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Species Description

Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae

Description

Grayish eyebrow; white throat bordered by a dark stripe; pale gray to white central crown stripe; variable striping on the head and body; streaking on the neck, flanks, and lower belly; dark central spot on the chest; under parts whitish with streaking; legs and feet pinkish. 16 cm (6.25 in) in length. The Song Sparrow has a rounded tail. This is one of the most variable species of bird found in North America, and a large number of subspecies have been named. The song of this sparrow is very musical, usually ending in a trill.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in early April, peaks later that month, and extends into mid-August. Breeding habitat includes open grassy areas with scattered shrubs and trees, shrubby residential areas, hedgerows, and pond edges. Early in the season most nests are on or near the ground; later nests are built higher up, usually in small trees or shrubs.The nest is cup-shaped and constructed from grass, bark strips, and other plant material. The female lays 2-6 (usually 3-4) eggs that she incubates for 12-14 days. The young are altricial and fledge 9-12 days after hatching. The young are dependent on the adults for 1-2 weeks after leaving the nest. If the female nests again after the first group fledges, the male will take care of the first group of young alone.

Natural History

The habitats of the Song Sparrow include those used for breeding plus overgrown fields, marshes, and thickets. Its diet consists of insects, seeds, and sometimes fruit. The food is found by searching the ground and nearby vegetation. The northern populations are migratory.

Range

Song Sparrow Region Map The Song Sparrow occurs throughout the United States, with the extreme northern birds being migrants. In the middle latitudes Song Sparrows can be found all year. It occurs throughout the Southeast in the winter, but it is most common in the southern Appalachians and surrounding areas during the breeding season. The Song Sparrow is limited to the northern quarter of Georgia during the breeding season, but occurs throughout the state in the winter.

Conservation Status

The Song Sparrow is a very common host of the Brown-headed Cowbird. It commonly raises cowbird young instead of or in addition to its own young. The Song Sparrow is common and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in any part of its southeastern range.

Similar Species

The species most similar to the Song Sparrow would probably be the Fox Sparrow. The Fox Sparrow only occurs during the winter in the Southeast. It has variable amounts of gray on the head and streaking that covers the breast and flanks. The Fox Sparrow has reddish wings and tail and its tail is squared off instead of round like that of the Song Sparrow.