Open Field Birds, Pacific Northwest
The Chipping Sparrow is a small sparrow with a tail that is slightly notched. During the breeding season, the chipping sparrow has a chimney red colored cap, light gray underparts, streaked brown wings with two white wing bars and a black line running through the eyes from front to back. A clear, very light gray band runs across the nape of its neck, separating the black and brown streaked back. Juveniles are streaked and do not get their adult plumage until the fall migration.
Chipping sparrows can be found in a variety of habitats like open forests and forest edges, especially coniferous forests. They prefer forests with thick undergrowth. The Chipping Sparrow eats mostly seeds, especially in the fall and winter but during the breeding season, they will eat a variety of insects as well. Chipping Sparrows forage in flocks during the non-breeding season but not during the breeding season. They usually forage on the ground in open areas but near cover. When foraging, they run or hop, stopping often to scratch at the ground for as they search for seeds.
Males return to the breeding grounds a week or so before the females and will establish a territory. When the females arrive, they form pairs. Although monogamy is common, some males may have more than one mate. They both choose a nest site together, usually in a conifer, within 5 meters of the ground. The female builds the nest, a loose, open cup made of grass, weeds, and other found materials, lined with animal hair and fine grass. It is often situated at the outer end of a branch in a clump of needles or leaves. The female incubates 4 eggs for up to 12 days. The male feeds the female while she incubates. Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest within 12 days after hatching. The young can make sustained flights within three days of leaving the nest, although the parents continue to feed them for about three more weeks. Second broods are not uncommon, but most pairs will raise only one brood a season.