Female  Spanish Sparrow at IJmuiden in May 2010

On 6 May 2010, I found a female Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis at my local patch at IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands. Later that day it was also seen by Michiel van den Bergh and Jacob Garvelink. I discovered the bird by its call, which differed from the accompanying House Sparrows P domesticus. Other distinctive features were a heavy bill, very pale ‘tramlines’ on mantle sides, fine shaft streaks on breast and flanks, sandy-grey fringes of greater coverts, tertials, primaries and secondaries, a pale general impression and an open face with pale lores and long supercilium. Subtle characters that further supported the identification were a rather peaked crown, fine shaft streaks on crown, rump and uppertail-coverts, poorly marked lower scapulars with only dark shaft streaks, a conspicuous white wing bar and strongly patterned undertail-coverts. The primary projection of c 45% turned out to be normal for Spanish but also for House Sparrow. In general, the plumage showed less rufous and brownish tones than House Sparrow.
Separating female Spanish from House and Italian Sparrow P italiae is difficult or – according to many – even impossible, mostly because of individual variation and overlap in characters. Most of the features mentioned above are in themselves not very obvious or exclusive. However, the combination of them makes many Spanish Sparrows stand out. The chwee call noted from the IJmuiden bird is typical for Spanish Sparrow, sounding somewhat squeaky and slightly longer than in House Sparrow. The sonagram usually shows two notes and several harmonics. In House Sparrow the notes run parallel to each other, one on top of the other, but in typical Spanish they do not. Other typical vocalizations, such as the well-articulated flight call of Spanish Sparrow – chu-vit rather than chuwiv as in House Sparrow – were not recorded.
Altogether, close observations and sound-recordings will allow safe identification of typical female Spanish Sparrows, even of some vagrants. The observation was accepted by the Dutch rarities committee (CDNA) as the sixth record of Spanish Sparrow for the Netherlands. Previous records were at De Cocksdorp, Texel, Noord-Holland (4-15 May 1997), Camperduin, Noord-Holland (13 May 2000), Eemshaven, Groningen (four males and six females, 9-12 April 2009), Den Hoorn, Texel (18-20 April 2009) and Maasvlakte, Zuid-Holland (20-27 April 2009). Also, it was the first solitary female for the Netherlands and north-western Europe. 

 

Click here for a sound-recording of chwee calls of Spanish Sparrows in May 2000 in Kazakhstan made by Magnus Robb / The Sound Approach

Click here for a sound-recording of flight calls of a Spanish Sparrow in January 2011 in Portugal made by Roy Slaterus.


Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Jacob Garvelink). Note open face, reminiscent of Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus, heavy bill, rather peaked crown with dark shaft streaks.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Jacob Garvelink).

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Roy Slaterus). Note open face, heavy bill and fine shaft streaks on breast.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Jacob Garvelink). Note lack of rufous tones, striking ‘tramlines’ and wingbar, sandy-grey fringes of greater coverts, tertials and remiges and dark markings on flanks.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Jacob Garvelink). Note striking ‘tramlines’ and pale fringes of tertials.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Roy Slaterus). Note white belly and strongly patterned undertail-coverts.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, female, IJmuiden, Noord-Holland, 6 May 2010 (Roy Slaterus). Note pale fringes of greater coverts, tertials and remiges and strongly patterned undertail-coverts.



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