, May 20). North Dakota: Cass County, May 30 (average, May 24). New Mexico: Los Alamos, May 27. Arizona: Cibola, April 7. Utah: Uinta Basin, April 15. Idaho: Moscow, May 15 (median for northern Idaho, May 1). Montana: Libby and Columbia Falls, May 15. California: Mount Hamilton, May 3. Nevada: Esmeralda County, May 9. Oregon: Ashland, May 6. Washington: Okanogan, May 6.
Early dates of fall arrival are: Washington: Mount Adams, August 27; Everson, September 5. Oregon: Portland, September 9. Nevada: Hidden Forest, September 17. California: Berkeley, September 8. Montana: Dawson County, August 27; Libby, August 28. Idaho: Lewiston, August 29 (median for northern Idaho, September 1). Utah: Standrod, August 25. Arizona: Chiricahua Mountains, August 24. New Mexico: Los Alamos, September 2 (median of 6 years, September 11). North Dakota: Cass County, August 22 (average, August 26); Jamestown, August 25. South Dakota: Sioux Falls, August 27. Nebraska: Holstein, September 5. Kansas: northeastern Kansas, September 5 (median of 6 years, October 1). Oklahoma: Copan, September 29. Texas: Austin, September 11; Sinton, September 17 (median of 9 years, October 8). Minnesota-Minneapolis-St. Paul, August 17 (average of 5 years, September 1). Wisconsin: Waukesha County, September 3. Iowa: Sioux City, August 31. Ontario: Toronto, September 18. Michigan: Detroit area, September 7 (mean of 10 years, September 20). Ohio: Buckeye Lake, September 4 (median of 40 years for central Ohio, September 23). Indiana: Wayne County, September 18. Illinois: Chicago, September 1 (average of 16 years, September 10). Missouri: St. Louis, September 18 (median of 12 years, September 28). Kentucky: Bowling Green, September 20. Tennessee: Nashville, September 29; Knox County, October 5. Arkansas: Fayetteville, October 8; Little Rock, October 14. Mississippi: Deer Island, November 1. Louisiana: Baton Rouge, October 11. Maine: Portland, September 25. New Hampshire: New Hampton, September 2 (median of 18 years, September 19). Massachusetts: Belmont, September 9. Connecticut: Stanford, September 2; East Windsor Hill, September 9. New York: Orient, September 9; Tiana, September 11. New Jersey-Princeton, September 21. Pennsylvania: State College, September 5; Beaver, September 30. Maryland: Laurel, September 12. District of Columbia-September 30. Virginia: Blacksburg, September 18; Lexington, September 21. North Carolina: North Fork Valley, September 17. Georgia: Athens, October 6. Alabama: Dauphin Island, October 14; Livingston, October 17. Florida: Leon County, October 9; Lower Keys, October 18.
Late dates of fall departure are: Alaska: Cook Inlet, September 28. Yukon: Macmillan River, August 24. British Columbia: Chiliwack, October 21. Washington: Tacoma, November 11. Oregon: Portland, November 26. Nevada: Indian Springs, October 21. Alberta: Camrose, October 7. Montana: Libby, October 2. Idaho Lewiston, October 16 (median for northern Idaho, October 2). Wyoming: Laramie, October 20 (average of 9 years, October 3). Utah-Deep Creek, October 5. Colorado: Colorado Springs, November 2. New Mexico-Los Alamos, October 18 (median of 5 years, October 2). Mackenzie-Fort Simpson, September 6. Saskatchewan: Eastend, September 22. Manitoba: Treesbank, October 27 (average of 11 years, October 17). North Dakota: Cass County, October 21 (average, October 5). South Dakota: Sioux Falls, October 21. Nebraska: Holstein, November 4. Kansas: northeastern Kansas, October 27. Oklahoma: Payne County, November 8. Minnesota: Minneapolis: St. Paul, October 28 (average of 6 years, October 19). Wisconsin: Milwaukee, November 6. Iowa-Sioux City, October 26. Ontario: Toronto, October 11. Michigan: Detroit area, October 27 (mean of 10 years, October 12); Battle Creek, October 17. Ohio: Buckeye Lake, November 3 (median of 40 years for central Ohio, October 23). Indiana: Wayne County, October 23 (median of 5 years, October 19). Illinois: Chicago, October 28 (average of 16 years, October 16). Missouri: St. Louis, November 10 (median of 12 years, October 28). Kentucky: Bowling Green, November 26. Tennessee: Nashville, October 29 (median of 10 years, October 11); Knox County, October 23. Arkansas: Little Rock, November 25. Newfoundland: Stephenville Crossing, September 20. New Brunswick: Tobique River, September 28. Quebec: Montreal area, October 6. Maine: Lake Umbagog, October 16. New Hampshire: New Hampton, October 17 (median of 18 years, October 17). Massachusetts: Belmont, November 1. Connecticut: East Windsor Hill, October 24. New York: Long Island, December 4. New Jersey: Princeton, October 25; Cape May, October 12. Pennsylvania: State College, October 26; Allegheny County, October 23. Maryland-Baltimore County, October 30; Laurel, October 30 (median of 4, October 12). District of Columbia: October 21 (average of 3 years, October 18). Virginia: Lexington, November 22; Blacksburg, October 26. South Carolina: Columbia, November 7.
