One of the things I most enjoy about bird banding and having the opportunity to see birds up close in the hand is that I have the chance to learn something new with each bird. The American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) above is a case in point. When we had this bird at the banding table one of the first things that was commented on was how pale the bird looked. You can see from the photos that there is a large amount of gray around the head and nape. The spot on the breast is faint and the all over color appeared washed out compared to the other birds we handled that day.
Does it look like the western subspecies?
Is it possible to separate the groups in winter?
Do these photos show enough to make a determination?
Is this a Fool's Errand that I am pursuing?
Any insights from western banders would be most welcome. Fortunately, with birds now headed north for the summer this is not an identification that I will have to deal with until next winter. However, if there is a way to separate these subspecies it might give us insight into which birds winter here in Minnesota.
Thanks to all who comment!