Pleasant Hill, California
Mike & Anne Eliot
We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
Pleasant Hill, California
692 Contra Costa Blvd.
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Phone: (925) 798-0303
Fax: (925) 798-9835
Email: Send Message
Mon - Fri: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fun Facts About Native Sparrows
- The American Tree Sparrow’s name is somewhat misleading due to the fact that the breeding grounds for most of these birds are found in the treeless tundra habitats of the far north. Early settlers, seeing the birds on their southern wintering grounds, named them for their similar appearance to the Eurasian Tree Sparrows they left behind in Europe.
- American Tree Sparrows are known to eat large amounts of common weed seeds. Each year they are estimated to eat 875 tons of the weed seeds in the state Iowa alone.
- American Tree Sparrow eats almost 100% animal matter (mostly insects) during the summer. In the winter it switches entirely to seeds and other plant foods.
- When the ground is snow covered, American Tree Sparrows have been observed to fly around a weed plant, using their wings to dislodge its seeds onto the snow below for easy retrieval.
- Studies have proven that increasing day length is what triggers reproductive activities in American Tree Sparrows. However, vision apparently plays no role in this phenomenon. Blind tree sparrows demonstrate the same reactions to increased day length as do birds with sight.
- An American Tree Sparrow eats about 30% of its own body weight in food every day during the summer. They also drink about 30% of their own body weight of water each day.
- No one knows for sure, but some estimates project that there may be as many as 10 to 20 million pairs of American Tree Sparrows nesting across a vast expanse of northern Canada and Alaska.
- Which is your dominant eye? A recent study found that American Tree Sparrows seems to prefer to look for predators out of their left eye, while Dark-eyed Juncos prefer their right.
- American Tree Sparrows migrate in flocks at night.
- Bird banding records show that the longevity record for the American Tree Sparrow is 10 years and 9 months.
- Individual White-throated Sparrows have either white stripes on their head or tan stripes. These distinct color forms are genetic in origin. White-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped ones, and each bird almost always mates with a bird whose stripe color is opposite from their own.
- White-throated Sparrows with white striped heads are known to sing and contribute to the defense of their breeding. Tan striped females do not exhibit the same behavior.
- White-throated Sparrows are known to migrate at night and begin their flights around sunset. Some research studies suggest they use star patterns as one means of navigation.
- Watch for White-throated Sparrows feeding on the ground while flipping aside leaves with their bill or by scratching away the leaf litter with a series of quick kicks with their feet.
- White-throated Sparrows and the Dark-eyed Juncos have been known to occasionally mate and produce hybrids.
- Both White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows show loyalty to their winter territories and are likely to return to the same areas each year.
- Male White-crowned Sparrows can actually be bilingual, learning and using distinct song dialects from their home territory and a bordering one.
- White-crowned Sparrows have been known to migrate over 2600 miles from Alaska to California. While migrating north in the spring, their average travel distance is about 70 miles per day.
- During the winter, a White-crowned Sparrow’s body contains about 3 grams of fat of which ½ is used up at night and must be replaced everyday.
- Through the analysis of bird banding records, the average life span of a White-crowned Sparrow is thought to be around 16 months while the longest known lifespan was just over 13 years.
- Song Sparrows are found in every state of the Union and Canadian province. They are the most common and widespread sparrow native to North America.
- There are 31 recognized subspecies of the Song Sparrow, more than any other bird species found in North America.
- The Song Sparrow in different parts of the country can look amazingly different. Some are lightly marked and pale while others are dark and heavily streaked.
- Song Sparrows on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska are one-third longer and weigh twice as much as the ones in the eastern U.S.
- In the northern part of their range, Song Sparrows are partially or completely migratory depending on snow cover and winter temperatures. This is due to their ground feeding habits and their almost total dependence on weed seeds for food in the winter.
- When migrating, female Song Sparrows travel farther south than do their male counterparts.
