Chipping Sparrow

Hey guys, welcome back! Today’s bird is one of the smallest sparrows: the Chipping Sparrow! I know what you’re thinking, “aren’t all sparrows small?” Well, most of them are, yes. But the Chipping sparrow is still on the smaller end; noticeably smaller than the more common Song or White-throated Sparrows. In spring and summer, these guys are actually quite easy to identify. They are mostly grey birds, having grey faces, and underparts, while their back and wings are the typical brown and black of most sparrows. They also have a black eyeline, and bright rusty-colored cap! In fall (like the one pictured above) they are duller in color, the eyeline is more faint, and the bright rusty cap is a more subdued brown. They also have a slightly browner face in fall.

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Chipping Sparrow in breeding plumage, Central Park, NY

Their fall appearance looks more similar to other sparrows than their appearance in spring and summer. Their breeding plumage can only really be confused with the American Tree Sparrow, which isn’t usually present in their range during those months. In fall, they can look similar to the less common Clay-colored Sparrow. In fact, one fall in Central Park, a few Clay-colored Sparrows showed up (despite being well outside their range, it seemed one or two showed up every fall), and although I did see one, I was also thrown off by a fall Chipping Sparrow.

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Chipping Sparrow in fall, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

In New York, I only ever remember seeing Chipping Sparrows for a brief period in April, and in October. When I moved to St. Louis last July, though, I saw them everywhere! They were the first birds I photographed in Missouri! They can be found in fairly large groups in open grassy areas, typically with some trees or shrubs nearby. Like most sparrows, they eat primarily seeds, but up their protein intake during the summer, often catching insects.

They often make little chipping noises, which is usually what alerts me to their presence. Their song can be quite loud however. Last summer I was home in Ohio for a week, and I kept hearing a loud bird singing in the front yard. It was a distinct song, but one I was unfamiliar with. I went out to try and find it nearly every morning, searching high and low, but never finding the culprit. Finally, on one of my last days there, I went out searching, and happened to see a small bird fly down from a tree in the vicinity of where the sound was coming from. It was a Chipping Sparrow. Certainly this little bird, one I had seen so many times before, wasn’t the one making this song! Now that I had eyes on the bird, I was able to follow it, and eventually, he started singing. It was him after all! Unfortunately, I can’t remember the song that plagued me that week, and was fooled again only a few weeks ago! With that, I think I’ll wrap things up. Join me next time for the smallest falcon in North America: The American Kestrel! See you all then!

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