English and Scientific names:

Cassin’s Sparrow  (Aimophila Cassinii)

Number of individuals: 

1 male

Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

Approximately .5 mile N of I-220 and .3 mile W of Benton Rd. (La. Hwy 3)

Date(s) when observed:

. Date(s) when observed: First observed on May 10th 2008. Observed on subsequent occasions 05-11, 12, and 13-2008. Did not return to site until 05-17-2008, at which time the bird was not found after a thorough search a.m. and p.m.

 I consider this finding to be extremely fortunate in more ways than one. Here’s how it happened. I hadn’t been previously birding much for a few weeks prior to the find. Finishing Stoner and Cane’s that morning for the NAMC, I planned on getting a little rest before going across I-20 W and N on hwy 1 to Mooringsport to look for Swainson’s Warbler. I called Hubert to see how he was faring. He suggest I try for White-winged Dove. I arrived at my sisters’ house at 12:50 p.m. and got the dove by song at 12:56. I left there going N on hwy 3. The immediate plans were to run up to Deen Point before going to Mooringsport to try for Wild Turkey. On a hunch, I turned left at the LAST second onto Viking. I moved rather quickly, not expecting much since it was late in the day and the wind was rather brisk at 10-15 S/SSW. Dickcissels were loudly droning everywhere. I recorded a few stfl and modo and made my way N on the farm-road and under I-220 I began noting fairly high nos. of modo in the N straightaway and was moving along at about 35 mph when I slowed a little about to record nos . That’s when I heard it! The definitive metallic, ringing quality of the center trill of a Cassin’s Sparrow to my NNW- Amazingly, the song made it through several loud Dickcissels and wind which was blowing toward the bird to my ear. I SLAMMED on the brakes! WHAT!? CASSIN’S!? NO WAY! I then heard it again- and CLEARLY!. I became quite nervous. I had no video or audio with which to record the bird. Depressing thoughts immediately entered my mind after making a few quick calls to pull folks off their routes to come and confirm. I dared not approach the bird, worried I might frighten it away. I remembered that at least some sparrows have learned songs and it would probably turn out to be a fisp, etc. raised near a Cassin’s. However, I thought on the same token it would more likely be Cassin’s than an imprint. The bird’s song grew louder and louder and I finally realized it was acting as if on territory and was probably going to stay put. It had sang 30 +,- times. I finally got up the nerve to walk WNW toward the source. I arrived near the gate and could hear it, but no sight at first. I turned N and saw Larry’s truck coming under I-220. The song grew closer/louder I looked back W and saw the sparrow perched on to SW corner of the fence. The drab, notably gray overall look told me immediately I was indeed looking at a Cassin’s Sparrow. The rest is history.

Time(s) of day when observed:  

Was heard 1st on 05-10-08 beginning at 1:20 p.m., finally seen at approx 2:00 p.m. Observed/heard regularly through approx.. 5:30 and was present for most of time  On 05-11-08 Arrive, seen/heard at 0644 a.m. not as frequent during day. Seen sporadically until 11 a.m. Returned at intervals between 12:46 p.m. and 3:36 and no bird  On 5-12-08 Arrive at 0710 a.m. no bird. Bird approaches approx 1 hr later when Boslers arrive and use playback.  On 5-13-08 Arrive at 11:55 a.m. Bird observed after Myers, Sorrells use playback at 12:11  On 5-17-08 Arrive at 0705 a.m. No bird through 0920 a.m. Arrive again briefly in afternoon. No bird

Reporting observer and address:


Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):


In approximate order of arrival, although representative of different dates-  Larry Raymond, Jeff Trahan, Mac Hardy, Jim Ingold, Clyde Massey, Rosemary Seidler, Jean Trahan, Bill Wood, Roger Breedlove, Paul Dickson, Mac Myers, Curt Sorrells

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s):

Terry Davis

Bossier City, La

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Did not record well . From memory was sunny during initial sight observation on 05-10 at 1:45-1:50 p.m.which would put sun overhead somewhat to West. Bird was approx. 60 feet West perched at approx 7 feet

Optical equipment: 

Brunton Eterna 11x45 new. Observed subsequently through various scopes/magnifications

Distance to bird(s): 

Approx. 75-100 yds when 1st heard. Approx 60 feet when 1st seen . Observed subsequently, including date-wise, from 8 feet to 100 yds

Duration of observation:

Observed for approx 30 seconds to 1 minute when first seen on 5-10-08., although heard frequently for approx 30 mins before.