Egg dates: Alaska: 2 records, June 21 and June 27.
Alberta: 46 records, May 27 to June 28; 27 records, June 6 to June 14. Mackenzie: 4 records, June 13 to June 25.
New Brunswick: 7 records, June 8 to June 15.
Ontario: 11 records, June 4 to July 11; 6 records, June 9 to June 17.
Quebec: 30 records, June 3 to June 29; 18 records, June 12 to June 21.
MONTANE LINCOLN’S SPARROW
MELOSPIZA LINCOLNII ALTICOLA (Miller and McCabe)
Contributed by OLIVER L. AUSTIN, JR.
The 1957 A.O.U. Check-List assigns to this race the Lincoln’s sparrows breeding in the mountains from Oregon and Montana southward to northern New Mexico, central Arizona, and southern California. This is essentially the distribution its describers, Miller and McCabe (1935) attribute to it. They epitomize the population as a variable “mosaic,” for which they were reluctant to designate a type because “there is no such thing as a specimen typical of the race.” They claim the subspecies averages slightly larger than nominate northern and eastern lincolnii, and “includes chiefly birds with moderately ruddy or brown backs, rarely ruddy or gray-brown backs. The greatest number are brown-backed. Varying percentages of brown backed birds are of the dull brown type with reduced light feather margins. Birds with moderately broad and narrow stripes are included, but the latter type predominates.”
It must be admitted that the systematic status of alticola still remains open to some question, for no two recent writers who have studied the western Lincoln’s sparrows agree with each other, or with the Check-List for that matter, on its characteristics and distribution. Jewett et al. (1953) assign to it the birds breeding in the mountains of Washington state, which they claim are “more grayish and slightly larger” than nominate lincolnii. Gabrielson and Lincoln (1959) include in it all the Lincoln’s sparrows of mainland Alaska and Mackenzie, which they find “entirely lack the rich browns that characterize the eastern race.” Finally Phillips et al. (1964) relegate alticola to the synonymy of lincolnii with the tart parenthetical comment: “Several earnest ornithologists have foundered on McCabe’s color descriptions or have left museum work in despair.”
At best the population to which the Check-List assigns this name is a poorly marked and highly variable one. Sharp geographical boundaries cannot be drawn between many of its segments, and throughout its range are many individuals that cannot be identified subspecifically with certainty on morphological grounds alone.
Its summer habitat in California Grinnell and Miller (1944) describe as “mountain meadows of boggy type, grown to fairly tall grass, Veratrum, and sedges, and fringed or intermixed with willow thickets. Wet ground and wet dead grass invariably are present. The ground usually is flooded shallowly by melting snow or by springs or overflow from streams at the time nest sites are chosen.”
In these surroundings the species becomes somewhat less shy. W. L. Dawson (1923) notes:
And forty years of acquaintance with the Lincoln Song Sparrow in winter and on migrations will scarcely yield one more than fleeting glimpses, baffling disappearances, or strained moments of maddening unnaturalness.
