American Tree Sparrow

Spizella arborea
American Tree Sparrow specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (6-6 ½ inches) bunting, the American Tree Sparrow is most easily identified by its mottled brown back, gray face and neck, small dark breast spot, and rusty red crown. This species may be distinguished from the similarly-patterned Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) by that species’ smaller size and conspicuous white eye-stripes. Male and female American Tree Sparrows are similar to one another in all seasons. The American Tree Sparrow breeds across Alaska and northern Canada. In winter, this species migrates south to southern Canada and the northern half of the United States. This species is absent from much of the southern United States and the U.S. Pacific coast. American Tree Sparrows breed primarily breed on sparsely vegetated tundra near the tree line. In winter, this species is found in a wider variety of habitats, including woodland, meadows, and suburban yards. American Tree Sparrows primarily eat a variety of fruits, berries, seeds, and small invertebrates. In appropriate habitat, American Tree Sparrows may be seen feeding on the ground or in the branches of low trees and shrubs. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ call, a squeaky “tseet” or “teelwit.” American Tree Sparrows are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Winter visitor of varying abundance; in some years common, in others rare. Usually arrives early in November or late October; departs late in March or early April. Found in fields, along wood margins, and occasionally at suburban feeders. Sexes are similar.

Specimen Information

This exhibit includes three birds; their records follow.
This is the bird at the top.
Date:  6/27/1863
Collected By:  R McFurlane
Locality:  Ft Anderson
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  35804
This record is for the bird in the center.
Date:  12/18/1887
Collected By:  CW Richmond
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  122576
This record is for the bird at the bottom.
Date:  3/1/1914
Collected By:  Alex Wetmore
Locality:  Arlington, VA
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  236089

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67143 Spizella arborea (American Tree Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16891 Spizella arborea (American Tree Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16892 Spizella arborea (American Tree Sparrow)