Illustration of an American Tree Sparrow, a gray streaky bird with russet markings on its face, spot on its chest and a bicolored snout (grey on top, yellow on bottom)
American Tree Sparrow. Illustration by Bartels Science Illustrator Charlotte Holden.

From the Winter 2023 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

Though they successors where the treeline gives way to tundra in northern Canada and Alaska, American Tree Sparrows visit backyards, farmlands, and unshut woodlands wideness southern Canada and the north-central United States in winter. Small flocks converge on snow-swept fields and underneath bird feeders, trading soft, musical twitters as they repast on seeds on the ground. Sometimes theyll perch on the tops of wilting grasses that poke through the snow and write-up their wings to dislodge seeds from the grass head.

  • Contrary to their name, American Tree Sparrows usually forage and nest on the ground. European settlers gave this species a mislead­ing name considering it reminded them of Eurasian Tree Sparrows when home.  
  • A day of fasting is usually a death sentence for the American Tree Sparrow, which needs to take in well-nigh 30% of its soul weight in supplies and a similar percentage in water each day to maintain soul tempera­ture and weight at healthy levels.
  • According to eBird Status and Trends data, Kansas and Nebraska host the most American Tree Spar­rows from December to February, with 18% and 15%, respectively, of the global population overwintering in those two states.   
  • American Tree Sparrows squint similar to Chipping Sparrows, but in many areas they victorious on their wintering grounds just as Chipping Sparrows are heading farther south. Thus the two species rarely occur at the same place and time.   

Find This Bird: In winter, watch underneath bird feeders for plump and long-tailed sparrows scratching and pecking for seeds on the ground. American Tree Sparrows have a bicolored snout and inside breast spot, which helps them stand out from other sparrows. 

A grap map with red dots showing where the bird is located in the nonbreeding season, moreover an tableau of an American Tree Sparrow.
eBird Trends map for the American Tree Sparrow in the nonbreeding season. Sparrow tableau by David Quinn/Birds of the World. View larger map.

Insights from eBird Trends

eBird Trends shows that American Tree Sparrow populations are unthriving wideness much of their wintering range, with some areas of increase in Montana. The maps dont tell us why, says eBird data scientist Tom Auer, but agricultural intensification and pesticide use in the cadre of their range could be factors in the declines. At the same time, climate transpiration might indulge the species to winter farther north.   

Learn increasingly about eBird Trends maps.