Oct 28, 2020 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, October 2020

Song Sparrow: Nearly Ubiquitous and Universally Delightful

Our most widespread sparrow in North America, the song sparrow prefers dense cover such as brushy field edges, hedgerows, and brambles, but it's also common in backyards, parks, and cemeteries.

Except for northern Canada and inland Alaska, song sparrows can be found throughout North America during some part of the year, and they are common denizens of backyards—especially under bird feeders. In the Northeast and most of the West, song sparrow is a year-round resident, but across southern Canada and the north-central states, the species is a summer breeder that heads south for the colder months. In much of the Southeast and a swath of central states from Texas to South Dakota, song sparrows are winter visitors.

Song sparrows look markedly different in various regions of the continent. In the Pacific Northwest and coastal California, they a rich, dark brown, with bold breast streaks. In the desert Southwest, they are pale. Eastern song sparrows are somewhere in between. All song sparrows have a streaky head pattern, a white breast with dark streaking that often converges into a central spot, and a long tail. They can be found in diverse habitats, including open woodlands, marshes, chaparral, forests, water’s edge, and suburban backyards. Watch for them on platform and hopper bird feeders—or, more commonly, on the ground below.

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