Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) in habitat, belting it out, Newport Beach, Orange County, California
The Song Sparrow is a medium-sized American sparrow. Among the native sparrows in North America, it is easily one of the most abundant, variable and adaptable species. Adult song sparrows have brown upperparts with dark streaks on the back and are white underneath with dark streaking and a dark brown spot in the middle of the breast. They have a brown cap and a long brown rounded tail. Their face is grayish with a streak through the eye. Although they are a habitat generalist, their favorite habitats are brushy areas and marshes, as in this photo. They also thrive in human areas, such as in suburbs, along edges in agricultural areas, and along roadsides. The song sparrow is a very rare vagrant to western Europe, with a few recorded in Great Britain and Norway.
These birds forage on the ground, in shrubs or in very shallow water. They mainly eat insects and seeds. Birds in salt marshes may also eat small crustaceans. They nest either in a sheltered location on the ground or in trees or shrubs.
The male sparrow uses a fairly complex song to declare ownership of its territory and attract females. The singing itself consists of a combination of repeated notes, quickly passing isolated notes, and trills. The songs are very crisp, clear, and precise, making them easily distinguishable by human ears. A particular song is determined not only by pitch and rhythm but also by the timbre of the trills. Although one bird will know many songs - as many as 20 different tunes with as many as 1000 improvised variations on the basic theme, the song sparrow usually repeats the same song many times before switching to a different song.
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October 12th, 2014
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