A Columbus Song Sparrow (photo by Earl Harrison at Highbanks Metro Park)

If you are not a Columbus Audubon member, you may wonder why we chose to incorporate a relatively common bird, the Song Sparrow, into our logo. In fact, the Song Sparrow occupies a special place in the history of central Ohio ornithology.

To understand the importance of central Ohio Song Sparrows we need to go back to 1927, when Margaret Morse Nice, mother of five daughters, moved to Columbus when her husband accepted a physiology professorship at OSU. By then, amateur ornithology had become the central focus of her life. She and her husband bought a 60-acre property on bluff above the Olentangy River near the Ohio State University campus, and she wrote that it was a “tangle of trees, weeds and bushes”: perfect Song Sparrow habitat. Here she launched her definitive study of Song Sparrow behavior, which startled the ornithological world. She developed new methods of identification so that she could trace the life cycle of individual Song Sparrows for several years in succession. To her, the Song Sparrow was “the most admirable bird imaginable for an intensive study, for each is a unique personality.”

Her work was published in 1937 and 1943 as Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow; and a popularized account of the research was published in 1939 as The Watcher at the Nest. That book was the first book illustrated by Roger Tory Peterson.