Both the white-crowned sparrow and white-throated sparrow are passing southward through Berrien County this month, and are quite abundant around brush piles, forest edges, shrubs and gardens.
The white-crowned sparrow has just that, a white crown that looks like a football helmet. One is featured in a photo taken by Brad Anderson at Grand Mere State Park on October 15.
The white-throated sparrow is also passing through in good numbers and was photographed on October 20 at Warren Dunes State Park by David Lawrence. It too has white stripes on its head, but also has a white throat and golden lores.
Both species nest north of our region, and the majority passes south into the southeastern U.S., where they remain until March before returning north.
A relatively small number of white-throated and white-crowned sparrows can be found throughout the winter in Southwest Michigan.
One of the most familiar and abundant songbirds in Southwest Michigan is the dark-eyed junco, one of which was photographed by David Lawrence at Warren Dunes State Park on October 19.
The dark-eyed junco is a member of the sparrow family, and resides during the nesting season in Canada south to northern Michigan. From October through April they are found throughout the United States, with exception of Florida.
All these sparrows are commonly seen at bird-feeding stations, usually on the ground picking out seed dropped by other birds or squirrels. Millet and cracked corn is preferred by sparrows over sunflower seeds, unless the sunflower seed is shelled.
Brad Anderson photographed a yellow-rumped warbler on October 15 at Chikaming Township Park off Warren Woods Road. The yellow on the bird's rump is not visible in the photo.
Yellow-rumped warblers are yet another species currently passing southward through the region to the southern U.S. for the winter. A very small portion of the population may overwinter in southern Michigan, usually along rivers or other wetlands with thick brush along the banks, where they seek out insects to eat. If the weather is too cold for insects, they switch to poison ivy berries.
On October 22, Penny Wilson of Hartford Township reported that a single cattle egret landed in her pasture. This is the second cattle egret reported in this area in as many weeks.
Several lingering ruby-throated hummingbirds were reported this past week. Betty Bongiorno of Benton Township reported up to three at her feeder on October 17. The hummingbird reported last week by Alice Bacak of South Haven was last observed on October 19.
The latest ruby-throated hummingbird reported was one photographed on October 22 at the feeder of Arthur and Kris Herman of Hagar Township.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at email@example.com.