How sweet to hear the first Song Sparrow of the year singing on an early spring day! Warm weather can’t be far behind. “Maids, maids, tend to your teakettle-ettle-ettle!” Granted that it is an old fashioned phrase, but it does bear a resemblance to the cadence of the Song Sparrow’s song. Listen for two clear introductory notes followed by a lilting, musical mid-section, and ending with a jumble of twitters and trills. Spring has sprung!
Song Sparrows are found throughout North America with the exception of the northern third of Canada. They are highly variable in size, plumage and song across their range. In fact scientists have identified at least 24 sub-species of the Song Sparrow. The best diagnostic for identifying this specie at your feeder is to look for a streaked breast with some of those streaks converging to a central breast spot.
Northern populations migrate into the southeast for the winter, so when you can expect this visitor is dependent on your location. In summer Song Sparrows tend to associate with brushy or grassy habitat with nearby water. Nests are well concealed in low vegetation. Their diet at this time of the year is made up of seeds, berries, and insects. During winter they forage on the ground near protective cover. Song Sparrows hop forward with both feet grasping plant litter, then hop backward to check out what they may have uncovered
In backyards they will perform this foraging dance under feeders as they search for seed spilled from above by larger birds. A platform feeder filled with a mix like Aspen Song® Value Blend is an ideal arrangement for attracting Song Sparrows and other native sparrow species. White proso millet is a preferred seed of sparrows. It provides an important source of calories to an active songbird with a high metabolism. Even the millets have an outer shell that is easily hulled by these tiny species. Other species need to beware of moving too close to a feeding Song Sparrow. They have a tendency to chase others away from what they perceive as the best spot! It is fun to watch, and eventually everyone gets their fill.
Arcese, Peter, Mark K. Sogge, Amy B. Marr and Michael A. Patten. 2002. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.