The Chipping Sparrow
In April, just as the lawns start to “green up” – the Chipping Sparrows begin to arrive at Mount Auburn. They seem to appear all at once, occupying any open patch of grass. Pete Dunne, author of many books on birding has called the Chipping Sparrow the Rusty-capped Lawn 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. In 1810 when Alexander Wilson first named the Chipping Sparrow he called it Spizella socialis, the social sparrow, which seems more fitting since this sparrow is easily approached and is more often closely associated with people and their habitations.
Chipping Sparrows begin to sing as soon as they arrive and will sing persistently right into summer. The song has been described as a rapid and emphatic trill on one pitch, very similar to the songs of the Dark-eyed Junco and also the Pine Warbler which can confuse even the experts sometimes. The songs of individuals can be quite distinctive and readily identified, there was one Chipping Sparrow whose song was very different and it returned to the same area on Spruce Ave for three years.
The Chipping Sparrow is a well established breeding bird at Mount Auburn, nesting mostly in conifers throughout the Cemetery, though the Willow Pond and Meadow area are also favorites. The Brown-headed Cowbird will often parasitize the nest of the Chipping Sparrow, though at MountAuburn 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. In late summer flocks of Chipping Sparrows can be seen at MountAuburn, the young birds lack the rusty cap and are heavily streaked; occasionally a Chipping Sparrow has been seen during the winter.