Quite different is the story of the Lincoln sparrow in his summer home, an emerald meadow in the Sierras, or a lush-bound cienaga in one of the southern ranges. There he bursts upon you in a torrent of music, a flood which leaves you fairly gasping. This little, slinking, bird-afraid-of-his-shadow gets all at once the courage of mighty convictions, when he has the mountain to back him; and though he still skulks and evades, it is henceforth rather as a modest hero shunning the plaudits of an unrestrained admiration.”
Nesting: Charles R. Keyes (1905) was one of the first to record a nest of this form. He found one in the central Sierras “with three half-fledged young * * * in a small and very wet meadow near Susie Lake, just off the Mt. Tallac trail, on July 2. It was placed in a bunch of dead grass and composed of the same material and a few hairs. Both parents approached me closely while at the nest.” Wright M. Pierce (1916) writes from the San Bernardino Mountains of California, “On June 21 in a small meadow near Bluff Lake I found a nest containing five eggs of this bird, incubation just started. The nest was placed on the ground at the base of a small bunch of hellebore, and was composed mostly of grass, with a little hair and one feather for a lining.”
In the mountains of southwestern Montana, Aretas A. Saunders (1910) writes in the experimental spelling of that day
* * * I flusht a Lincoln Sparrow (Melospiza lincolni) from its nest, situated at the base of a clump of willows and containing three eggs. At our next camp, about six miles south of Pipestone Basin, I found two more nests of this bird, one with four and one with five eggs. The nests are much like those of the Song Sparrow but a little smaller, and constructed almost entirely of grass with little or no hair in the lining. The way in which this bird flushes from her nest is very distinctive and quite unlike any other sparrow with which I am acquainted. She slips quietly from her nest and runs off thru the grass without a note or a flutter of any sort, her movements more like those of a mouse than a bird. In fact two of the three birds I fiusht I supposed at first were mice, and had I not lookt at them a second time would have gone away without seeing their nests.
In his recent studies of subalpine fringillids in Colorado, Neil F. Hadley (MS.) writes:
Nineteen nests of the Lincoln’s Sparrow were found. These nests were restricted to very wet, marshy areas between 9,500 and 11,000 feet. The availability of this particular habitat, plus the excellent concealment of the nest were important factors in reducing the number of nests found. The number of eggs per nest varied from 4 to 5 and averaged 4.4. The length of incubation for eggs in nests for which it was possible to follow the complete history of a brood was 12 to 13 days, with a similar amount of time spent in the nest after hatching. It was not determined whether the Lincoln’s Sparrow attempted a second brood if the first was unsuccessful or if more than one brood was reared during the season.
Jewett et al. (1953) write:
Few nests have ever been found in the [Washington] state. Dawson (1908d: 483) reports a breeding colony of some 20 individuals in the swamp at Longmire Springs, Mt. Rainier. On July 1, 1908, the birds seemed to be about evenly divided between care of young out of the nest and preparations for a second nesting. Peck located a nest July 25, 1917, in a little alder bush in a swampy place along Surveyors Creek, close to Signal Peak Ranger Station. The nest was not quite 12 inches from the ground, being concealed by sedges. It was built of rather fine grasses and contained 5 eggs in an advanced stage of incubation. As the observer approached, the parent flew silently from the nest and did not reappear during the 10 minutes he spent in the neighborhood.
Eggs: The measurements of 40 eggs average 19.1 by 14.5 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 20.6 by 15.2, 20.1 by 15.5, 17.8 by 13.7, and 18.0 by 13.2 millimeters.
Young: No account of the breeding biology of this form has ever been published, but most aspects of it probably differ little if at all from those of the nominate race. A. A. Saunders (1910) continues his experiences with the species in Montana:
Up to the time the young birds left the nest I never heard an alarm note of any sort from the Lincoln Sparrows, but after that time, which took place about June 25, one could not enter the willow thickets without being scolded from one end to the other by these birds. We had a litter of young coyotes in camp, and one Sunday they broke loose from their pen and led us quite a chase into a near-by willow swamp, before they were finally captured. As soon as they entered the swamp the Lincoln Sparrows, evidently recognizing a natural enemy, started scolding in a manner that I have seldom heard equalled in any bird. While helping to corner one of the coyotes, I notist a young Lincoln Sparrow running abed of me thru the grass and soon captured it. In general appearance and in the manner in which it ran thru the grass this bird resembled, until actually caught, a newly hatcht game-bird rather than a young sparrow. It was unable to fly, but was very active at running and hiding in the tall grass. I took it to camp and posed it on the end of a tent peg for its picture, after which I releast it again in the swamp.
