Bruant familier01

10 Things you might not know about the Chipping Sparrow

Day 16 of 100 Days of Blogging

The Chipping Sparrow is this week’s featured sparrow as we make our way down the PQSPB field checklist. Last week we started off the series highlighting one of the 13 breeding sparrow species on the list with the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). 

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

French: Bruant familier  Family: Emberizidae

Did you know ?

#1. The Chipping Sparrow is a common sight in backyards across North America during the summer where it can be seen hopping along the ground searching for food or, perhaps, heard singing from an elevated perch. Prior to the 19th century invasion of the House Sparrow, the Chipping Sparrow was considered the most domestic sparrow.

#2. This sparrow is striking in its breeding plumage. In summer a rufous cap, a white eyebrow and a thin black line through the eye are set off against a black-streaked brown back and pale gray underparts. In comparison, its fall plumage is rather drab as the crisp reddish-brown cap disappears or fades. it has pink-orange legs and feet and a black bill. A juvenile lacks the rufous crown stripe and is very streaky and has a pinkish bill.

#3. Its song is a uniform trill but the the sparrow gets its common English nam from its sharp chip call.

Play the media file below to hear the Chipping Sparrow song.

#4. Breeding habitats vary with geographic location but Chipping Sparrows prefer open woodland, the borders of natural forest openings, edges of rivers and lakes, and weedy fields. You can also find them in parks and backyards with lots of trees and shrubby areas.

#5.  This species feeds either on the ground or in low vegetation While it prefers grass and small annual plant seeds, It will infrequently eat small fruits. During the breeding season it will also take insects and other invertebrates.

#6.  The Chipping Sparrow nest is often so flimsy that light can be seen right through it. Construction materials can include rootlets, dried grasses and mixture of other fine materials including animal hair.

#7. During the 19th century the Chipping Sparrow was  known in rural areas for using horsehair to line its nests, which earned it the nickname “hairbird”.


Chipping Sparrow with nesting material  (Photo:Connie Morgenstern)

#8. In late summer, juveniles form flocks ranging in size of about 5-15 birds and are commonly seen foraging in weedy areas. Eventually, the juveniles merge with adults to form larger flocks in preparation for migration. 


Juvenile Chipping Sparrow (Photo:Connie Morgenstern)

#9. The Chipping Sparrow migrates in flocks that often includes other sparrow species. Migrants from the north occur in areas occupied by non-migratory populations in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico during winter

#10. This sparrow prefers daily access to water, but can cope with varying degrees of drought.