Sunday, April 7, 2013

American Tree Sparrow

Or, as Pete Dunne calls it, The Winter Chippy.  

The American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) is one of the first sparrows to arrive in my area in the Spring and the last to leave in the Fall.  It winters in southernmost Canada and all over the US.  It breeds in the arctic so doesn't mind a bit of late Spring snow on the trip north.

Three arrived in my back yard this past Monday.  Snow still piled up but a few days of melting have exposed the layers of birdseed I've been tossing around during the past few months of snowdom. 

Contrary to the name, this sparrow is found mostly in shrubby areas, weedy fields, edges of marshes, etc.  It nests in stunted willows and spruce in boggy or open areas of the northern tundra.  

This sparrow feeds on the ground in rapid shuffling movements; it will also leap up to grab seeds from tall grasses as well as foraging high in trees, quite liking birch catkins.

The ATSP is a medium-sized, plump sparrow with a small bi-coloured bill - dark upper, yellowish lower - with a richly patterned back and a long tail.
It is sometimes confused with Chipping Sparrows as both have rufous crowns and an eye stripe.  However, the ATSP has a rusty brown eye stripe with gray above and belowThe CHSP has a black eye stripe and a white eyebrow.

The Am. Tree Sparrow has a dark breast spot on an unmarked chest.

Information sources:
Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion

All About Birds

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