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Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Song Sparrow Photo

A rich, russet-and-gray bird with bold streaks down its white chest, the Song Sparrow is one of the most familiar North American sparrows. Don’t let the bewildering variety of regional differences this bird shows across North America deter you: it’s one of the first species you should suspect if you see a streaky sparrow in an open, shrubby, or wet area. If it perches on a low shrub, leans back, and sings a stuttering, clattering song, so much the better.

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Songs

The Song Sparrow sings a loud, clanking song of 2–6 phrases that typically starts with abrupt, well-spaced notes and finishes with a buzz or trill. In between, the singer may add other trills with different tempo and quality. The song usually lasts 2-4 seconds. Patterns of songs vary over the species’ enormous range, so the Song Sparrows you hear when traveling may not sound quite like those from your hometown.

Calls

Song Sparrows have a sharp chip note to indicate alarm or anxiety; both sexes make it when excited or if predators approach a nest. Females make a harsh chatter at their mates during nest-building, or at a female intruding on the territory. Young or subordinate birds make a softer, tsip note.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

In spring and summer, Song Sparrows are one of the most conspicuous of all sparrows. Males sing often, perching around eye level on exposed branches. Also watch for Song Sparrows moving along wetland edges, ducking into dense, low vegetation after short bursts of their distinctive, tail-pumping flight.

Get Involved

Keep track of the Song Sparrows at your feeder with Project FeederWatch

What's That Sparrow? ID tips from the Great Backyard Bird Count

Researcher "Sings" for a Living to Decode Bird Songs (Cornell Chronicle)

Look for Song Sparrow nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

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All About Birds blog, Identify the Brown, Streaky, Juvenile Songbirds of Summer With These Tips, July 23, 2014.