Baby Birds: The Chipping Sparrow
In July young birds just out of their nests are everywhere and can be confusing and tricky to identify. Most field guides do not show juvenile plumage which often is quite different from their parents. One common nester at Mount Auburn is the Chipping Sparrow, a breeding plumaged Chipping Sparrow is one of the easiest sparrows to identify with their brick red cap, prominent white eye stripe and a clear unstreaked breast.
Pete Dunne; author of many books on birding has called the Chipping Sparrow the Rusty-capped Lawn Sparrow. The Chipper nests mostly in conifers throughout the Cemetery, the young fledged “baby” birds are streaked from head to toe, looking more like a House Finch than a Chipping Sparrow. This juvenile plumage is somewhat prolonged and it is not uncommon to encounter this plumage into October, though many other juveniles will start to resemble the adults but will have a more brownish breast and will lack the red or rufous crown. The Brown-headed Cowbird will often parasitize the nest of the Chipping Sparrow, though at Mount Auburn they seem to be more successful in hiding their nest than the Song Sparrow which is heavily hit by cowbirds. It is very sad sight to see a fledged cowbird being fed by its much smaller foster parent.
Photo of Immature Chipping Sparrow by Ryan Schain