Red River valley, Suburban/ open agricultural/farmland. Area most frequented was fairly overgrown dirt rd. with edged of 2’-4’ various grasses and much Rumex sp, thistle sp. running immediately W  of observation point through clean wheat/barley fields interspersed with Rumex sp. (prob R. acetosa), immediate area near observation point was a large a-frame metal farmgate beside concrete rd. with barbed-wire fence lined with much grassy, weedy vegetation, Rough-leaf Dogwood, Brazilian Vervain, Rubus sp.-dewberry, Campsis radicans, others, and much  thickets of Black Willow to N and NE. The secondary area often frequented was the SW portion of a large rectangular area of 6’ to 8’ cyclone fence approx 80 feet wide E to W and 175’ N to S surrounding a very large propane tank which is also immediately W /WNW of observation point. On the E side of the rd there is a large gravel yard adjacent to RR tracks

Behavior of bird: 

On 05-10, 1st day of observation, with winds fairly strong at 10-15 generally S (SSW) The bird was most frequently observed skylarking with activity centered over the E to W dirt rd. The bird would rise up rather quickly facing S (into wind) fluttering on shallow, EAKI-like wingstrokes, begin singing 1st note about half-way to top of flight arc, to a height of 15’-25’, fly forward approx 30’-40’ (S) fairly slowly delivering center trill of song,(-going into 2nd phrase?)  then drop fairly slowly facing wind and letting wind carry it slightly back N while delivering final 2 notes, with final fairly quick drop into grass or occasionally onto Rumex seed heads where continued in song. I did not record or do not remember if actual final phrase after skylarking was sang from ground at times, etc. Often it would land on the dirt rd, most of the time facing N, remain for several seconds, then run back into grass- mostly to N side. After landing, it would often sit in alert position with somewhat crested appearance, occasionally stretching neck upward to have a look around It would sing from ground sporadically, occasionally being a heard-only for 5 minutes or more. It was observed chasing Dickcissels and House Sparrows away(multiple times for each species) on first day Was observed chasing male Red-winged Blackbird away on one occasion. (Chased Hosp and Dickcissels the following day but much less. Was chased by rwbl  male then) Larry Raymond succeeded in getting some in-flight photos. Jeff Trahan obtained some up-close and readily id’able photos. On 5-11-08. Heard at 1st arrival at 0644. Interestingly, with wind now from N/NNW, the birds’ flight trajectory remained the same. The bird would rise facing N winds, then letting N winds carry it S, then fly forward N into winds again before dropping. By the afternoon/evening, the bird was already becoming somewhat skittish- no doubt attributable to playback- although very infrequently used. The bird magically approached closely for Paul Dickson to video not long after he and Beverly arrived On 5-12-08 The bird was a no show for over an hour, slightly more. I was there fairly early and joined slightly later by Jon Carpenter. Devin and Justin Bosler arrived and used very brief playback. The bird immediately came in and landed close by (20’) low in a rung of the chain-link fence. It was now acting notably submissive to the playback, giving continuous high, thin “ti” calls, continuing these into a lively but low, buzzy warble, occasionally low, brief song. The Boslers obtained excellent video. It disappeared. I whistled song and the bird came in and circled us very closely, passing over and around us within a few feet, then landing approx. 8’ away on large horizontal pole at 3-4’. I did not keep notes for afternoon- do not remember seeing/looking for the bird again. 5-13-08. Mac and Curt arrive and bird immediately arrives from a few feet away in a large weedy patch comprised mostly of Johnson Grass and Brazilian Vervain.


