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December 3, 2011 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: American Tree Sparrow

The American Tree Sparrow spends it’s summers in far northern Canada and migrates to southern Canada and the northern two thirds of the US for the winter. While many migratory birds are leaving Chicago and the cold weather, this one is arriving.

Last weekend I spotted one in my backyard. I usually see them when I walk the trails in the park. They are known to frequent backyards but this was the first time one of them paid me a visit. It was a cold and windy day and the bird was fluffed up to stay warm.

Tree Sparrows are about the same size as the common House Sparrow and similar in coloring but have several distinct characteristics to set them apart. They have a rusty cap and eye stripe, long tail and bicolored bill. They are often confused with the Chipping Sparrow which is seen throughout the US and Canada in the summer, but migrates to the far southern US and Mexico for the winter.

This is the same bird on the right but not fluffed up. He was foraging for seeds under the feeder. (Click for sharper image).

Interesting Facts:

  • Tree Sparrows are actually ground birds despite their name. They forage on the ground and build their nests in scrubby areas.
  • European settlers called them Tree Sparrows because they reminded them of Eurasian Tree Sparrows back home.
  • During the winter months they need to consume up to 30% of their body weight each day to keep their body temperature up.
  • They will use their wings to knock the snow off weeds and wildflowers to get to the seeds.


I link up my bird photos on Saturday Snapshot hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.



Leave a Comment
  1. Paulita / Dec 3 2011 4:42 am

    I love when birds fluff up like this. Thanks for identifying the different kinds of sparrows, which I take too little notice of. Here’s Mt Saturday Snapshot


  2. Louise / Dec 3 2011 5:42 am

    I love that fluffy little fellow. Confusing how the tree sparrow lives on the ground!


  3. Trish / Dec 3 2011 6:39 am

    Very sweet! And look how camouflaged the little fellow is.


  4. BermudaOnion / Dec 3 2011 8:17 am

    Beautiful! It looks like he’s pondering something in the top photo.


  5. laurelrainsnow / Dec 3 2011 9:01 am

    So cute! Love the contrasts in the first shot…thanks for sharing and for the informative facts.



  6. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea / Dec 3 2011 9:28 am

    I love that photo Leslie, and always enjoy the interesting facts you share as well.


  7. Alyce / Dec 3 2011 1:06 pm

    It seems strange to me to think that birds are migrating south to us in the Northern US, but it makes sense of course. It makes me wonder which are like that around here. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for birds more often. 🙂


  8. edgar / Dec 3 2011 1:07 pm

    The sparrow looks like it is about to sing. A beautiful bird.


  9. Stephen / Dec 3 2011 1:38 pm

    Very interesting! I’ve never heard of a bird using its wings to procure food like that before!


  10. smellincoffee / Dec 3 2011 1:40 pm

    I’ve never heard of birds using their wings in that way before! Quite interesting..


  11. Amy / Dec 3 2011 1:56 pm

    This little guy is adorable!


  12. irene / Dec 3 2011 3:26 pm

    Aren’t they clever little beings.


  13. Jill / Dec 3 2011 3:45 pm

    Such a little cutie!


  14. Staci / Dec 4 2011 9:27 am

    I love birds…next to dogs and horses! Great shot of this tree sparrow and I liked the information about them too. I’ve been seeing a lot of Bluejay’s lately and the other day I saw a red-headed woodpecker.


  15. Suko / Dec 4 2011 10:04 pm

    What a cute sparrow! Lovely photos and “lesson”.


  16. carol / Dec 7 2011 3:55 pm

    Great photo. It’s so cute!



  1. Weekend Birding: World Sparrow Day « Under My Apple Tree
  2. Weekend Birding: A Few Winter Sparrows | Under My Apple Tree

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