Harris' Sparrows

Bert Frenz, 1997

Harris’ Sparrows summer in an almost inaccessible area of the Northwest Territories of Canada and they spend their winters in a relatively small section of central U.S. Within their wintering territory, they may be locally common but are often difficult to locate. As a result, many birders do not have this species on their life list.

In the Central Brazos Valley, Harris’ Sparrow is uncommon from mid-November to the end of February. The earliest arrival date is October 31 and the latest departure is April 19. The species has been recorded on almost every College Station and Gibbon’s Creek Christmas Bird Count, with quantities ranging from 1 to 44 birds. Harris’ Sparrow sites are quite consistent, with birds appearing year after year on most visits to the site. The habitat is an open partially wooded area, often including a snarled thicket or wood pile left after land clearing. The birds can also be seen along roadsides where shrubs or small trees have grown up beside the fence rows. Many sites are on private land and not accessible without landowner permission. However, the roadside spots are reachable although somewhat difficult to find in the remote rural country. Here are a few suggestions:

Old Reliance Road, Brazos County

From the intersection of Texas Av and University Dr., head east on University to the Texas 6 bypass. Then travel north along the bypass for a few miles and take the Old Reliance Road exit. Immediately after exiting, begin searching for the sparrows. The birds are often found on either side of the road, about a quarter mile from the bypass and before the open fields, although they sometimes retreat into the cow pasture and out of sight from the road.

Elmo Weeden Road, Brazos County

From the intersection of Texas Av and University Dr., head east on University, past the Texas 6 bypass, and continue until the ‘T’. Turn right (south) on to 158 and travel about one mile until it intersects Hwy 30 (Harvey Road). Turn left (east) on to Elmo Weeden Road. This road makes a large loop that includes Harvey Weeden Road. Search the fence rows bordering the road, especially near a pig farm (the farm may no longer exist).

Batts Ferry Road, Brazos County

From the intersection of Texas Av and University Dr., head west to Wellborn Highway. Exit University on the right, but turn left over the bridge, heading south through the Texas A&M University campus. Continue past George Bush Drive, past FM 2818, and into the small town of Wellborn. Cross the railroad tracks on the right on to Koppe Bridge Road which jogs to the left immediately after crossing the tracks. Follow Koppe Bridge Road for several miles until it crosses Minter Spring Road and transforms into Batts Ferry Road. Continue on Batts Ferry until, on the left, you see a house with a pond in front of it. Park beside the road and approach the fence bordering the wooded thicket. Harris’ Sparrows reside in the thicket and can be drawn out with a Screech Owl tape recording. Sometimes they also appear in the short trees on the opposite side of the road. If you fail to find them here, you might try continuing on Batts Ferry to the Brazos River. The sparrows have been seen in the trees of the cow pasture and they are also along the river, but in areas that require landowner permission.