November 2012 L.B.J.

LBJ or “Little Brown Job”, is an informal name used by birders for species of small brown birds (sparrows, wrens, and warblers), many of which are difficult to readily identify in the field.  A photo can often help, but even then a positive identification can sometimes still be difficult.  The fall influx of wintering sparrows and wrens, and a few warblers, provides the opportunity to see some interesting but challenging birds.

Fortunately, we do get some practice during the year here in north Florida, spotting resident Carolina Wrens and Common Yellowthroats (Warblers).

Carolina Wren

Common Yellowthroat

In three years of birding I have seen and photographed barely half of the 30 some sparrows and wrens on the official Florida State Bird List.  Over a year ago I found my first House Wren, and Savannah, Song and Swamp Sparrows.

House Wren

Savannah Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

And just this month I saw my first Marsh Wren, and Nelson’s, Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows–new “life birds” for me.

Marsh Wren

Nelson’s Sparrow

Saltmarsh Sparrow

Seaside Sparrow

Finally, a pair of birds that can complicate the challenge of identifying LBJs–Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Palm Warbler

Looking at these birds up close, as in these pictures, might lead one to think that LBJ identification is easier than it sounds.  However, in the field, matters can be complicated by the fact that these birds are small (many less than six inches long), and usually viewed at a distance.  Also, they are often quite active, and some of them show a lot of variation in plumage.  Well seasoned birders can identify many of these birds at a glance.  But I often have to get a picture to study, and even then sometimes still need to ask an “expert” for help.  Occasionally all one can say is, “It’s a little brown job!”

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Thanks again,

Phil Graham–Photo Naturalist