Chipping sparrows, Spizella passerina, have been gathering into larger groups for the autumn. These little brown jobs can be difficult to distinguish from other sparrows this time of year, especially clay-colored sparrows (Spizella pallida, which have a mustache and white central crown stripe) or American tree sparrows (Spizella arborea, which have reddish eye stripe and dark spot center chest) .
S. passerina males in the breeding plumage have a reddish cap that contrasts with their black eye liner and makes them look very distinctive in the summer. As we head into fall, they are mostly identifiable by the unstreaked gray neck and chest and longish tail.
These birds often are found foraging on the ground and seem to especially like open areas near protective trees. They can be found throughout the U.S. and Canada during the summer, and they migrate to the southern U.S. or Mexico for the winter.
The name chipping sparrow derives from their song, which sounds a bit like “chip-chip-chip-chip-chip” at full speed.