Chipping Sparrow


Common Name: Chipping Sparrow

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Emberizidae

Genus: Spizella

Species: Spizella passerina

Photo: M. Noonan




Chipping Sparrows are passerines in the family Emberizidae which groups them together with other New World Sparrows. Chipping Sparrows have a bright chestnut crown, black eye-line with a white eyebrow. They have a gray nape, breast and ear, face and underparts. Their back is tan with dark streaks. Chipping Sparrows have brown wings with brown wing bars. Chipping Sparrows are monochromatic which means that the males and females look alike. They are about 14cm in size.


Photo: Nick Glabicky


In the eastern United States, Chipping Sparrows tend to be found in both suburban and urban districts, preferring wooded areas if possible. In the western United States, Chipping Sparrows prefer conifer forests. In western New York, the Chipping Sparrow can be seen during the summer but then migrates south for the winter. You can often see Chipping Sparrows in flocks and will often see them foraging on the ground. The Chipping Sparrow, like most American sparrows, eats mostly seeds, particularly in the fall and winter. Chipping Sparrows can also be seen eating small insects and any bits of food that are left on the ground by humans. They tend to forage on the ground and in low shrubs and will often do so in groups.

Photo: M. Noonan



As mentioned, Chipping Sparrows feed on the ground and will create flocks. If scared, Chipping Sparrows will generally fly to nearby shrubs to take cover. Males will arrive at breeding areas about a week prior to females to establish a territory. They are generally monogamous but social monogamy does occur. The nest is built by the female and is made up of grass, weeds, and rootlets, lined with hair and fine grass. Females generally have 4 eggs per nest and are incubated for 11-14 days. When hatched, the young are altricial, meaning they are immobile, blind and helpless. Both sexes will care for the young which are ready to fledge in about 10 days after hatching.


Photo: M. Noonan




One really good place to see the Chipping Sparrow is at Tifft Nature Preserve and also in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Walking along the paths, you should have no trouble spotting one within a few minutes during the summer.


Photo: Kyle Horton

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.