Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Savannah Sparrow
(Artwork - 130)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Sometime around the late 1960s or early to 1970s my friends (then and to this day) Ron Orenstein, Chris Amos, and others, assisted the late Dr. J. Murray Speirs of the University of Toronto as he conducted surveys of wildlife in what was then Ontario County, now Durham Region, a mostly rural area to the northeast of Toronto. We ran grids through specifically identified types of habitat, and then walked the grids, noting by song or visual observation each bird (and other vertebrate animal) we encountered. Plants characterizing the habitat ("indicator species") were identified, trees measured. We tried to map out the home nesting territories of individual male birds. And what we found was that the most common species of bird in field and meadow type of habitat was the Savannah Sparrow.

Back then I used to do a lot field work in the Greater Toronto Area and Savannah Sparrows were abundant everywhere. But now I can drive from Toronto to Ottawa and not see one, nor many of the other birds that I used to see in similar habitat on those trips, such as Eastern Meadowlarks, Bobolinks and Vesper Sparrows. And yet if you were to ask conservationists to name bird species whose decline alarmed them I imagine the Savannah Sparrow would be far down the list, if on it at all. And that is because there are still lots of regions where they are found. Even here in southern Ontario if you spend time looking you'll find them, and they have a huge range, breeding all the way from Alaska to Newfoundland and from the high arctic tundra south to Mexico. They are not endangered, but I miss seeing them as often as I used to.

As to be expected, such a widespread species has many geographic variations, the most notable being the large, pale ones that nest on Sable Island, well off the coast of Nova Scotia, and used to be deemed a separate species, the Ipswich Sparrow. The bird in the image came from my region -- southern Ontario.

I love the way many birds that inhabit reeds, cattails or grassy areas will sometimes perch with one foot on one stalk and one on another, and decided to show that in this small, approximately life-size study of an adult male Savannah Sparrow in breeding plumage. Note the characteristic pale yellow area above and in front of the eye. The first of these birds described was from Savannah, Georgia, hence the name, although it fits the fact that they live in savannah-like grasslands. The painting is 10 by 8 inches, and in acrylics on compressed hardboard.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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