Chipping Sparrow

Spizella passerina
Chipping Sparrow specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (5 ¼ inches) bunting, the Chipping Sparrow in summer is most easily identified by its mottled brown back, gray face and neck, conspicuous white eye-stripes, and rusty red crown. Winter birds are browner and duller overall, particularly on the head and face. This species may be distinguished from the similarly-patterned American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) by that species’ larger size and grayer head. Male and female Chipping Sparrows are similar to one another in all seasons. The Chipping Sparrow breeds across south-central Canada and the northern half of the United States. In winter, northerly-breeding populations migrate south into the southeastern U.S., southwest, and northern Mexico. Populations breeding in the southern United States are non-migratory, and other non-migratory populations exist in Mexico and Central America. Chipping Sparrows breed in a number of woodland habitat types with dense undergrowth, preferring habitats composed at least partly of evergreen trees. In winter and on migration, this species is found in a wider variety of habitats including open deciduous forest, weedy fields, and in suburban yards. Chipping Sparrows primarily eat seeds, but this species also eats small insects during the summer months. In appropriate habitat, Chipping Sparrows may be seen walking or hopping on the ground while foraging for food. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a single-pitch rattle; as well as its call, a high “chip,” which gives this species its name. Chipping Sparrows are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common summer resident in residential and agricultural areas. Arrives in mid-March, breeds from early May to the middle of July, leaves in mid-November. Occasionally seen throughout the winter, especially around feeders.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31305 Spizella passerina (Chipping Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31306 Spizella passerina (Chipping Sparrow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16981 Spizella passerina (Chipping Sparrow)