Wednesday, January 23, 2013
American Tree Sparrow
Not to be confused with the over abundant, aggressive and invasive House Sparrow, the American Tree Sparrow are more of a rural bird than their Old World cousins. Wisconsin is home to 27 different sparrow species and I have documented 13 of them so far. I know that identifying sparrows can be difficult, so bear with me while I try to explain as we go along. The first thing noticeable thing about the American Tree Sparrow is the rusty red cap and rusty (not black) eye line on a gray head. They have a streaked brown back, and a smooth gray to buff breast in both male and female. American Tree Sparrows give an overall impression of reddish-brown and gray. A dark smudge in the center of the unstreaked breast is common. Plus they have a bicolored yellow and black bill.
Their closest relative of the American Tree Sparrow is the Chipping Sparrow. They also have rusty cap, but instead of a rusty eye line, they have a black and white one and NO markings on its chest. Chipping Sparrows also have a solid black bill. On top of that, the Chipping Sparrows are summer residents while the American Tree Sparrows are the winter birds. I hope this helps
Look for small flocks of American Tree Sparrows hopping along on the ground in winter in weedy fields with hedgerows or shrubs, along forest edges, or near marshes and roadsides. They readily visit backyards, especially if there's a seed feeder.
The top picture was taken at Cliffside Park on 12/1/2012. This little guy just happened to be on the trail I was on for an easy picture. The bottom picture was taken to Richard Bong State Recreational Area on 1/12/2013. This dude just happened to be on the roadside for another easy picture.