Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.
It’s been the year of the chipping sparrow in my yard. It started in the winter and hasn’t stopped yet.
Like most other birdwatchers, I had more than my fair share of dark-eyed juncos at my feeders this past winter. The other dominant species in winter is usually the white-throated sparrow, but this winter I didn’t see a single white-throat in the yard. I did see plenty of chipping sparrows, though.
When spring arrived, the juncos headed north to their breeding grounds and I haven’t seen one since. Chipping sparrows, on the other hand, have been a daily sighting from those snowy, winter days into spring and even early summer. I don’t think a day has gone by when I haven’t seen a chipping sparrow — and that’s a good thing, of course.
Chipping sparrows are small, handsome birds. They rank among the smallest in New England, in fact, outsizing hummingbirds and kinglets, but being comparable to warblers and juncos.
When the leaves start to fall in a few months (not that I’m rushing it), we may discover the nests used in the spring and summer by chipping sparrows. They are tiny structures built in the classic cup shape with material such as hair, mud, and straw. This year for the first time I filled a suet cage with dog hair to see if any birds would come for nesting material. The only taker I saw was a white-breasted nuthatch, but I would bet the chipping sparrows took some hair when I wasn’t looking.
Chipping sparrows are among the more vocal birds in my backyard, too. In the spring, its trilling was a daily auditory treat. Now that the babies have fledged, Continue reading