December 6, 2013

tree sparrow

Like the dark-eyed junco and white-throated sparrow the american tree sparrow appears in New England with the first frost and replaces a similar looking summer resident, the chipping sparrowThe tree sparrow is a tight packed bird, with handsome slate gray and cinnamon stripes on the face. With a dull grey chest marked by a single dark spot this sparrow can often be identified by using the time of year. Consider this data from comparing the reported observation of tree sparrows and chipping sparrows in Massachusetts over the course of a single year.
Besides a three week period in April and November notice how the arrival and departure of the chipping sparrow (green line) is in direct correlation with the departure and arrival of the tree sparrow (orange line). This type of seasonal movement is an important clue in identifying a bird and is often only learned through personal observation or anecdote.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes
The (poorly named) tree sparrow is most often found in open fields and low brush. They will visit feeders, though often pick seeds from the ground  and seem to dart around nervously, like an Englishman trying to order pastrami at a New York deli. Listen for the choral of rainy, crystalline “chwee” notes given by groups of these New England sparrows.

1 comment:

Josh Fecteau said...

I've been noticing small numbers of American Tree Sparrows around here (Plainville, MA), and today I was surprised to find a late Chipping Sparrow mixed in with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos in Wrentham. The single Chipping Sparrow was certainly outnumbered.

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is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact:

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