|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|The Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) is a species of American sparrow in the family Emberizidae. It is widespread, fairly tame, and common across most of its North American range.|
Throughout the year, adults are gray below and an orangish-rust color above. Adults in alternate (breeding) plumage have a persimmon-red cap, a nearly white supercilium, and a black trans-ocular line (running through the eye). Adults in basic (nonbreeding) plumage are less prominently marked, with a brownish cap, a dusky eyebrow, and a dark eye-line.
Juvenile Chipping Sparrows are prominently streaked below. Like nonbreeding adults, they show a dark eye-line, extending both in front of and behind the eye. The brownish cap and dusky eyebrow are variable but generally obscure in juveniles.
In eastern North America, Chipping Sparrows breed in woodlands, farmlands, and suburban and urban districts. In western North America, the Chipping Sparrow prefers conifer forests for breeding. The Chipping Sparrow is partially migratory, with almost all mid-latitude and high-latitude breeders withdrawing in winter to the southern United States and Mexico. On the wintering grounds and during migration, Chipping Sparrows are gregarious, forming tight flocks with other Chipping Sparrows or loose assemblages with other species such as Eastern Bluebirds and Pine Warblers.
Throughout the year, Chipping Sparrows forage on the ground, often in loose flocks. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and crumbs of mostly any food, especially those fallen on the ground. Chipping Sparrows frequently forage directly from forbs and grasses, too. At any time of the year, especially, in spring, Chipping Sparrows may be seen in trees, even up in the canopy, where they forage on fresh buds and glean for arboreal arthropods.
Although they are wary, Chipping Sparrows often allow close approach. A quiet observer can often get to within 50-100 feet of one or more Chipping Sparrows feeding on the ground. When spooked, Chipping Sparrows fly a short distance to the nearest tree or fencerow.
In early spring, the first migrants return from their wintering grounds in March, but the bulk of migrants arrives throughout April. Males set up territories right away, and their trilled songs make them conspicuous. Breeding begins as early as April, but again, most nesting activity occurs from late April to early May onwards.
Molt in the Chipping Sparrow follows the "Complex Alternate Strategy" as usual for American sparrows. It consequently has two molts per year as adults and three molts in their first year of life, also called their first plumage-cycle. The Chipping Sparrow's two adult molts occur in late summer and late winter.
Although this bird's original habitat was probably coniferous forest, especially the eastern subspecies has adapted well to the changes brought about by increased human population in its range.
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