Song sparrow Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

 

For years I’ve ignored sparrows and just listed them in my records as LBBs or “Little Brown Birds”. They are small and often flit into the high grass, weeds or shrubs before I can get a good look and just seem too hard to learn. So, for years, I didn’t bother. Recently, though, I’ve been trying to change my ways. I’ve still got a long way to go, but one of the easiest to start with is the Song Sparrow.

The Song Sparrow (photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren) is one of the most common sparrows. In fact, it is one of the most common birds nesting in our area. It can be found throughout North America and breeds as far north as Newfoundland and Alaska. In other parts of the country it can vary in size and pattern, but here Song Sparrows typically have heavy streaks on their white breast that converge in a distinct, dark spot at the center of their chest. It is mottled brown on its back, wings and tail. Its crown is brown with a gray streak down the middle. It also has a brown eye streak.

As you might guess from its name, its song is one of its distinguishing characteristics. This is a bird that sings spring, summer, morning, noon and afternoon. Although there is a lot of variation among individuals, songs follow a basic pattern, “seet, seet, seet to zeeeee tipa seet seet”. Check it out online and then head out to see if you can hear them. Males can often be found perched on a low shrub or grass stalk singing. This is how they defend their territory.

Song Sparrows are common at Valentine Farm Conservation Center. The easiest place to see them is to stand on the road that crosses the creek into the old corn field. It won’t take long before you’ll start to hear their song. Watch a little longer, and you’ll notice that there is a whole community of these LBBs on both sides of the road. Notice how different males stake out their territory and sing from a preferred perch. Before long, you’ll see that these LBBs form a rich and complex community right under our noses.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To learn more visit www.mahoosuc.org. To contact James, send your emails to [email protected]

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