American Tree Sparrow
|Conservation status||Abundant and widespread. Most nesting areas are remote from human disturbance. Wintering numbers in some areas are thought to have declined, but no evidence of decrease in total population|
|Family||New World Sparrows|
|Habitat||Arctic scrub, willow thickets; in winter, brushy roadsides, weedy edges, marshes. In summer most common near treeline, where northern forest gives way to tundra. May be in openings in stunted spruce forest, or on open tundra if a few taller shrubs are present. In winter in open fields, woodland edges, marshes, suburban areas.|
Forages on ground or in low bushes, sometimes in trees up to 30' or more above ground. Except when nesting, usually forages in small flocks.
4-6, usually 5. Pale bluish or greenish, with brownish spotting often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, 11-13 days; male visits nest often, but does not incubate. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at age 8-10 days, when flight feathers not yet fully grown. Parents may lure them away from nest by offering food. Young are able to fly at about 14-15 days after hatching; parents continue to feed them for about 2 more weeks. 1 brood per season, but may attempt to renest if 1st attempt fails.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at age 8-10 days, when flight feathers not yet fully grown. Parents may lure them away from nest by offering food. Young are able to fly at about 14-15 days after hatching; parents continue to feed them for about 2 more weeks. 1 brood per season, but may attempt to renest if 1st attempt fails.
Seeds and insects. Diet in winter is almost entirely seeds, from grasses, weeds, and other plants; also a few insects and berries. In summer eats mostly insects and other small invertebrates, plus a few seeds. Young are fed mostly insects.
Pairs form shortly after birds arrive on breeding grounds. Male actively defends territory, chasing away other members of same species. Nest site is on or near ground, in grass clumps beneath shrubs. Sometimes on hummock in open tundra; rarely up to 4' above ground in willow or spruce. Nest is an open cup of twigs, grasses, moss, lined with fine grass and with feathers (usually ptarmigan feathers). Female builds nest in about 7 days.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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All wintering areas are well to the south of breeding areas. Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Apparently migrates mainly at night. On average, females winter somewhat farther south than males.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and Calls1 or 2 clear notes followed by a sweet, rapid warble. Winter feeding call a silvery tsee-ler.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the American Tree Sparrow
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the American Tree Sparrow
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.