Chipping sparrow

Spizella passerina

TAXONOMY

Fringilla passerina Bechstein, 1798, Quebec. Six subspecies. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Chippy; French: Bruant familier; German: Schwirrammer; Spanish: Gorrión Cejiblanco.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

4.5-5.5 in (12-14 cm); 0.4 oz (12 g). A small, slim sparrow with a long, notched tail. Sexes are similar in color. Adults have a rufous cap with a white stripe over the eye, a black eyeline stripe, a gray nape and rump, and pale gray, unstreaked underparts. Juveniles are like adults but buff, with a streaked, brown cap.

DISTRIBUTION

Breeds from southeast Alaska east across Canada to southwest Newfoundland and south to Florida, the Gulf Coast west to northern Baja California, and south in the highlands of Mexico to Guatemala. Winters in southern United States and Mexico.

HABITAT

Breed in dry, open woodlands and woodland edge with fairly open understory and in urban parks and golf courses. They are found in deciduous, coniferous, or mixed woods.

BEHAVIOR

During breeding season, males sing persistently from a tree, usually not from an exposed perch. During migration they often occur in large, loose flocks. Their flight is strong, fast, and direct.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feed both in trees and on the ground. During migration, they often feed on the ground in loose flocks. In summer, their diet consists principally of insects; in winter, they eat mainly seeds.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. The cup-like nest is placed in a tree, commonly a conifer, from 3 to 56 ft (1-19 m) high; nest rarely found on the ground. Three to five (usually four) eggs are laid from March through July. Incubation takes 11-14 days, and the young fledge after 9-12 days. Both parents feed the young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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