Field Sparrow

Spizella pusilla

Howard B. Eskin
  • EMBERIZINAE
  • Sparrows, Buntings, Towhees, Longspurs
  • Passeriformes
  • Gorrión llanero
  • Bruant des champs
Introduction

The Field Sparrow is a small brown songbird with a light rusty cap and a bright pink bill found in abandoned fields with scattered shrubs and trees in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and Canada. One of Audubon's Common Birds in Decline, the Field Sparrow has seen its numbers drop 62 percent since 1967.

 

Fun Fact

An adult Field Sparrow with fledged young will respond to an approaching human by faking a wing injury in order to divert attention away from its chicks.

Bird Sounds
© Lang Elliot, Nature Sound Studio
Vocalization

A distinctive song is sung in minor-key notes that start slowly then speed up into a trill, then repeat.

Appearance Description

Small brown songbird with a light rusty cap and a bright pink bill.

Range Map
Kenn Kaufman
Range Distribution

United States east of the Rocky Mountains. In Canada, breeds in southern Ontario and a few other places; reaches northeastern Mexico in winter.

Habitat

Found in abandoned fields with scattered shrubs and trees.

Feeding

During the winter, Field Sparrows forage in small flocks for small grass seeds. During the breeding season, adult and larval insects are added to the diet, and Field Sparrows forage alone or with their mates. If a large patch of high-quality food is discovered, larger flocks will form to take advantage of it.

Reproduction

Nests are an open-cup structure lined with grasses and hair. Pairs often need to nest several times in a breeding season due to heavy predation. Nests built early in the season tend to be close to the ground, whereas later nests are usually located higher up in shrubs or young trees. Clutch size ranges from 2 to 5 eggs. The Brown-headed Cowbird sometimes parasitizes nests during egg-laying, and these nests are usually then deserted.

Migration
  • 5.8 million
  • 5.8 million
  • 18 million 40 years ago
  • 62 percent since 1967
Population Status Trends
Conservation Issues
  • Threats: The major threat to this species is habitat loss. Field Sparrow habitat is successional. Also, much habitat is lost to human developments for agriculture, forestry, and buildings.

  • Outlook: Field Sparrows may never regain their former abundance, but it might be possible to stabilize their populations by working to ensure the management of suitable habitat for this and other species which depend on successional grassland habitats.
What You Can Do
  • Preserve Farmlands
    Promote strong conservation provisions in the federal farm bill, especially the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which pays farmers to keep marginal farmlands idle and supports millions of acres of good bird habitat. Contact your county’s office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or Farm Service Agency (FSA) to find out how to increase the number of acres devoted to helping birds dependent on farmlands.

  • Protect Early Successional Habitat
    New patches of successional habitat need to be deliberately created on a regular basis, or existing patches need to be burned or manipulated to keep them in suitable habitat. Work with local officials to be sure that power line rights-of-way are properly managed for Field Sparrows and other species that depend on successional habitats. Encourage managers of parks and natural areas to leave suitable habitat.
More Information
Natural History References

Carey, M., D.E. Burhans, and D.A. Nelson (1994). Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Field_Sparrow/

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

Conservation Status References

Carey, M., D.E. Burhans, and D.A. Nelson (1994). Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Field_Sparrow/

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.