April 29, 2011

Chipping sparrow – ticking away the summer right under our nose

"Bully the English Sparrow, Chippy the Chipping Sparrow"
by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
Chipping sparrows have returned in spades and the trees around parks, wooded lots, and forest edge are cut by the long, insect like trill of these flat headed sparrows. A widespread New England breeding bird the Chipping sparrow is an abundant little sparrow, with crisp white eye line and copper top. They are common and comfortable around human habitation yet some how haven’t made it into the collective pantheon of back yard birds.

Described by Wake Robin as “one of the commonest and, before the advent of the English sparrow, perhaps the most familiar and sociable of our birds…” This passage was penned in 1889 less than forty years after the fateful release of English House sparrows in Central Park, NY in 1851. Whether or not the English House sparrow is at fault for overshadowing the Chipping sparrow today "chippers" are found throughout New England. Their habit of day long summer singing gives them a loud presence, and shows no sign of sibling angst. 

Listen for a long, unwavering staccato trill. Almost mechanical or insect like compared to the shorter, softer trill of the Pine warbler. Capable of sustained or shorter trills, the Chipping sparrow can also give a “rock tapping” song that is less tightly bound, but contains all the noise of its other song. Listen for these compact sparrows in backyards, parks, cemeteries, and field. 

Does the Chipping sparrow look familiar? Close patterned cousin the Tree sparrow left New Enlgnad for its Canadian breeding grounds in March.


Laurie said...

We love our little chipping sparrow family! They sit right outside our windows, flitting about in the hedges. So cheery and cute!
I had to scour the bird book last year when they first appeared. Either I had never seen them before, or just didn't notice; either way a welcome addition to our yard!

Anonymous said...

We are absolute novices at attracting and feeding birds, but are thoroughly enjoying our new hobby. Our problem is that our feeders are overwhelmed with chipping sparrows only-a cardinal, a blue finch, and a goldfinch have made a singular appearance but have not returned. We would like to attract a larger variety or songbirds, but I've observed the sparrows "bully" them away. Is this possible? Or are we just selecting the wrong type of bird seed?

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