Strangely Familiar

The other day, I became rather excited upon seeing Chili, above.

He’s so tiny that I didn’t get a good look at him until I photographed him in the golden light of a late summer afternoon.

Look at that russet cap! The feathers are so erect it almost looks like a crest. I thought a new bird might be coming to my garden—a cool occurrence that happens mostly during migration season and even then no more than once or twice a year.

When I looked him up in my Roger Tory Petersen Guide, however, I, realized Chili was the same species of Chipping Sparrow that I delight to see and hear every day.

Why did he look so different? You’ve probably guessed by now that the “new” Chili is in mating plumage! 

Chipping Sparrows don’t mate for life, and it can take some doing to find your best beloved each Spring. So this vivid mating plumage is nature’s way of telling other Chipping Sparrows—“I’m eligible!”

‘At this point, you may be wondering how to distinguish male and female Chipping Sparrows, and My humble answer is, “I don’t know.” 😬Nor can I tell you why Chipping Sparrows need a visual cue to know when a partner is fertile, but seemingly don’t need similar markers to tell sexes apart.

I won’t even make a wisecrack here—I have found I’m better off not discussing gender issues. 🙄All I can tell you for sure is that Chili is a beautiful Chipping Sparrow and probably by now a parent. Which photograph of him (or her?) do YOU prefer?

Tap here to buy paper prints or cool keepsakes bearing the featured original photograph, above.

Strangely Familiar, #2 of 4
Fourth in a collection of four pphotographs. I’m including this shot because it was favored by a significant number of my Instagram followers. Buy this photograph.
Strangely Familiar, #2 of 3
Second in a collection of four photographs. Here’s Chili’s opposite profile. Buy this photograph.
Strangely Familiar, #3 of 3
Third in a collection of four photographs. This is my personal favorite of all the many photographs I’ve taken of Chili. Buy this photograph.

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