Living Bird Magazine
Chipping SparrowSpizella passerina
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Passerellidae
A crisp, pretty sparrow whose bright rufous cap both provides a splash of color and makes adults fairly easy to identify. Chipping Sparrows are common across North America wherever trees are interspersed with grassy openings. Their loud, trilling songs are one of the most common sounds of spring woodlands and suburbs.More ID Info
Find This Bird
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.
- Gorrión Cejas Blancas (Spanish)
- Bruant familier (French)
Chipping Sparrows will eat many kinds of birdseed, particularly black oil sunflower seeds from feeders, but also seed mixes scattered on the ground. Shrubs or small trees in your yard may entice Chipping Sparrows to build a nest.
This species often comes to bird feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The early naturalists had a gift for description you just don’t see anymore. In 1929, Edward Forbush called the Chipping Sparrow “the little brown-capped pensioner of the dooryard and lawn, that comes about farmhouse doors to glean crumbs shaken from the tablecloth by thrifty housewives.”
- In much of the West, Chipping Sparrows disperse shortly after breeding to move to areas with better food resources. It's not unusual to see Chipping Sparrows on alpine tundra or along roadsides in open grasslands. This results in the common misperception that they bred in those areas, when really they simply moved there to molt.
- 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. It probably provides little insulation for the eggs and young.
- The oldest recorded Chipping Sparrow was at least 10 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Ontario in 1998. It had been banded in the same province in 1987.