Return of the Hybrid Sparrow

This afternoon at my parents' home after lunch, I decided to relax near the bird feeders and sat down on a bench near them. I saw a couple of goldfinches, and heard the trills of a junco singing nearby. I looked closer at the feeder area.

Perched there was the White-throated Sparrow x Dark-eyed Junco that has visited their feeders and yard during winter and early spring since Christmas 2006. I compared its look with this critter's framed photos in the living room. Gotta be the same individual.

Shortly after I noted the hybrid, a male Dark-eyed Junco landed and pecked a couple of sunflower seeds. Now the question is: did the hybrid or the male junco sing?

A few published reports about the songs of hybrid white-throats x juncos indicate that the birds sing a combo of songs from both species.

I don't know where this bird travels in the spring. Wish I could somehow discover this little fact or set of facts. But anyway the presence of this individual four winters in a row really is amazing. My parents must have a great place for a sparrow's winter vacation is all I can figure.


The photo above was taken by Bruce Grimes in January 2008. First photos of this sparrow was taken in December 2006.

This individual hybrid is the only one I know of for Franklin County, VA. Bruce Grimes and I encountered another hybrid white-throat x junco in Henry County, along Bowens Creek. Bruce managed a couple of lousy pictures before rain started falling and the sparrow flew away. This individual looked more like a sparrow, and had only a few features of a junco.

Retired ornithologist Dr. Eric Johnson found a hybrid on his property in Patrick County last spring. What is going on? What are these sparrows and juncos up to? Is hybridization more common than we have believed?