Cute Birdorable Chipping Sparrow

Today's new Birdorable species is a small New World sparrow: the Chipping Sparrow!

Chipping Sparrows have a widespread range across much of North America, and into Central America. Chippies are migratory through much of their range; some birds in Central America appear to be year-round residents.

Chipping Sparrows usually nest low in trees but have been recorded nesting on the ground or in unusual spots like inside buildings and among decorative foliage. They typically lay 3-4 eggs per clutch.

Chipping Sparrow by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CC BY 2.0)

During the time when horses were more commonly used as transportation, Chipping Sparrows would be observed gathering horse hair to line their nests. This behavior gave them the old colloquial name of "hair bird."

Tomorrow we'll add a species of myna to Birdorable. These birds are known for their exceptional ability to mimic sounds. Do you know the species?

Cute Chipping Sparrow Gifts

The second bird in our 2014 Bonanza is a North American sparrow: the Song Sparrow!

Birdorable Song Sparrow In our clue yesterday, we indicated that the Song Sparrow is an LBJ with a lot of range. What did we mean? "LBJ" stands for "Little Brown Job", a phrase sometimes used to describe dull-colored small songbirds that may be difficult to identify. Song Sparrows are brown and streaky. They may be identified by the dark spot in the center of the breast, among other traits. When talking about range, we were referring to a few different things. Song Sparrows are found all over North America, so they have a large natural regional range. Song Sparrows are named for their song repertoire. In their voice they have a lot of range. Song Sparrows have over 20 recognized subspecies; up to 50 subspecies may exist. These differ in physical characteristics; the appearance of Song Sparrows has a lot of range.

Song SparrowSong Sparrow by Amy Evenstad

Song Sparrow joins Birdorable today as our 559th species, and our 10th species of sparrow. If you like Song Sparrows as much as we do, be sure to check out our selection of cute Birdorable Song Sparrow t-shirts and gifts. Our Bonanza continues tomorrow with a species that comes with its own opposite! Can you guess tomorrow's species?

Bonanza2014Preview3

Today the Birdorable Eastern Towhee makes its debut!

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhees are bulky, boldly-plumaged sparrows. They live across eastern North America; birds that breed in the north are migratory. They are ground feeders, scratching at the earth with their feet to reveal seeds or insects to eat.

Eastern Towhee
Eastern Towhee by Kelly Colgan Azar

Male towhees have a varied repertoire of songs and calls. One familiar song sounds like the phrase "Drink Your Tea!" The following recording includes this phrase, and a few others.

Cute Eastern Towhee t-shirts and gifts

Tomorrow's bird is a common continental corvid. Can you guess what it will be?

Birdorable Bonanza Preview
Birdorable Dark-eyed Juncos in the snow

Dark-eyed Juncos are small migratory songbirds that live across parts of North America. Here are some cool facts about the Dark-eyed Junco: 1) Because of their high population (estimated at 630 million individuals!), their relative tameness, and their affinity for back yard bird feeders, the Dark-eyed Junco is one of North America's most recognized birds. 2) The oldest known wild Dark-eyed Junco lived to be at least eleven years old! The average lifespan for a bird that survives to fledge is about three years. 3) The Dark-eyed Junco is a species of sparrow, closely related to White-crowned Sparrows, Harris's Sparrows, and others. 4) Up to 15 different subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco are recognized. These are usually divided into five (sometimes six) major groups: Slate-colored Junco; White-winged Junco; Oregon Junco; Pink-sided Junco; and Gray-headed Junco.

5 major groups of Dark-eyed Juncos

5) The four-letter code that banders and birders use for the Dark-eyed Junco is DEJU. 6) Many Americans consider Dark-eyed Juncos to be "snow birds" because they appear at backyard feeders during the winter months. However, DEJUs live year-round in other parts of the USA, including across parts of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains. 7) Most Dark-eyed Junco nests are comprised of four eggs; incubation takes about 12 days. Baby juncos begin life totally helpless but are able to leave the nest just 10 days after hatching! They are completely independent from their parents after just 26 days. 8) Dark-eyed Juncos are susceptible to nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. 9) Dark-eyed Juncos move in flocks during the winter, numbering from a handful to 30 or more individuals. A complex hierarchy based in part on testosterone levels exists within the group, with adult males dominating over juvenile males, adult females and juvenile females. The flock usually remains in a territory of about ten acres during the entire season. 10) Dark-eyed Juncos are known for eating seeds at feeding stations, but they also eat insects. During the summer, nearly half of their diet may consist of insects. If you can't get enough of Dark-eyed Juncos, you're in luck! We have the five most common sub-species of DEJU on Birdorable. We also have some cute designs featuring these loveable birds: Three Christmas Songbirds; Snow Birds; Junco Junkie; and J is for Junco.

Birdorable Dark-eyed Junco t-shirt designs
Birdorable White-crowned Sparrow

The White-crowned Sparrow is a beautiful sparrow that can be found across most of North America, where it breeds roughly in Alaska and northern Canada and spends the winter in most parts of the USA. The birds that breed in Alaska will migrate about 2,600 miles to winter in southern California. They are easily recognized by their bold black-and-white stripes on the head and pale grey chest. They'll come to backyard feeders to eat sunflower and other seeds, although they often prefer to stay on the ground eating seeds dropped by other birds.

White-crowned Sparrow
Photo by Ananda Debnath (source: Flickr)

Back in June we introduced the Birdorable Tree Sparrow. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is a small passerine bird related the the House Sparrow. Tree Sparrows live across much of Europe and Asia, although numbers are declining in some parts of western Europe.

Birdorable Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrows are unfortunately on the decline in the United Kingdom - up to 50% in some areas. Research is being done to determine the cause of the decline as well as track current successful sparrow habitat and breeding grounds. Sightings of Tree Sparrows can be submitted to researchers online at TreeSparrows.com. The website's newsletter provides updated information on the research project and national sightings. Swag to show your support is also available.

Cute Birdorable Eurasian Tree Sparrow

We've added a few new Birdorable birds this week, the first one being this Eurasian Tree Sparrow. In eastern Asia this cute little bird is widespread in towns and cities, but in Europe, where the House Sparrow is occupying the cities, it is a bird of wooded areas and open countryside. It is not an endangered bird globally, but it is declining in western Europe due to change in farming practices and use of herbicides. There is also a small population of about 15,000 birds in the United States, around St. Louis and parts of Illinois and Iowa. These birds, believe it or not, are descendants of 12 birds taken over from Germany that were released in 1870 in an attempt to enhance the North American avifauna. The birds were set free in Lafayette Park in St. Louis by a local bird dealer. Other European birds were also released, including Goldfinches and Chaffinches, but only the Eurasian Tree Sparrow successfully established a breeding population. If you're ever in St. Louis and want to find a Eurasian Tree Sparrow you can find some good instructions here.

Photo of Eurasian Tree Sparrow

House Sparrow Invasion

Birdorable House Sparrow

The House Sparrow, one of the newest cute birds here at Birdorable, is the most widely distributed wild bird on the planet. It naturally occurs in Europe and much of Asia but has followed humans all over the world. It has been intentionally or accidentally introduced to most of the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, New Zealand and Australia as well as urban areas in other parts of the world. The House Sparrow was introduced to New York in 1851. By the end of the century it had already spread to the Rocky Mountains. The abundance of spilled grain used for feeding horses helped the sparrow along. Now they are one of the most abundant songbirds in North America, with an estimated 150 million birds established in all 48 states.

Vintage Birdorable House Sparrow on ship