[CT Birds] saltmarsh sparrows

Chris Elphick elphick at sbcglobal.net
Wed Dec 16 09:06:49 EST 2009

Hi all,

Some of you might have seen the article on saltmarsh sparrows in the Courant on Monday.  Unfortunately, the headline that was given to the article - linking the bird's mating behavior to climate change - was very misleading (simply wrong in fact).  Although the article covered both topics, the reporter did not directly connect the two things and I for one do not think that there is any connection.  [Headlines generally are not written by reporters, and I suspect that, like me, the author of the article did not see it until after it was printed.]

The Courant has published a letter I wrote to the editor in an attempt to straighten things out, and I believe is also printing a correction.  I figured the people most interested in the story are on this list, so thought I should point the error out here too.  My letter is at:

There was one other minor error - the statement that half of the world's saltmarsh sparrows are found in Connecticut.  In fact that number refers to southern New England.  It is an approximation at best, and was made by Partners in Flight.  I'm not sure if I misspoke when talking to the reporter, or if it was just "simplified" to make it fit the confines of a newspaper article.  If you're interested in all the details there is a longer discussion of this and other issues relating to saltmarsh sparrow conservation in Connecticut Audubon's 2008 State of the Bird report: http://www.ctaudubon.org/SOTB/documents/SOTB-2008.pdf

If anyone is really interested in all the gory details of the paternity study, it will be published in the Auk next year.  If you want to read the abstract or (by subscription) see the paper, it is on the journal's web site.  [Links to all our group's published articles are on my web site, here: http://hydrodictyon.eeb.uconn.edu/people/birdlab/elphick.html.]  If you don't have a subscription, I'd be happy to send a pdf.

Hopefully, all this doesn't just confuse the issue even more!


Chris Elphick

Storrs, CT

elphick at sbcglobal.net

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