110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Mar 17, 2014 - 8:55:51am
The tiny, cheerful song sparrow has 10 different songs, but the common one sounds like “Madge-Madge-Madge-put-on-your-tea-kettle-ettle-ettle.” What a cute description!
Other songs are for when the sparrow is alarmed or in flight, for example. The male often sings to attract a mate and to declare ownership of his territory.
This 6-inch sparrow has an 8.25-inch wingspan, and weighs only .7 of an ounce. Yet this wee bird can live up to 11 years!
The stocky song sparrow has a round brown head; a short gray bill; a brown, long, round tail; broad wings; dark streaks on its brown back; and a streaked white underside. The dainty-looking thin legs and feet are pink.
In some ways, the song sparrow’s look varies in different parts of North America, but Florida has the lightest-colored ones. When they fly and flit, their flights are short and fluttering and their tail pumps downward.
Song sparrows like to be in open habitat along marsh edges, overgrown fields, and forest edges, from Alaska to Florida and everywhere in between. They breed in the North, live in the center of North America year-round, and enjoy the warm weather in the southeastern U.S. at non-breeding time.
When nest-building time comes, the female builds the nest, which is a 4- to 8-inch cup that is 2.5 to 4 inches deep. It’s made from grass and weeds and bark on the outside. The female lines her nest with soft grass and animal fur for the two to five eggs she lays.
Seeds, fruits and insects are song sparrows’ diet, and are quite easy to find. Their main predators are cats, hawks and owls.
Song sparrows typically learn their songs from other birds that have nearby territories. They can distinguish neighbors from strangers on the basis of the song. How amazing it is that ornithologists have figured this out!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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