Food: As Gabrielson and Lincoln (1959) point out, “Little is known about their food * * *. Nevertheless, it can be assumed to consist of seeds similar to those utilized by other sparrows. It probably also takes its share of such insects as are available during the summer months.” The latter observation is corroborated by Grinnell (1908) who states that while camped in the San Bernardino Mountains in late June “fully a dozen adults were seen, some carrying bills full of insects and others singing a wheezy, incoherent song from the tips of dead willow stalks. They were very secretive and kept pretty much out of sight in the rank Veratrum patches and willow thickets.”
Voice: R. T. Peterson (1941) states “Song, sweet and gurgling; suggests both House Wren and Purple Finch; starts with low passages, rises abruptly, drops.” Dawson (1923) gives the following more detailed account of his impressions of it in California:
The song of the Lincoln Sparrow is of a distinctly musical order, being gushing, vivacious and wren-like in quality, rather than lisping and wooden, as are so many of our sparrow songs. Indeed, the bird shows a much stronger relationship in song to the Purple Finch than it does to its immediate congeners, the Song Sparrows. The principal strain is gurgling, rolling, and spontaneous, and the bird has ever the trick of adding two or three inconsequential notes at the end of his ditty, quite in approved Purple Finch fashion. Linkup, tinkup perly werly willie willie weeee (dim.) says one; Riggle, jiggle, eet eet eer oor, another. Che willy willy willy che quill; Lee lee lee quilly willy, willy, and other such, come with full force and freshness at a hundred yards to the listeners * * *
Jewett et al. (1953) thus describe it in Washington: “The song of the Lincoln sparrow, which may be heard in summer on favorable alpine meadows, is rendered with unique and attractive quality, and when first heard greatly piques the curiosity. On attempting to find the bird the concert stops abruptly, and the singer drops into the brush out of sight. * * * As the summer advances the song of the Lincoln loses much of its piquancy and charm, and is less often heard, A chek call note, with something of junco and of warbler quality about it, but different from either, is more in evidence.”
Fall: Jewett et al. (1953) continue:
The restlessness so universal with birds in the fall seems to infect the Lincoln with the rest, and migrating individuals are frequently encountered. It is less closely bound at this season by its predilections for meadow and swamp, and we have found it common in September in the flag and tule thickets of the lowlands and the mountain ash brush and dwarfed conifers close to timber line in the mountains. It is likely to be encountered, during migration, in almost any brushy or grassy situation not too far from water, although it sedulously avoids the woods. It often attaches itself to roving bands of white-crowned or golden-crowned sparrows or juncos.
Winter: Grinnell and Miller (1944) state this race migrates to the California lowlands in September and winters in the same type of habitat as M. l. lincolnii, which they characterize as: “Low-growing bushes and clumps of annuals interspersed with grass, especially on damp ground or near water. Ditch banks, brushy borders of sloughs, tangles of driftwood, and sedge clumps are typical situations. The birds adhere closely to cover and make the fullest use of its protection when alarmed, only momentarily exposing themselves in flight low over the ground between cover. In foraging they work inconspicuously and solitarily through the grass about the bases of bushes or within brush tangles.”
Range: Oregon and Montana south to southern Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Breeding range: The Montane Lincoln’s sparrow breeds in mountains from north-central and eastern Oregon (Breitenbush Lake, Wallowa Mountains), central Idaho (Payette Lake), southwestern and south-central Montana (18 miles northwest of Dillon, Shriver), and north-central Wyoming (Big Horn Mountains) south to California (west to the inner northern coast ranges, South Yolla Bolly Mountain; south to the San Jacinto Mountains), west-central Nevada (Galena Creek), southwestern Utah (Cedar Breaks), east-central Arizona (White Mountains), and northern New Mexico (Pecos Baldy).
Winter range: Winters from central California (Hayward, Modesto), southern Nevada (Boulder City), southern Arizona (Phoenix, Patagonia), Chihuahua (Chihuahua), and southern Texas (Kerrville) south to southern Baja California (El Sauce), Guatemala (Finca La Primavera), and El Salvador (Los Esesmiles). In migration in western Kansas.
