Within two months of hatching, juvenile Song Sparrows begin to sing some of the variety of melodies they will have in their repertoires as adult birds. Melospiza melody songs are a relatively complex blend of trills, clear notes, and sung in a gentle rhythm. A song generally begins with several short notes, followed by two – six phrases and finishes with a long trill or buzz. In between, the singer may add other trills with different tempo and quality. The song usually lasts 2-4 seconds. Interestingly, the patterns of songs vary across regional populations. So songs in the Aleutians, Northwest, Southwest, California Coast, and East may not sound the same. When alarmed, anxious, excited, or nest-building- sharp chip notes are sounded to warn, defend, or mark territory.
The wetland edges, thicket, and forest margins found in Beaver Willows are well-suited habitat for the Song Sparrow. Birds flit through low vegetation and branches for shelter and food. Song Sparrows eat mainly seeds and fruits, supplemented by many kinds of invertebrates in summer. Prey include weevils, leaf beetles, ground beetles, caterpillars, dragonflies, grasshoppers, midges, craneflies, spiders, snails, and earthworms. Can you identify which insects are being carried back to the nest by these bird parents?
So far as identification goes … appearance is not difficult to discern with the Song Sparrow. Male and Female birds are both brown with dark streaks on the breast. Look for a necklace-like, small, dark, central spot on the breast as a distinguishing feature on mature Song Sparrows; juveniles are with-out the dark spot.
Are you a connoisseur of trivia? Here are a couple pieces about Song Sparrows from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
- Song Sparrows return to a similar area each year where they often lay two or more clutches of eggs per breeding season. While the female builds another nest for a second brood, the male take over feeding the young in the first nest. In exceptional circumstances, such as when resources are abundant or predation causes the loss of several clutches in a row, Song Sparrows have laid as many as seven clutches in a single breeding season, and have successfully reared up to four clutches.
- The Song Sparrow, like most other North American breeding birds, uses increasing day length as a cue for when to come into breeding condition. But, other cues can be important too, such as local temperature and food abundance. A study found that male Song Sparrows from the coast of Washington state came into breeding condition two months earlier than Song Sparrows in the nearby mountains, where the daylight changes were the same, but temperatures were cooler and trees budded out two months later.
For more information: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/song_sparrow/lifehistory