Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Chipping Sparrow

Spizella passerina

Common over much of the continent is the little Chipping Sparrow. Originally a bird of open pine woods and edges, it has adapted well to altered landscapes. It now nests in gardens and parks in many areas, its tame behavior making it well-known and popular. Evidently it was even more common in towns in the 19th century; but then the House Sparrow, introduced from Europe, took over its place as our number one city "sparrow."
Conservation status Common and widespread, numbers probably stable. Nests often parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbird.
Family New World Sparrows
Habitat Open woods, conifers, orchards, farms, towns. Original breeding habitat probably was mainly open pine woods, coniferous forest edges, savanna with scattered conifers. Still breeds in such areas but now also very common in suburbs, city parks, orchards, pastures, other altered habitats. Winters in open woods, thickets, farmland, brush.
Common over much of the continent is the little Chipping Sparrow. Originally a bird of open pine woods and edges, it has adapted well to altered landscapes. It now nests in gardens and parks in many areas, its tame behavior making it well-known and popular. Evidently it was even more common in towns in the 19th century; but then the House Sparrow, introduced from Europe, took over its place as our number one city "sparrow."
Photo Gallery
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  • juvenile
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, but also up in shrubs and low trees. Occasionally makes short flights to catch insects in mid-air. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


Eggs

3-4, rarely 2-5. Pale blue-green, with markings of brown, purple, and black mostly at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 11-14 days; male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-12 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 8-12 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. Diet varies with season. In summer, feeds mostly on insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, leafhoppers, true bugs, and many others, plus some spiders. Also eats many seeds, especially in fall and winter, including those of grasses, weeds, some waste grain.


Nesting

A few males have more than one mate. Nest site varies. Usually in a conifer, but can be in a deciduous tree or sometimes on the ground; usually lower than 15' above the ground, but can be up to 60' or even higher. Nest (built by female) is a compact open cup made of grass, weeds, rootlets, lined with fine grass and animal hair. At one time, when Americans were more rural, the Chipping Sparrow was well known for using horsehair in its nest lining.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Often migrates in flocks. Migration is spread over a long period in both spring and fall.

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Migration

Often migrates in flocks. Migration is spread over a long period in both spring and fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Thin musical trill, all on 1 note like the whir of a sewing machine.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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