Egg dates: California: 29 records, May 24 to June 30; 22 records June 13 to June 25.
Colorado: 21 records, June 12 to July 14; 11 records June 20 to June 26.
Oregon: 6 records, June 13 to June 25.
NORTHWESTERN (FORBUSH’S) LINCOLN’S SPARROW
MELOSPIZA LINCOLNII GRACILIS (Kittlitz)
Contributed by OLIVER L. AUSTIN, JR.
The Lincoln’s sparrows breeding on the Pacific coast and islands from southeastern Alaska to Vancouver Island average slightly smaller in wing and tail measurements than the other two subspecies. P. A. Taverner (1926) calls gracilis “a faintly defined race, slightly more olivaceous on back and with the dark streaks heavier and more numerous.”
J. Grinnell (1910) reports that Miss Alexander found the birds at the head of Cordova Bay “occupying the upper end of the tide flat, where they found cover in the low, stiff, willow-like brush that skirted the sloughs.” In the Sitka region George Willett (1914) says: “It is apparently a fairly common summer visitant during some years, and much less plentiful during others. In the summer of 1912 I found it common in the grass around Swan Lake and in marshes at the head of Silver Bay. Young birds just out of the nest were noted in the former locality July 28. During 1913 I visited both of these localities several times but failed to find the species at all, nor did I note it anywhere else in the region.”
H. S. Swarth (1922) describes gracilis as probably occurring throughout the upper Stikine Valley but, “judging from our experience, in small numbers and at widely scattered points.” When he reached Sergief Island August 18th many birds were present, and “they greatly increased in numbers within the next few days. At the upper margin of the marshes, that section which is but rarely inundated by the tides, there is much willow brush, increasing in density and size of the trees as the salt water is left behind. The lower edge of this strip, where the willow brush was about waist high and rather scattered, and with thick grass beneath, was the preferred habitat * * * and here the birds literally swarmed. I was accustomed to think of this species as being rather solitary in its habits, but here, whether or not the birds were in constantly associated flocks, their choice of surroundings brought hundreds of them closely together.” He counted 15 birds in view at one time. The species was still present in reduced numbers September 7th.
Grinnell (1909) states “On Chichagof Island it was not uncommon along the edge of the timber near the river at Hooniah, June 21 to 27, where it was breeding. Littlejohn found a nest there June 26, in the moss on the side of a fallen, half-buried log just above high-water mark. It was well concealed by overhanging vegetation. The nest was located by watching the female parent feed the five young which were thought to be about six days old. She was very shy about approaching the nest.” The same author (1910) describes a nest Miss Alexander found at the head of Cordova Bay June 10 as:
well concealed in a rather straggling clump of the stiff brush characterizing the local habitat of the species. It was located at the base of a low-lying branch that almost completely covered it. The nest (no. 39) presents a firm structure, externally 67 mm. deep by 100 in width. This does not, however, probably include whatever peripheral loosely laid material there may have been. The cup-shaped cavity is 38 mm. deep by 53 wide. Externally the nest consists of layers of brown willow leaves of the previous season. Within this and making up the rim, is a basket-work of rather coarse, weathered grayish stems and blades of grass. Finally the nest-lining is of fine, round, yellowed grasses.
The measurements of 40 eggs average 19.4 by 14.2 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 20.8 by 14.7, 19.8 by 15.5, 17.8 by 13.7, and 18.0 by 13.2 millimeters.
Range: Southeastern Alaska to central California.
Breeding range: The northwestern Lincoln’s sparrow breeds in the coastal district of southeastern Alaska (Yakutat Bay, Juneau) and central British Columbia (Doch-da-on, intergrades with M. l. lincolnii; Queen Charlotte Islands, Porcher Island); rarely on Vancouver Island (in mountains).
Winter range: Winters chiefly in central California (Lakeport, Colusa, Morro Bay, Walker Basin); rarely south to southern California (Tia Juana River), northern Baja California (El Valle de la Trinidad), southwestern Arizona (The Needles), central Sonora (Maicoba), and Coahuila (Sierra del Carmen).