Thursday, November 10, 2011
*Dammit one thousand times over! The taxonomy of birds is in an ever-increasing state of upheaval, and snow buntings are now no longer placed in the family of true sparrows, the Emberizidae. They, along with the longspurs, have been segregated into the Calcariidae family, or longspur family. I am still referring to snow buntings as sparrows until I come to accept this change.
As Snow Buntings are quite fond of foraging along Great Lakes beaches when they make their wintertime peregrinations down to our latitude, they certainly consume a lot of purple sand grass fruit as well as the seeds of other beach plants. And thus, these beautiful sparrows undoubtedly become important agents of dispersal for these plants. A percentage of plant fruit will pass through a bird's digestive tract intact and be expelled, possibly a far distance from where the fruit was eaten. Over the long haul, it is probably birds that are responsible for many plant species' distribution. I believe that sparrows, in particular, are important agents of dispersal for numerous grasses and sedges. I wrote about another likely case of interesting Snow Bunting seed dispersal RIGHT HERE.
To them, the winter beaches of a place such as Lake Erie represents a balmy Floridian vacation.