Song Sparrow

Song sparrows are the most common, widespread of all the birds found in North America. It has 34 recognized subspecies that have varying appearances from very large, long-billed members to small, tiny birds.

These sparrows are up to 18 cm long with heavy brown streaks on their white underparts and a very prominent spot at the top of their breast. It has a long rounded tail, relatively short wings, and a pale stripe at the center of its crown. Both male and female birds look alike. When the Song Sparrow flies, his tail pumps up and down.

Not all of these sparrows are migratory, in those that are, the male song sparrow arrives ahead of the females on the breeding ground to start looking for a good spot to build a nest. Upon arriving, the male song sparrow then starts defining his territory by singing his song from three or four prominent perches. This can start as early as February.

Song Sparrow, Vancouver Island, BC
Song Sparrow, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

When the female birds arrive the male song sparrow then chooses a partner and tries to get her attention by performing his mating ritual. Once, a partnership is forged, the pair will start moving around the territory together.

The female will build a cup-shaped nest on the ground under a tuft of grass, a bush, or a brush pile. While the male brings the nesting materials, it is the female who does the building with grasses and occasional leaves. From the moment the nest building starts, the male begins to sing again to dispel invaders. The female will lay up to 5 greenish-white eggs at an average of one egg a day. The female also does the incubation of the eggs which lasts up to 13 days, 10 days, the young birds will leave the nest even if they are barely able to fly. At this point, they become the responsibility of the male song sparrow. The female then starts laying more eggs. Within a breeding season, the female song sparrow raises up to 3 broods. Both parents continue to feed their young for another 20 days. Within a week following this phase, the female song sparrow could be laying the next batch of eggs again.

The Song sparrow likes to feed on the ground foraging for seeds, insects, and some fruit. To attract these birds to feeders, you may scatter some seeds on the ground.

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