Chipping Sparrow

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Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Photo by: 
Ruth Simmons

In the spring, I see the Chipping Sparrows eating the dandelion seeds in my yard. As summer progresses, I hear their trill (like a high-pitched sewing machine at full speed) just about everywhere I go. They are one of the most common summer sparrows and adapt well to the midwest heat. Chipping sparrows can absorb enough moisture from dry seed to survive for three weeks without any additional water; a very handy adaptation considering our present drought conditions!

Chipping Sparrows are one of the Little Brown Birds that can be so confusing to identify in the backyard. Start by asking yourself some questions: is the bird here in winter or summer, does it have a streaked or plain breast, does it have facial markings, what about stripes or a cap on top of its head? Answering these questions will greatly narrow down your sparrow choices.

The Chipping Sparrow are seen from late March though September. It has a plain grey breast and belly, a white supercillium (eye brow), a black eye line, and a rufous (rusty red) cap. It also has two white wing bars and a black bill.

Chipping Sparrows must be very con- scious of their looks; they molt their head and throat feathers five to six times a year! The rest of their body feathers are molted twice a year. During the fall when they are sporting their non-breeding plumage, they can easily be confused with the Clay-colored Sparrow.

Like so many of the our Little Brown Birds, Chipping Sparrow just don’t get the respect they deserve. Watch for them in and around your feeders in the early Spring, Summer and showing their fledgling you free food source just before they leave in the fall.

By Ruth Simmons

FALL 2012