- Over 750,000 Song Sparrows have been banded since 1955. Of these, 16,675 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 2.2%.
- The oldest known banded Song Sparrow to be recaptured in the wild was over 11 years old.
- Adult male Song Sparrows perform about six to twenty different melodies; each one is a slight variation on the basic Song-Sparrow song.
- Some Song Sparrow songs may be very short, consisting of only four notes and lasting less than two seconds, while others may consist of twenty or more notes, lasting over five seconds.
- Studies have shown that female Song Sparrows are attracted to males that learn and sing a larger repertoire of songs and that these males are much more successful in holding their territories and reproducing.
- During the dawn twilight on a spring morning, male Song Sparrows will sing a song every eight seconds and may average over 2,300 songs during an entire day.
- Song Sparrows sing throughout the year and hearing them at dawn on a cold January or February morning is not uncommon.
- The nest of the song sparrow is usually found under grassy tufts on the ground or low in a bush or shrubbery.
- The female Song Sparrow does most of the nest construction alone, while the male devotes himself to defending his territory, mostly through song.
- A pair of Song Sparrows will live and nest in 1-1/2 acres or fewer and may raise up to four broods a year.
- Like most birds, Song Sparrows depend on the increasing day length as their major signal to initiate breeding behavior, but studies have shown that warmer temperatures and an abundant food supply can trigger breeding to start many weeks earlier than normal.
- A research study showed that Song Sparrows with access to millet feeders started nesting and produced eggs up to 14 days earlier than those without access to feeders.
- A Song Sparrow's natural diet consists of weed and grass seeds, a few berries, and insects.
- Song Sparrows prefer to forage on the ground and readily visit backyard feeders where seeds, especially millet, are offered.
- Song Sparrow’s forage for food on the ground by using a double-scratch technique of kicking away debris by hopping forward while sweeping both feet quickly back along the ground. This “Song Sparrow Samba” is typically performed in, or near, dense undergrowth.
- Song Sparrows select their seeds based on what is the most abundant and easiest (fastest) to open – such as millet. Harder to open seeds, even those with a higher fat and protein content – such as oil sunflower - are much less likely to be eaten.
- It takes a Song Sparrow an average of three seconds to husk a millet seed and 4.5 seconds to husk a Nyjer® (thistle) seed.
- On average, Song Sparrows digest and absorb between 80 - 90% of the food they eat. Their highly efficient digestive system takes about two hours to process the food from start to finish.
- The average weight of a Song Sparrow is around 24 grams (.85 ounces), but studies have shown that their weight can fluctuate up to 20 percent in 24 hours, and that birds with access to high-quality food from birdfeeders have been shown to weigh significantly more than those without it.
- Plant seeds accounted for 86% of a Song Sparrow’s normal diet in winter. Some of the most utilized seeds come from common lawn and garden weeds such as smartweed, ragweed, foxtail, pigweed and knotweed.
- Song Sparrows are very aggressive around feeders and can even dominate over larger sparrows and other birds. They have been known to challenge and drive away as many as five House Sparrows at one time.
- Song Sparrows rarely feed in flocks and usually search for their food alone in the company of one or two other birds. This behavior makes them vulnerable to hawks and other predators, thus the presence of nearby shrubbery and cover is very important to them.
- The Song Sparrow usually has a walking gait, but it hops on rough or uneven surfaces.
- The flight speed of Song Sparrows has been measured at 16 to 21 miles per hour.
- The average heart rate for a Song Sparrow is 450 beats per minute.
- Song Sparrows often seem secretive in their behavior, but birds living close to people can become very tame. One scientist was able to condition the Song Sparrows at his feeders to come when called and to associate the sound of a bell with the filling of birdfeeders.
- The Song Sparrow is probably parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird more often and over a greater area of North America than any other bird. Urban and rural habitat studies have shown that 44% of the Song Sparrow nests in Ohio and 85% of the nests in Ontario were victims of cowbirds.