Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chipping Sparrows: Daily Visitors

I can depend on seeing these little birds every day at our feeders, mostly foraging around on the ground but sometimes picking seeds off the porch rails.  They are cute with the characteristic tan or white and black stripes around their eyes, rusty brown caps, short beaks and round bodies.  I've read that during summer Chipping Sparrows look clean and crisp, with frosty underparts, pale face, black line through the eye, topped off with a bright rusty crown. During winter, they are subdued, buff brown, with darkly streaked upper parts. The black line through the eye is still visible, and the cap is a warm but more subdued reddish brown.

Chipping Sparrows are one of the first sparrow species to nest during spring.  The males loud, trilling songs are one of the most common sounds of spring woodlands and suburbs.  I'm expecting to hear their songs soon, as the mating season is just around the corner...

Here what the males "trilling song" sounds like:

Chipping Sparrows typically build their nests low in a shrub or tree, but every once in a while they get creative. People have found their nests among hanging strands of chili peppers, on an old-fashioned mower inside a tool shed, and on a hanging basket filled with moss.  The nest of the Chipping Sparrow is of such flimsy construction that light can be seen through it.

Particularly in fall and winter, watch for small flocks of Chipping Sparrows feeding on open ground near trees. In spring and summer, listen for the male’s long, loud trill, then look for the male in the upper branches of a nearby tree.

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