>> Outside of RIM-7 Sea Sparrows I have never tried to photograph a sparrow
Then you should acknowledge that you cannot credibly comment on why I might need the various features I discussed. And I suspect the same for many other subjects I shoot.
It should also not be necessary to get into a discussion of the yield and consistency achieved by modern birder photographers vs the era you describe. You would not want to put up a day's worth of your best against what is posted every day now in the wildlife forum by the more experienced shooters.
You might not want to put up a set of your lifetime best against any routine single day's output by a good digital wildlife photographer. It would be an interesting contest.
There is a reason why until only a few years ago all major bird references were published with artist renderings of the species. Only in the recent digital age has anyone attempted to do it with photos (with any degree of success). See the recent Crossley publication for an example.