|Species: Song Sparrow
This medium sized,
fairly bulky sparrow is common and widespread in open, shrubby or
wet areas and is quite at home in an urban setting. It can often be
seen hopping around in the grass at the edges of lawns and field
margins and it is one of the first species that you should suspect
if you see a streaky sparrow in an open, brushy or marshy habitat.
This species is named after its melodious song and the male will
usually find a low perch, such as the top of a bush or a small tree,
from which to sing. These sparrows are usually solitary, but they
may form loose groups in the fall.
Medium sized sparrow with a short, stout bill, a long, rounded tail
and short, broad wings. Adults measure approximately 15cm in length
and weigh about 20g.
and female are similar, although males are slightly larger. Wings
and breast are coarsely streaked in brown and grey. The wings and
tail are a rufous brown. The streaking on the breast tends to
converge in a central spot. The underbelly is a lighter buffy brown.
The supercilium is grey and narrow, not widening beyond the eye.
Similar to adult.
Lincoln’s sparrow, M. lincolnii, has a smaller bill and a shorter,
greyer tail. The grey supercilium is broader, widening beyond the
eye and the streaks are crisper and darker on the wings, back,
flanks and breast. The savannah sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis,
has a smaller, pinkish bill and a relatively short, notched tail.
Streaking is finer and more crisp. On the head, the lores is yellow,
there is strong, dark moustache and a pale median crown stripe.
Song sparrows forage on the ground, in shrubs and in very shallow
water. They can be seen flitting and hopping through dense, low
vegetation. Flights are short and are characterised by a downward
pumping of the tail. They tend to stay low in vegetation and forage
secretively. However, males sing from exposed perches, such as the
tops of shrubs or small trees.
Song sparrows are found in a variety of open habitats, including
brushy areas, agricultural areas, overgrown pastures, parkland,
hedgerows and gardens. They are often found near water and can be
found at forest edges and in deciduous or mixed woodlands.
Song sparrows are year round residents and can be found throughout
most of North America. They show extensive regional variation and
have the most numerous subspecies in North America, with 52
varieties described. Song sparrows of the Pacific Northwest tend to
be darker and more streaked, while those of the desert southwest
tend to be lighter and paler overall. Despite this large variation
in colouration, genetic differences are small. A song sparrow’s diet
consists mainly of seeds and fruit, supplemented by a variety of
insects and other invertebrates in the summer. Song sparrows are
usually monogamous and generally lay one clutch of 1-6 eggs per
year. Male song sparrows attract a mate and defend its territory by
singing. The song is melodious, crisp and clear, consisting of
trills and clear notes, usually starting with several short notes,
followed by one long trill in the middle of the song. Males can
learn up to 20 different tunes and hundreds of variations of each
tune. Females are attracted to males that show the ability to learn
many different variants of their song from their neighbours. Females
are also able to distinguish the songs of their mate from other
males and the songs of neighbouring birds from those from more
distant areas. A female shows a distinct preference for the song of
her mate, followed by the song of neighbours. She is least
interested in songs sung by strangers in the area.
Least Concern The
song sparrow is widespread and common throughout North America. They
are vulnerable to predation cats, hawks and owls and are often the
victim of the brown-headed cowbird, although this does not seem to
have any significant effect on their own reproductive success.
The Song Sparrow is a year round resident of Colony Farm.
Capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per
100 net hours) peak during winter months when non-breeding
birds forage throughout the banding area.