Identifying Chipping Sparrows

Bring this cheery summer visitor into your backyard with our top tips for identifying and attracting chipping sparrows.

THE SUBJECT
Chipping sparrows are among the most common sparrows in North America. They’re summer visitors for most, reaching all the way up to Alaska. They winter or spend the whole year in southern states, from California, east to Florida and north to Maryland.

THE MARKINGS
You know you’re looking at a chipping sparrow by its chestnut cap and black eye line, though it does lose the cap and the eye line fades slightly in winter. Males and females look alike.

NESTING HABITS
While the females build the nests, the males stand guard. Like many sparrows, they’re a bit picky about where they build; the female might start several nests before she settles on a single location. Chipping sparrows typically lay two to seven pale blue eggs and will raise one to three broods in a single season.

FOOD OF CHOICE
These are some of the most low-maintenance feeder birds, because they graze on whatever they can find on the ground. So keep those feeders full—the sparrows appreciate anything that falls down.

Backyard Tip: Plant grasses if you want to support chipping sparrows. Native and ornamental grasses offer plenty of seed for this ground bird.

FASCINATING FACTS
If you think you’ve seen a chipping sparrow in winter, you might want to take a second look. You may be seeing an American tree sparrow—a winter visitor throughout the central and northern U.S. The tree sparrow also has a rufous cap, but it summers in northern Canada and Alaska.

 

  1. Rose Kuhn says

    We call them ‘the sewing machine bird’ because their song sounds like the machine’s sound stitching through fabric—just one note stitching away.

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