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Song Sparrow

Common Name: Song Sparrow.

Scientific Name: Melospiza Melodia.

What to look for?  Song Sparrows are medium-sized sparrows. The face is grayish with russet or reddish-brown stripes on the crown and through their eye. The body feathers of the Song Sparrow are brown, and the belly feathers are cream-colored. They have thick streaks on their white chest that meet in a central spot. They have a rounded head and a short and stout bill. They have a long rounded brown tail. Their wings are quite broad. Males and females are similar in appearance.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Song Sparrows are summer visitors to our backyards and under our feeders. Look for them walking or hopping on the ground or flitting through branches and bushes. And you will not find just one as they forage in groups, including with other birds.

How big are they? The Song Sparrow averages just over 5 ½ inches in length. And their wingspan is just over eight inches. They weigh in at around one to two ounces.

What are their flight patterns? Song Sparrows are often seen in short flights close to the ground. Or they may be seen flitting between bushes and feeders with a typical pumping motion of its tail. On longer flights, they have an undulating style.

How else do they behave? At times, the behavior of the Song Sparrow is rather skulking as it hides in the bushes and thickets. Song Sparrows walk or hop on the ground and flit or hop through branches, grass, and weeds. Song Sparrows stay low and forage secretively.

What’s for dinner? Depends on the season! Mostly insects and seeds. Song Sparrows eat many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, wasps, and spiders. They feed heavily on seeds, especially in winter, primarily those of grasses and weeds.

Where do they take up residence? Song Sparrows are very widespread across North America. They are among the most familiar birds in the Northeast and Midwest, including Illinois. Song Sparrows reside in nearly any open habitat, including marsh edges, overgrown fields, backyards, desert washes, and forest edges. Song Sparrows commonly visit bird feeders and build nests in residential areas.

When and where do they breed and nest? Song Sparrows may breed from April through August. Nest sites are usually hidden in grasses or weeds. Song Sparrows are not afraid of human habitation and may nest close to houses – so check your hanging flower baskets!

Where do they migrate? The year-round range of the Song Sparrow reaches across the entire northern half of the U.S. During summers, their range extends up into most of Canada. And during winter, their range extends down into the southern U.S. and northern Mexico. Birds from the northern U.S. may migrate, but typically do not go as far south as the birds that started from farther north, a pattern called “leapfrog migration.” In Illinois, Song Sparrows are generally year-round residents.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Song Sparrow has seen slight decreases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 130 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The Song Sparrow sings a loud, clanking song of several phrases that typically starts with abrupt, well-spaced notes and finishes with a buzz or trill. In between, the singer may add other trills with different tempo and quality. Here is a link to the sounds of the Song Sparrow.

Interesting Facts About the Song Sparrow:

  • The Song Sparrow is found throughout most of North America, but the birds of different areas can look surprisingly different. Song Sparrows of the Desert Southwest are pale, while those in the Pacific Northwest are dark and heavily streaked. Song Sparrows of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands chain are even darker, and they’re huge: one-third longer than the eastern birds, and weighing twice as much.

  • Like many other songbirds, the male Song Sparrow uses its song to attract mates as well as defend its territory.

  • The Song Sparrow, like most other North American breeding birds, uses increasing day length as a cue for when to come into breeding condition. There are, also, other cues such as local temperature and food abundance.

  • Song Sparrows often lay two or more clutches of eggs per breeding season.

  • The oldest known Song Sparrow was approximately 11 years old when it was recaptured and re-released.

For more information on the Song Sparrow and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and National Geographic.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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