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6.27 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head, back, throat, and breast slate-gray, the latter sharply defined from the white belly; two outer tail-feathers and part of the third, white. Ad. ♀.— The upper parts browner; throat and breast paler. Im.— Upper parts, throat, and breast streaked.

Nest, often built in the side of road, or in a depression in a bank, or on the ground. Eggs, white, spotted with brown.

The Snowbird is a common winter resident of southern Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the lower Hudson Valley, and not uncommon along the Massachusetts coast as far north as Boston. In the interior, where snow is deep during much of the winter, the Snowbird occurs only as a migrant, through April, and again in late September and October. On the higher summits of Berkshire and Worcester counties, on the Catskills, and in northern New England and New York, wherever there are patches of spruce, the Snowbird is a common summer resident. In winter flocks frequent the warm slopes where weedy patches have been laid bare, in severe weather often coming about the house and barn, particularly if seed is scattered for them. In the spring migration they are found at the edges of cultivated fields, and along the roadsides; and in the autumn in more open woodland. They breed either on rocky mountain tops, where they occur higher up than any other bird, or in spruce forests, particularly where there are clearings or pastures.

The Snowbird's song is a pleasant little jingle, like the clinking of bits of metal struck rapidly together. (See under Chipping Sparrow.) The bird sings often from a stone, or from the top of an evergreen. It has also a smack of alarm, a peu peu peu, uttered when two birds are quarreling, and a twittering sound given when one bird starts to fly, apparently to keep the flock together.

The pure white V made by the outer tail-feathers, when the bird rises from the ground, or the dark cowled appearance of the head, as it is seen from below, easily distinguish it.


Slate-colored Junco


Tail of Slate-colored

FIELD SPARROW. Spizella pusilla
5.68 in.

Ad.— Top of head and back reddish-brown; a rusty streak behind the eye; cheeks otherwise grayish; gray line over eye, but no black line through it; bill reddish-brown; wing-bars whitish; under parts gray; breast washed with pale buff.

Nest, placed on the ground, or in a low bush. Eggs, white, with brown markings.

The Field Sparrow is a summer resident of southern New England and the lower Hudson Valley; in northern New England it is confined to the cleared land in the settlements, and it is absent in the Canadian Zone. It arrives early in April, and remains through October. There are several records of its occurrence in Southern New England in winter. Old pastures, overgrown with high bushes and cedars, and the edges of woodland are its favorite resorts; it is never a bird of the yard, or of the cultivated fields.

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Its song is a fine strain, beginning with two or three high sustained, piercing notes, then running into a succession of similar, more rapid notes, all in a minor key, and often running down, or occasionally up, the chromatic scale. Sometimes the last rapid notes rise, and occasionally one note is repeated throughout. A beautiful form of the song, often given towards evening, is made by a repetition of the whole in a different key, as soon as the first part is ended. The call-note is a tsip lighter than that of the Chipping Sparrow.

The reddish-brown bill of the Field Sparrow is the best mark by which to distinguish it from the Chipping Sparrow; any one familiar with the bird soon learns also to recognize a certain characteristic aspect of the side of its head, where its black eye stands out in contrast with the light gray around it; in the Chipping Sparrow the black line through the eye and the white line over it give the head a very different appearance.

CHIPPING SPARROW. Spizella socialis [passerina]
5.37 in.

Ad.— Crown reddish-brown, a gray line over the eye, a black line through it; cheek gray; back brown, streaked with black; under parts ash-gray; bill black (cinnamon-brownish in winter); tail long and slender, rather deeply notched. Im.— Young birds in the first plumage have the breast streaked, in the next they lack the reddish crown.

Nest, always lined with horsehair, placed in a bush, vine, or low tree. Eggs, bluish, with brown or blackish markings.

The Chipping Sparrow is an abundant summer resident throughout New York and New England, breeding even in the forested regions wherever there are clearings and cultivated ground. It arrives early in April and remains through October. It is common in the village dooryards, about farm buildings, along the roadsides, and in the pasture, especially where there are groves of red cedars. It is unsuspicious, and often comes to the Sparrow doorstep in search of food.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

The song is a succession of staccato notes, or rather the same note repeated rather rapidly; the songs of different individuals vary greatly as to time. The song resembles that of the Snowbird, but is drier and less musical; the Swamp Sparrow's song is still more powerful and musical, while the Pine Warbler's song is a trill, the notes running lazily into each other. The Chipping Sparrow's call-note is a slight tsip.

The reddish-brown crown and unstreaked ashy breast distinguish it readily from most of the other sparrows; from its close relative the Field Sparrow it may be told in summer by its black bill and the black line through the eye; in the fall Chipping Sparrows are often seen with reddish-brown bills. There is more black in the Chipping Sparrow's back and less reddish-brown, so that its back looks darker. From a description of the Swamp Sparrow, one might suppose that it resembles the Chipping Sparrow; as a matter of fact, the latter is so slender and its tail is so long, that even if the two happened to come together as migrants in the spring and fall, one ought to have no difficulty in distinguishing them.

[AMERICAN] TREE SPARROW. Spizella monticola [arborea]
6.36 in.

Ad.— Crown reddish-brown; back brownish, streaked with black; wing-bars white; under parts pale gray; a dusky spot in the centre of the breast; sides tinged with reddish-brown.

The Tree Sparrow is a common winter visitant in New York and New England, appearing in October and leaving in April. It is even more numerous as a migrant than in winter. Tree Sparrows frequent sheltered spots where food and cover can be found; the edges of marshes, old fields grown up to weeds, and dry hillsides covered with ragweed (Ambrosia) are favorite resorts.

A single bird is rare, and flocks sometimes number a hundred. They scatter over the feeding-ground, reaching up for the seeds, jumping for them, or even lighting on the taller plants, and bending them down with their weight. A snow-fall enables them to reap a harvest from still taller plants, and their tracks now form a network from one stalk to the other.


Tree Sparrow

While feeding, the flock keep up a cheerful twitter, each bird repeating the syllables teel-wit in a sweet, lively tone. When startled the Tree Sparrow utters a slight tsip. This note is also used as a call-note, and may be heard on dark winter afternoons as the birds fly into weedy thickets to spend the night. The song, uttered in March and April, and occasionally in the autumn, is sweet and rather loud, beginning with four long-drawn notes, whee-hee-ho-hee (Langille). The form of the opening is like that of the Fox Sparrow, but the notes are not so rich and powerful.

In winter the Tree Sparrow may easily be distinguished from any other wintering sparrow by its unstreaked breast, chestnut crown, and white wing-bars. In October and April it often associates with Chipping Sparrows and Field Sparrows, and from these two species it may be distinguished by its greater size and the whiter wing-bars, but chiefly by a dusky spot in the centre of the breast.

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