|Species: Chipping Sparrow
This tame little sparrow with a rusty cap is the
most domestic of all North American sparrows and is a common bird across most of
the continent. It derives its name from its chipping call notes and dry
chipping trill. At the turn of the 20th century this bird was
commonly referred to as the “hairbird” from its practice of lining its nest with
horse hair. It now uses the hair of numerous animals in nests which are often
found in gardens, hedges and yard shrubs. Breeding takes place in most of
North America excluding the far north and southeast United States. The
winter range extends from the central southwest states, parts of Florida and
General: Small, slim sparrow with long notched tail and
rusty cap. Length: 12 to
14cm, wing: 62 to 77 mm, weight: 10.5 to 14.6 g.
Adult Male: Bright chestnut crown, distinct white eyebrow
(superciliary stripe), and
black line extending from bill through eye to ear; note also the
gray nape and cheek; the back is brown with dark brown streaking;
gray unstreaked rump; and two white wing bars. The tail is
fairly long and notched.
Adult Female: Sexes are similar.
Juvenile: Underpants are prominently streaked; crown
usually lacks rufous; rump
may show slight streaking.
Similar Species: American Tree Sparrows have a rusty cap
but are noticeably
larger, and the head is not so strikingly marked.
Clay-coloured and Brewer’s sparrows are similar in size and shape,
but lack the rusty cap, white superciliary and black eyeline
Behavior: In spring and summer, males sing persistently
from a tree. They feed
both in trees and on the ground; in migration, they are often found
in rather large, loose flocks, feeding in mowed grass. Their flight
is fairly strong, fast, and direct.
These sparrows are characteristically found in fairly dry, open
woodland edge with grassy understory, parks and other urban
settings, and orchards; they occur in coniferous, mixed, or
Three subspecies of
Chipping Sparrow north of Mexico are generally recognized:
S.p.passerina, S.p.arizonae, and S.p.boreophila.
Chipping Sparrows have a ‘dawn
song,’ given from the ground, which consists of a series of short
trills, lasting less that 1 second each. The nest is placed in
a bush or tree, commonly a conifer, often in an open grassy area,
from 1 to 19 m high, and rarely on the ground. It is a neatly
woven cup. Usually three to five eggs, light blue, sparsely
spotted with brown, blackish, or sometimes lavender, or rarely
Still common, the
species is not as common as it was in colonial times. Not a
bird of deep woodlands, this sparrow doubtless benefited from the
clearing of the eastern deciduous forests. There is possible
decline where forest is regenerating.
Although Chipping Sparrow has a wide breeding range, it
gravitates towards evergreens in places where this habitat
is available as is the case at Colony Farm. They are
therefore not extremely common right at the banding station.
Shortly after breeding, Chipping Sparrow disperse to areas
with better resources to molt as suggested by the peak
capture rate (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per
100 net hours) in August. They are short distance migrants,
moving south for the winter also seen by our zero capture
rate between September - March.