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January 18, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: American Tree Sparrow

Sparrows are one of the more common birds in North America. The one most people are familiar with is the House Sparrow, a friendly little brown bird that readily comes to feeders and inhabits backyards and city parks, but there are over 35 different species of sparrows in North America.

Many types of sparrows are difficult to find and spend their days deep inside the grasses and undergrowth of the marshlands and prairies. Some are so elusive that while I hear their calls, I rarely see them; others are more sociable and will venture out into parks and backyards. The Tree Sparrow is one that is fairly easy to find in the winter months.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

A few weeks ago while doing a bird survey for the forest preserve I came across a flock of about 30 Tree Sparrows in a hedgerow along the river foraging for seeds and berries. I was able to get some close-up photos detailing the field marks that distinguish the Tree Sparrow from other species: the bi-colored bill and the dark spot in the center of the breast.

American Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrows are long distance migrants and in the winter can be found across southern Canada and the United States except for the far southern regions. They prefer open woodland habitats, fields, marshes, hedgerows, and will even visit backyard gardens and feeders. Their summer breeding grounds are in the far northern tundra of Canada and Alaska.

Similar Species

The Tree Sparrow is most often confused with the similar looking Chipping Sparrow, especially during migration. For most of the year their ranges rarely overlap. Project FeederWatch has an excellent, easy to understand page that compares the field marks and range maps of the two birds.

Interesting Fact

Tree Sparrows are ground birds and forage and nest on the ground. Why are they called Tree Sparrows? Early European settlers named them after their own Eurasian Tree Sparrow back home.

Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. For the summer it will be hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.



Leave a Comment
  1. harvee / Jan 18 2014 11:55 am

    Aren’t their markings pretty! Have lots of these around here in the Midwest.


  2. laurelrainsnow / Jan 18 2014 1:14 pm

    Fabulous photos and fun facts. I love the way the tracery of branches frame the birds, like an artist’s rendering.


  3. cleopatralovesbooks / Jan 18 2014 2:53 pm

    I love the photo at the start of this post and great facts about sparrows.


  4. Suko / Jan 18 2014 2:54 pm

    What darling photos! I have learned a few things about Tree Sparrows, thanks to you. You are a gifted ornithologist/teacher.


  5. Sheila (Book Journey) / Jan 18 2014 4:06 pm

    I swear I learn something every week from you 🙂


  6. Esme Cococroissants / Jan 18 2014 4:31 pm

    What a pretty little bird. Your photos are great. What are you shooting with?


  7. Christine Harding / Jan 18 2014 5:38 pm

    They do look pretty – and I never cease to be amazed at the many different varieities of bird. Thank you forvisiting my blog.


  8. Ginny / Jan 18 2014 6:33 pm

    Lovely photos. I had not realised there are so many species of sparrow.


  9. Melinda Ott / Jan 18 2014 7:08 pm

    What lovely birds!


  10. irene / Jan 18 2014 7:40 pm

    I didn’t know I like birds so much, until I started reading your blog. Thank YOu.


  11. samstillreading / Jan 19 2014 5:58 am

    So cute! I love it when birds are all fluffed up like that, they look so cuddly.


  12. readerbuzz / Jan 19 2014 7:48 am

    I wish I knew more about birds. We have a bird feeder outside our dining room window and we always see such amazing birds. We live in a big area for birds, down near the Texas Gulf Coast. I often can’t differentiate between species, unfortunately.


  13. susan / Jan 19 2014 12:47 pm

    We have such a large flock of sparrows that chitter all around the house … they clean up on scattered seed on a daily basis …


  14. Louise / Jan 19 2014 2:42 pm

    It must have been so exciting to find all those sparrows, and get some great shots. It’s so typical of birding that tree sparrows are named for some historical reason, and nothing to do with what they actually do, or where you might find them. 35 species of sparrows! I was quite sure that we only had introduced house sparrows, but just checked my bird book and it seems that we have two- we also have the introduced Eurasian Tree Sparrow, but mainly near Melbourne- now I’ll have to check sparrows more closely when I’m in Melbourne.


  15. BermudaOnion / Jan 19 2014 5:02 pm

    They’re beautiful! The one on the top seems to have a little pink tint to it.


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