About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New sparrows in the yard

We have white crowned sparrows at our feeder today. I haven't seen them before. Is it uncommon for them to be here?
If you've never noticed these birds don't feel bad, they are only in our area for a couple weeks in the spring and a couple weeks in the fall in Mid-Michigan.
I’m always excited to see the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows in the spring. These two bird species only migrate through mid-Michigan right after the last frost in late April to late May and before the first snow in the fall in September to November.

Both are medium sized sparrows similar to a House Sparrow except for the black-and-white racing stripes on their heads. The white-throated also has a conspicuous white throat and yellow spots between eyes and bill.

They both like to scratch on the ground with a series of quick kicks when they feed and remind me of chickens. They enjoy millet and also will eat sunflower chips. If the weather is good they’ll stay just long enough to rest and refuel.
Though some native sparrows look similar, they each have distinct differences. Another sparrow to keep your eyes and ears open for Song Sparrows. Once they arrive they will stick around to nest in our area. They look like fluttering leaves, but they make up for their less than dazzling plumage with their beautiful song. A medium-sized sparrow, their most distinctive features are the dark feathers under the bill that look like mutton chops and the dark brown spot of feathers over their heart. They also have heavily streaked gray-brown backs, a dull white belly and a chest that is streaked with brown feathers. Their head has a brown crown with paler median stripe, a pale gray eyebrow and a white chin. Click HERE to listen to a sample of their songs.

Most of the Dark-eyed Juncos have moved on to nest in the forests further north. Juncos have dark gray plumage on their heads, breast and back. This contrasts with their white belly. I’ll miss them and their flashing white outer tail feathers.

My Chipping Sparrows arrived a couple weeks ago. I think these are one of the cutest sparrows and I always enjoy listening to them sing outside the window. The loud, trilling songs of a chipping sparrow are one of the most common sounds of spring and are easy to identify. The song is often described as the sound of an electric sewing machine. To hear the chipping sparrow’s song, visit HERE.

They are a very tiny, clean, crisp, energetic, sparrow about five inches long and weigh only a half ounce. It has a chestnut cap and a white stripe above the eye, and a black stripe through the eye. The female is the same but slightly duller.

As the smallest sparrow, they are always busy, busy running around on the yard looking for weed seeds or under the feeders.

They arrive in April and May to the Michigan area from their winter home in Mexico, Central America or the southern United States.
Related Articles:
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/0qggF
How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d

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