Brown sparrow bird with reddish head and black spot on the chest

Robbikal Adlim Sunday, March 10, 2013
Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette
I’ve had a couple emails and a few customers come in to our Wild Birds Unlimited store asking about a new bird at the feeder. The same size, shape and coloring of a House Sparrow, the American Tree Sparrow is most often sighted in mid-Michigan in March and April when they are in migration.

American tree sparrows are small, grayish-brown birds with a rufous cap and stripe behind the eye, tweed colored wings with two white wing bars, a dark spot on a tan breast, black legs, a dark upper beak and a yellow lower beak.

As they migrate through our area you’ll find them in the same areas as Dark-eyed Juncos scratching on the ground for seeds. They offer bubbly, bright songs between bouts of foraging along the ground or in low, budding shrubs.
Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette

This bird got their name because of a superficial resemblance to the Eurasian Tree Sparrow familiar to early settlers. If they knew what we know today about the American Tree Sparrow, perhaps a more appropriate name would have been “Subarctic Shrub Sparrow.” With adequate food supplies this sparrow can survive temperatures of -28 degrees Fahrenheit.

American Tree Sparrows breed across the top of North America and migrate to the United States for the winter. They migrate at night, often in flocks. Females generally winter farther south than males. The return flight to north coincides with spring snow-melt.
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