Song Sparrow

(Melospiza melodia)

Aptly named, the Song Sparrow will sing as many as 20 different melodies with as many as 1,000 improvised variations on his basic theme.

In northern regions where the birds migrate, the male arrives on the breeding ground ahead of the female and starts to define a territory by singing his song from three or four prominent perches.

This practice can begin as early as February as this sparrow begins to show up in your yards and at your feeders.


The Song Sparrow is 5 to 6 inches in length and has a whitish breast with brown streaks and a dark central dot.

The crown is reddish-brown with a gray central stripe. A short yellow stripe above and in front of the eye. Above parts are a dark olive-gray.

Birds in some areas will vary, with paler subspecies in the Southwest and darker subspecies along the West Coast.

Song Sparrow


In early spring, male Song Sparrows will sing constantly and defends his territory.

When the female first arrives, the male will dive at her as he does with any other intruder, but the female does not flee.

In time the male will accept this behavior and the two will begin to move about the territory together.

At this stage the male will reduce his singing to only about ten Songs per hour.

Territories are rather small, so you may find a concentration of these little sparrows in your yard and gardens if the habitat is to their liking.


Once the nest building has started, the male Sparrow will renew his singing. The nest is cup-shaped and made of grasses and occasionally leaves, placed on the ground early in the year, and up to 30 feet above the ground later in the season.

Although the male may carry nesting materials, it's the female who builds the nest.

Female Sparrows will lay one egg each day until the clutch of 3 to 5 greenish white with dark marks is complete.

The female does all the incubation of the eggs. Incubation last 12 to 13 days and the young will leave the nest in about 10 days, barely able to fly.

The parents will continue feeding the young for another 20 days. Within a week of this phase, the first egg of the next brood might be laid.

These birds may raise up to 3 broods a year.


Typical of the family, these Sparrows eat insects and seeds, with a greater proportion of seeds in the fall and winter, and a greater proportion of insects in the spring and summer.


Song Sparrows are resident throughout much of their range, although the northern most populations are migratory.

The wintering range stretches across the southern United States and dips into northern Mexico.

Birds at high altitudes may also descend into the lowlands during the winter.

Song Sparrow and Other Common Birds

Create Your Own Backyard Habitat

Native Shrubs Offer Food, Nesting and Protection

Native Trees offer Food, Protection and Nesting

Native Grasses for Nesting, Protection and Food

Native Flowers for Insects and Seeds

Fresh Water for Your Birds

Share Your Passions, "Site Built It" will Help You

Birds, Butterflies, Gardens and More.

To get your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter, sign up below.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.