Backyard Birds: American Tree Sparrow

At this time of year, American Tree Sparrows are moving through the Calgary area on their way north.  They like to frequent brushy thickets and back yards across the city.  I’ve had a pair in my yard since April 2, and I’ve seen them in many other parts of the city in the past week.  These sparrows can also be seen in Calgary on their southward migration in the fall, with some of them occasionally overwintering. 

American Tree Sparrows have a brownish-red cap and eyeline, and a dark spot in the centre of the breast.  Despite its name (which was bestowed due to its resemblance to the European Tree Sparrow), these birds forage and nest on the ground.  Their nesting areas lie north of the treeline. 

 They seek shelter in thick bushes…

Like many of our native sparrows, they prefer to feed on the ground…

American Tree Sparrows are a beautiful little bird with a beautiful song: one or two clear notes followed by a sweet, rapid warble.  Just this week, I heard that song in my yard for the first time. 

So don’t just assume that all of those little brown birds in your yard are House Sparrows and House Finches; if you look carefully, you might find that one of them is actually an American Tree Sparrow.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre


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