Bird of the Week: Song Sparrow

Found from western Alaska to Florida, the Song Sparrow is among our most common and most familiar sparrows. This “little brown bird” is distinguished from its cousins by thick malar stripes and a brown spot on its breast, but there is considerable regional variation: birds of the desert southwest are paler, while those of the northwest are darker. Song Sparrows in Alaska are three times as large and twice as heavy, to boot! True to their name, Song Sparrows are enthusiastic–if not particularly melodious–singers, using their song to defend their territory and attract mates. Young birds learn how to sing from an older bird, called the “tutor”, frequently adding small variations. Recent studies show that their song may be an indicator of intelligence and learning ability to prospective mates: birds whose songs more closely matched those of their tutors were found to be more successful at attracting mates!

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Image courtesy of Logan Lalonde via National Audubon Society.
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