American Tree Sparrow


Common Name: American Tree Sparrow

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Emberizidae

Genus: Spizella

Species: Spizella arborea




The American Tree Sparrow is part of the New World Sparrow family Emberizidae that includes well known birds like the Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow,  and Field Sparrow.

Distinguishing characteristics for this bird includes a clear chest with a single spot. They also have a light grey head with a rufous or red-brown colored crown and eyeline as well as a rufous shoulder. On the American Tree Sparrow's wings there are two white wing bars. All of these characteristics together help identify this sparrow from others though it is still difficult to tell some of the sparrow species apart without much practice.


During the breeding season American Tree Sparrows are found in the northern most parts of Canada near the tree line of the boreal forests where there are many open areas that contain shrubs and small trees. By October the American Tree Sparrow has finished migrating into their wintering grounds which includes much of the northern half of the United States. Here they are found  in fields, marshes and open forests. Additionally, they are also seen at feeders in residential areas.


During both the summer and the winter they eat a mix of both plant and animal matter. Mostly they consume seeds and berries from a variety of plants and they will supplement this with a mix of different insects and insect eggs.

Territory for the American Tree Sparrow is mostly maintained by the male through bouts of singing, usually from the top of a small tree in a cleared area. Fights rarely occur but if they do it usually is to maintain dominance in a wintering flock.




Mating starts to occur in late June after the male and female have pair bonded. The American Tree Sparrow has a monogamous mating system so only one male and one female are usually found in a territory. The female builds the nest and incubates the egg while the male visits the nest occasionally during this time. After the eggs have hatched the female will continue to brood the young and will take turns with the male to feed the young.  The young birds will stay in the nest for 8 to 10 days and will fledge while still not being able to fly so their parents will continue to watch over them for a time.




American Tree Sparrows are only found in Western New York during the winter. These birds are found virtually all over Western New York and can be found fairly regularly around bird feeders and open fields during their stay here.


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.