Med. to slightly large, notably non-descript grayish sparrow , paler grayish below with fairly long rounded/graduated tail. Head rounded but often slightly appearing crested. The crown at somewhat of distance appears darker, causing a broad grayish superciliary pattern. The post –ocular stripe (distantly)looks dark but colorless afield 1st day, along with crescent at rear of auriculars. Color of the tail best noted on 1st day when skylarking=appears slightly darker than back while in flight, with notable rounded tip, tips edged notably, somewhat thinly with a silvery off-white coloration. Jeff Trahan’s 1st day pics show the definitive transverse barring or “laddering” on tail. I noted the graduated staggered rectrices when perched on the fence on the 12th, along with the somewhat thin diamond-shaped streaking at the side of upper-tail coverts. The bill shape was 1st noted on 5-10-08 when 1st seen, and thereafter at different times, was noted to be conical in shape, without heaviness or somewhat bowed culmen of similar Botteri’s or Bachman’s. Most fine details/color that I personally observed were captured by Trahan, Bosler, and Lyon videos and photos. Some show the deep orangish-pink coloration to the post-ocular stripe and rear auricular crescent, and in the scapulars. They also show the somewhat “scaly” pattern to back. During 1st day observations, the tertials appeared to only be spottily dark-centered, leading me to believe that the bird might possibly be a 2y male. This shows in Jeff Trahan’s photos as well. However, the Boslers video capture this as fairly uniform, possibly a reflection of earlier/lower light levels. Their video also show the finely-streaked crown extremely well which is also indicative for the species. I found the yellowish/buff supra-loral hard to see but glimpsed this somewhat on the 12th


Was very definitive and my 1st cue. 1st heard was the song, very musical with the center trill having metallic ringing quality, and was mostly 2-parted,. Each of the two phrases were comprised mostly of 4 notes, sometimes 3, especially when on ground-leaving off final note (or in flight).  I can best mnemonicize it as “tih”KREEN’N’N’N’EE SROO SIH”, then a few seconds later, tih KRIN’N’N’N’IH SROO SER”  When on ground, the final note of a phrase was often left off. When playback was briefly used the bird would come in rather quickly. On 1st day of playback(5-11), it appeared to be somewhat aggressive and would perch on top of fence or corner post singing loudly, extending the center trill somewhat, with final 2 notes of each phrase being delivered with two final comical (although, prob not to bird) upward thrusts of head. By 5-12, the bird was already acting quite submissive, although it would arrive rather quickly giving very high, thin, “ti” notes in fairly quick succession. Often this would go into a low, characteristically buzzy and variable warble I best describe as “ti ti ti ti ti chitit chidchidchewchewchercher” often followed by a rather weak song with mostly only center trill readily audible. On 1st day when landing distantly after skylarking much, I also heard a “chip-type” call, sometimes doubled, that by way of thoughtful sound elimination, I was fairly sure to be originating from the Cassin’s. It sounded somewhat Zonotrichia-like by the snappiness/hardness and muffled metallic quality, but lower= “burk” or “purnk”

Similar species:

Eliminated Botteri’s by bill shape, tail pattern, song, and extremely improbable factor of it appearing in NW La. Eliminated (western) Bachman’s by the overall lack of rufescence, tail detail, bill shape, and especially song.-also, by the extremely high improbability for it to be in this habitat in the S., especially at this late of a date. The first thing that hit me was a somewhat uncanny resemblance to some Jan. 2y White-crowned, which would almost invariably show mostly adult head pattern by this time. I thought hy Golden-crowned Sparrow even more-so, although that would be almost impossible, especially at this late of a date.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

I did not obtain any video/photos, although Jeff Trahan, the Boslers, and Charlie Lyon obtained excellent, readily identifiable material. I obtained some fairly good definitive audio recordings

Previous experience with this species: 

A couple of days hearing them sing in hill country and between there and the valley in Texas with James Beck in early April of 2000. I had very brief distant looks then. I have listened to recordings off and on since then

Identification aids:

Referred to Sibley and National Geographic 4th  briefly afterward.

This description is written from:  


Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 




Terry Davis

Date and time: