Dear Bird Folks,
I have the cutest little rusty capped sparrow hopping around in my yard. Do you know what kind it is? How can I get it to come to my feeders or bird houses?
– Betty, Sandwich
The cute little rusty capped bird you are seeing is called a chipping sparrow. Calling it a “rusty capped sparrow” would make too much sense. Actually, there are several rusty capped sparrows and since those creeps out West have already named one of their birds “Rufous-crowned sparrow,” we were forced to come up with a different name for this sparrow. It was probably given the name chipping sparrow from its dry chipping song. I guess that makes sense.
The chipping sparrow is extremely common around here in the summer. I’ll bet that most yards or neighborhoods have a chippie nesting in it. But I’d also bet that most people don’t even know that the bird exists. Except for the red cap, chippers don’t have anything that makes anyone notice them.
Chipping sparrows are small birds, not much bigger than a circus peanut. (Remember those gross orange things?) Chippies don’t bring much attention to themselves. They don’t use nest boxes, aren’t real active at summer feeders and rarely talk about you behind your back. And their song is nothing special. Most people ignore it, not even realizing that it’s a bird that is singing. Its song is a dry monotone that sounds more like an insect or a high pitched Henry Kissinger than a songbird.
The best way to get one to come to your feeder is to move down south. Chippies are a common bird at feeders on their wintering grounds, eating mostly millet. Although they will come to our feeders in the summer, they most often feed on insects and wild seeds.
Enjoy your chipping sparrow, Betty, they are sweet little birds. And remember they will never talk about you behind your back, unless of course they see you eating circus peanuts.