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White-throated sparrow, how this rare little bird from America is a delight for ornithologists in the Jura

This is a rare, very rare sighting. Only three white-throated sparrows have been observed in France, according to the League for the Protection of Birds. This little sparrow lives in America. One of his specimens has been singing for a few days in a village in Haut-Jura.

70 enthusiasts came to see it in three days! From Brittany or neighboring Switzerland.

On May 31, Catherine Saliner, an LPO volunteer in the Jura is on vacation in the Jura mountains, when she hears a very special song. “We had never heard this unique song. The bird was in the village square around the bell tower, not shy. It’s nice to have identified it, even if it raises questions because we know that it will not reproduce here” she says.

The white-throated sparrow observed in the Jura is a male. From a distance it looks like a sparrow. But on closer inspection, this bunting has that significant white throat. A pretty necklace in its plumage. White-throated sparrows or Zonotrichia albicolis or white throated sparrow in English are present in large numbers in North America.

They nest in central and southern Canada and in the Great Lakes region. From September, they leave their nesting grounds and migrate to the southern United States. Some stray birds reach Europe and especially the British Isles, reports the site.

The reasons for its presence are difficult to establish. “It is thought that it may have deviated during its migratory trajectory. At the time of the last migration, there were depressions. It probably spent the winter in Europe or North Africa”explains Raphaële Bouvret, communication officer for the LPO Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. “It is a bird that is out of place, a bird that is lost, but it is not in danger” she specifies. Because within the Jura massif, the white-throated sparrow can survive. “But we can’t rejoice in his presence, except that we can see him without taking plane tickets to the United States” reports Samuel Maas, ornithologist at the LPO. “He’ll sing all spring, he won’t find a female, or he’ll try his luck with a female house sparrow. Will the winter be able to survive if it goes back to Africa?” wonders the specialist for whom the trajectory of the little bird from America remains a mystery. The last observation of a white-throated sparrow in France dates back to the fall of 2021 in Ouessant in Brittany. “It often happens that migratory birds arrive in France via this island, carried by the ocean currents” details Samuel Maas.

In the small village of Haut-Jura where the white-throated sparrow was observed, enthusiasts came from afar to see with their eyes this species from America. Adrien Charbonneau, a passionate ornithologist, made a detour to come and see it, take some photos and record the song of the bird. “It’s a chance to see him here in the Jura, he is in the open field, he sings. This is exceptional. It’s really a bird that clashes, with its white eyebrows, its yellow colors” confides this bird enthusiast from the Lyon region.

Alexandre Crégu, still speaks of it with enthusiasm. He, too, would not have missed this meeting for anything in the world. “I had missed the Ouessant bunting by a few days. In the life of an ornithologist, you don’t see all the birds, it’s impossible. It’s really wonderful to see him. It remains an exceptional bird in terms of song, plumage, and its discovery. And then, my point of view is also to be able to share, transmit our passion with the inhabitants” explains Alexandre Crégu. The ornithologist spent some time with the children of the nearby school to tell them about this bird which will try to reproduce, even if no lady white-throated sparrow seems present in the area.

If you observe a rare bird, do not disturb it. It is possible to report its presence on the NaturaList application or on the Faune France site, which also feeds the databases of the bird protection league.

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