Sparrows are common song birds found across the whole of the North America, but Bachman's sparrow is one solitary songster that most of us have not observed or recognized.
Most of us have heard, however, the old hymn written by Civilla D. Martin in 1905, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."
"His eye is on the sparrow-ow-ow-and I know-ow He watches over me."
The sparrow song is based on the Bible text, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31
As Waters was considered an extraordinary voice in the human family, among birds Bachman's sparrows are deemed exceptional. His mellow tones can only be heard though in the woodlands of the southeast United States, and there he stays summer and winter, never venturing west of the eastern border of Texas, never even as far north as Arkansas. The southern border of Illinois and the furthest southern edge of Pennsylvania are as far north as this little bird strays. The little sparrow loves bushy pastures, palmettos, pine and oak-wooded lands.
Bachman's sparrow, Aimophila aestivalis, is small and dull colored. The female builds a cup-shaped nest of grass and weed stems on the ground among grasses. She often pulls grass down to form a dome over the nest, leaving entrances at the sides. She lays three to five oval white eggs that she incubates for 13 days.
The bird hatches two broods a year, sometimes three in the far south. The nests are so difficult to locate that neither James Audubon nor John Bachman, for whom the bird was named, ever succeeded in their attempts to find one. A birdwatcher would be most likely to find a nest hidden under saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) in the state of Florida.
This is a secretive, elusive bird. A birdwatcher is not as likely to spot one as to hear one caroling. The sparrow perches high in a tree to serenade the world. He may sing long and intricate melodies if he is not interrupted. It seems fitting that his name Bachman contains the name of Bach, the renowned musical composer.
Bachman's sparrows eat insects, spiders and seed but are not likely to be visitors at your backyard feeder. They are a shy bird and keep their distance from folks. It is a birdwatcher's dream to spot one of these awesome songsters.
If you should ever hear one of these famed singers, just wave and say in your best southern drawl: "Hey there, Ethel."
Question of the Day
Who was John Bachman? Bachman was a naturalist who studied birds and assisted Audubon in the writing of the texts of several books about the birds and mammals of North America. Bachman was also a Lutheran minister and the founder of Newberry College. He was born in Rhinebeck, NY, in 1790. Several birds are named in his honor, including the Bachman's sparrow and the Bachman's Warbler.
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