A blog mainly about birds and birding, to supplement my website I shall add new posts on an ad hoc basis as and when I have something I think is worth sharing, whether that’s an interesting bird, something I’ve learned, perhaps about identification, or something that’s aroused my curiosity. Often there will be questions, some of which you might be able to answer... please use the comments!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

More on Sparrows

I just posted about the variation in sparrows on Sicily, but there's one more thing that aroused my curiosity. Some of them seemed to have some grey in the crown.  Now for a species that was once half House Sparrow that might not seem very unexpected, but I've never seen a photo or description of an Italian Sparrow with grey in the crown.  I might expect it in northern Italy, where any ongoing gene flow with House Sparrow is most likely to be prevalent, but not in Sicily.

So two questions.  

Firstly, was this really grey in the crown, or was it just buffy-grey tips to the feathers that are remnants of juvenile plumage?  Or do adults have buffy-grey tips to the crown feathers at all in winter?  I think nearly all the photos I've seen of Italian Sparrow have been taken in spring and summer (when most visitors go to Italy I suppose), so maybe it's perfectly normal, just something I've not come across before?

Secondly, if it is really grey in the crown and not just the remnants of winter or immature plumage, does this occur throughout Italy?  I don't think I've ever seen it illustrated or referenced as within the range of variation of Italian Sparrow.

Italian Sparrow, Etna South, 25th April 2012

Italian Sparrow, Monteluce (Vendicari), 28th April 2012

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