Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sierra high

Recalling a small, shorter-tailed Song Sparrow, Sierra Madre Sparrow is an endangered Mexican endemic.
This sought-after species is now found in just two localities and nowhere else in the world.

One of the major highlights of yesterday's field trip with Hector and Rafael was this unobtrusive but ultra-rare endemic. It took a bit of digging out, too, as all the best birds do, but I eventually picked up this Sierra Madre Sparrow when it flew in and perched, calling, on a nearby rock. My first impression was of a petite Song Sparrow, but that larger species (which I'd seen the previous day) is different in a number of respects, being longer-tailed with less rufous upperparts and darker flanks.

The bad news about Sierra Madre Sparrow is that it is in serious trouble. BirdLife International puts the fast-declining population at somewhere between 2,500 and 9,999 mature individuals. Even more dire is its range, the species now being known from just two locations (BirdLife again). It's hard to see how a dwindling species can recover from such a position, but action to prevent habitat destruction is being taken, as are other measures - see the BirdLife factsheet for more on this interesting endemic.

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