A Short Tale of a Song Sparrow Without a Tail

/, Birds, Davis County, Song Sparrows, Utah/A Short Tale of a Song Sparrow Without a Tail

Song Sparrow without a tailSong Sparrow without a tail – Nikon D810, f10, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

On the last day of 2015 I photographed this Song Sparrow without a tail on Antelope Island State Park during the early morning while frost still clung to branch the sparrow was perched on. The sparrow was fluffed up because it was extremely cold but otherwise it seemed perfectly fine and flew off without any difficulties right after I photographed it.

Why was this Song Sparrow tailless? Well, I can not be certain about that. Sometimes tailless birds are fledglings just out of the nest but this sparrow was photographed on December 31, 2105 and there is no way that there would be Song Sparrow fledglings at that time of the year.

It is highly likely that this Song Sparrow lost its tail feather from a near miss by a predator.

The sparrow was photographed out on Antelope Island State Park which rules out a domesticated cat attack on the island itself but this sparrow could have flown to the island from just about any where. So a cat attack that the sparrow escaped from can’t be ruled out.

But there are avian predators that could have ripped the tail feathers right off of the Song Sparrow in an attack, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawk’s feed on birds and we have those two accipiters year round here in northern Utah and I have seen them on the island. Merlins feed on birds and are found in northern Utah and on the island during the winter, another falcon that could be responsible is a Prairie Falcon which are found year round on the island and they also consume birds.

I will never know exactly why this sparrow was missing its tail but hopefully its tail grew back.

Life is good.



  1. Jane Chesebrough November 19, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    We will never know but I did think of a snapping coyote.

  2. April Olson November 19, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Lucky little bird, tails missing usually mean a near miss at being someones dinner.

  3. Utahbooklover November 19, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    The will to live is strong in wildlife. This lucky sparrow reminds me of a Western Scrub-jay (often erroneously called bluebirds) that I would sometimes see coming in for a drink, missing about a one-third of its beak.

  4. M. Bruce November 19, 2016 at 11:58 am

    It’s easy to forget the stressful daily struggle all wildlife goes through because we never hear them complaining.

  5. Elephant's Child November 19, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I am surprised (and very pleased) that its flight was unaffected. Sparrows are subtle charmers.

  6. Lois Bryan November 19, 2016 at 8:27 am

    bless his little heart … I have my favorites in the birdie world whom I tend to worry about. since we moved a year ago, I still think of my favorite cardinal and send up little prayers for his good health.

    • Mia McPherson November 19, 2016 at 8:56 am

      I have favorites like that too Lois

  7. Bob McPherson November 19, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Beautiful image, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson November 19, 2016 at 8:55 am

      Thank Bob, they are beautiful little birds.

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