My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina

In eastern North America, Chipping Sparrows breed in woodlands, farmlands, and suburban and urban districts. In western North America, the Chipping Sparrow prefers conifer forests for breeding. The Chipping Sparrow is partially migratory, with almost all mid-latitude and high-latitude breeders withdrawing in winter to the southern United States and Mexico. On the wintering grounds and during migration, Chipping Sparrows are gregarious, forming tight flocks with other Chipping Sparrows or loose assemblages with other species such as Eastern Bluebirds and Pine Warblers.

Throughout the year, Chipping Sparrows forage on the ground, often in loose flocks. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and crumbs of mostly any food, especially those fallen on the ground. Chipping Sparrows frequently forage directly from forbs and grasses, too. At any time of the year, especially, in spring, Chipping Sparrows may be seen in trees, even up in the canopy, where they forage on fresh buds and glean for arboreal insects.

Although they are wary, Chipping Sparrows often allow close approach. A quiet observer can often get to within 50–100 feet of one or more Chipping Sparrows feeding on the ground. When spooked, Chipping Sparrows fly a short distance to the nearest tree or fence row.

In early spring, the first migrants return from their wintering grounds in March, but the bulk of migrants arrives throughout April. Males set up territories right away, and their trilled songs make them conspicuous. Breeding begins as early as April, but again, most nesting activity occurs from late April to early May on.

Molt in the Chipping Sparrow follows the “Complex Alternate Strategy” as usual for American sparrows. It consequently has two molts per year as adults and three molts in their first year of life, also called their first plumage-cycle. The Chipping Sparrow’s two adult molts occur in late summer and late winter.

Although this bird’s original habitat was probably coniferous forest, especially the eastern subspecies has adapted well to the changes brought about by increased human population in its range.

On to the photos:

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

This is number 41 in my photo life list, only 309 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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12 responses

  1. FarAwayPeachGarden

    Nice photos! I am a bird lover, too.:-) My goal is not as grand as yours. I am just trying to capture as many birds in my California backyard on film as possible. Check out this one: http://farawaypeachgarden.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/in-memory-of-grandma-fina/

    February 26, 2013 at 1:44 am

    • Thank you, it looks like you made a good deal of progress towards your goal!

      February 26, 2013 at 1:55 am

  2. Vicki

    they are lovely little birds.. we had one in the yard last year coming for water.

    February 26, 2013 at 9:21 am

    • Thanks Vickie!

      February 26, 2013 at 9:24 am

  3. Now there’s a bird I’ve seen a lot of!

    February 26, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    • I’m glad that I finally found one!

      February 27, 2013 at 1:34 am

  4. Such a cutie ! Great captures, they aren’t easy to find.

    February 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    • Thanks, but they are easy to find around here, especially this time of year when we have our own, plus flocks from farther north that winter here.

      February 27, 2013 at 1:36 am

  5. Chipping sparrows are so cute – great pictures!

    February 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    • Thank you.

      February 28, 2013 at 12:19 pm

  6. Love your first capture Jerry! Great colors!

    March 5, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    • Thanks Donna!

      March 6, 2013 at 2:41 am