Chipping Sparrow. V.J. Anderson

Sitting on my deck in Albany, one of the most common birds I see in the spring, summer and fall is another LBB (Little Brown Bird) – the Chipping Sparrow.  This LBB is easy to identify because of its distinct rufous head-cap. It is small as far as sparrows go and very busy. I find them moving around my lawn, driveway and the surrounding field. They also move from the ground to the big pines in and around the field. Their song is a rapid series of insect-like chips.

I watch them as I drink my morning tea. There are usually three to five of them busying around at any particular time. They pick through the grass looking for seeds or pick through the gravel in the driveway. This summer I’ve learned that the youngsters look very different than their rufous-capped parents. They are dusky and heavily streaked, and the cap isn’t noticeable. I watched a family of four youngsters following their parents around begging incessantly. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the harried parents. The chicks were noisy and flew well. So, no matter where the parents went, the youngsters followed begging and jockeying for attention.

This is a bird that has thrived because it prefers open habitat and likes seeds from many plants we consider weeds – crabgrass, clover, dandelion and pigweed, for instance. This means they do well in yards, suburbs and disturbed areas like vacant lots and old fields.

These birds are widely distributed across North America. They spend the winter in the southern United States and Mexico and come to our area, as well as Canada and Alaska, in the spring. At Valentine Farm, listen for them the minute you step out of your car in the parking lot. They move from the open field and parking lot ho the pine trees that surround it. Their rapid chipping will help you locate and identify them. Watch closely, though. Another bird has a similar song. The Pine Warbler also likes the big pines at Valentine Farm. I’ve spent many an hour trying to find a Pine Warbler I’m convinced I’m hearing only to find a happy little Chipping Sparrow singing away. It doesn’t matter, though. This rufous-capped little bird always makes me smile.

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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