Date of this Version
“Cassin’s Sparrow in Dundy and Chase Counties, Nebraska” from Nebraska Bird Review (September 1989) 57(3).
On 3 and 4 June 1989 Tanya Bray, Doug Rose, and I [W. Ross Silcock] traveled to Dundy Co. to look for two species: Chihuahuan Raven and Cassin's Sparrow. While we found no Ravens, we did find several Cassin's Sparrows.
All of the Cassin's Sparrows were found in sandy sage prairie habitat. At least six were found, in four different locations. The birds were located most easily by their skylarking behavior, although the song, once heard, is also useful for locating birds. Indeed, Doug Rose found the first Cassin's Sparrow by song. Once located, we were able to study individuals carefully at distances of less than 100 feet. While the plumage is rather nondescript, a grayish brown overall, notable features are the relatively large size, flattish head, and long tail, the latter with distinctive white tail corners, best seen as the bird spreads its tail on landing.
There are very few Nebraska records for Cassin's Sparrow (Bray, Padelford, Silcock: The Birds of Nebraska, 1986), but it probably occurs more often, as it does not seem to be regularly searched for in its preferred habitat. There is extensive sage prairie in Dundy Co. The breeding range tends to change dramatically in response to climatic conditions, however, and it is possible that recent dry conditions have allowed Cassin's Sparrow to expand its breeding range northward in recent years.