Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow by Michael A. Seymour
© Michael A. Seymour
Melospiza melodia
Many migrant birds exhibit an entirely different personality in their winter haunts from that which they display in their breeding range. In the northern part of the eastern United States the Song Sparrow in summer is an abundant inhabitant of farmyards, towns and residential sections and suburbs of cities. A single city block may have two or three or even more breeding pairs with their well-defined territories, each ruled over by a vociferous singing male. Hence, it is a conspicuous and familiar bird, liked by everyone who seeks its acquaintance. in the winter, though, large numbers of the birds leave their summer home to spend the cold months in the Southland. In doing so they take on new attitudes and new behavior patterns. Instead of being sociable and often urban dwelling, they become shy and rural. Sometimes their presence is detected only by the observer who is able to recognize the low, nasal tchip in the depth of a thicket or in a rank growth of broom sedge. A squeak on the part of the observer will usually bring one of the little birds into view, but not for long, for it always seems reluctant to show itself and reveal its markings.
The Song Sparrow is approximately the size of a House Sparrow and is reddish brown in color, with heavy streakings on the underparts concentrated in a prominent black spot in the center of the breast (an excellent field mark). The Savannah Sparrow also often has a spot on its streaked underparts. Ways of distinguishing the two are discussed in the account of the Savannah Sparrow. Another field mark particularly useful when the bird is flying away is the shape of the tai, which is rounded in the Song Sparrow, indented in the Savannah.
The Song Sparrow arrives in early October and is common from then until the first part of April. An occasional individual may sometimes remain until the end of the month. A male that was observed and heard singing at Port Hudson, in the northwestern corner of East Baton Rouge Parish, on July 5, 1948, by Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Moore, is anomalous because the species is not known to breed in the lower Mississippi Valley south of northern Arkansas and southwestern Tennessee. --George H. Lowery, Jr., 1974, Louisiana Birds

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