Dwarfed by a single blade of grass or a fallen leaf, a tiny Grasshopper Sparrow has captured the hearts of the New York City birding community over the past few days.
You might have passed by a group of awestruck birders seemingly staring at an empty patch of grass in Central Park this weekend, and wondered why the shutters were clicking and everyone was hushed. All eyes were trained on a tiny migrant that is small even for a sparrow, weighing one ounce at most. The name is doubly appropriate: it eats grasshoppers and one of its two songs is thought to resemble their buzzing sound.
Grasshopper sparrows are weak flyers and prefer to stay close to the ground, walking or running, so once you have spotted one (which is hard to do) you stand a good chance of it staying in the same area. They are considered to be a “Common Bird in Steep Decline” and are rare visitors to Central Park. Our Lilliputian guest was first spotted by my birding friend Charlotte (aka koolshark2 on Twitter), an eagle-eyed birder who somehow spotted this special visitor among a flock of House Sparrows, foraging near Turtle Pond on Thursday, October 13. As most birders know, never assume an entire flock is just one type of bird. It pays to scan the group carefully because you don’t know what you might find. Well done, Charlotte!
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