Chipping sparrows (Spizella passerina) were foraging along the shore of Eagle Lake (Lassen County CA) with the Brewer’s blackbirds.
Found throughout most of North America during the summer breeding season, chipping sparrows winter across the Southern United States into Mexico and as far south as Nicaragua. Their preferred habitat is in woodlands and forests with grassy clearings. When not raising their broods, chipping sparrows form small flocks that will forage together for grass and weed seeds. During the breeding season chipping sparrows will eat insects for additional protein. Small fruits occasionally supplement their diet. These little birds are cute as they hop and run through the grass looking for seeds.
Both sexes of chipping sparrows look similar. Although these sparrows have bright rufous caps and a sharp eye line when breeding, by winter their caps are a less brilliant reddish-brown and their eye lines are visible, but not as crisp – like these specimens. The chipping sparrow has a brown back streaked with black, pale gray underparts, a brown cheek and dark lores (the area between the eye and bill). Their legs are orange-pink. There are at least three subspecies of chipping sparrow in North America so some slight variation is observed in their morphological features.
Eagle Lake is alkaline. The water level has dropped significantly this year because of a drought. The white material on the rocks are alkaline deposits left by the receding water level.
Chipping sparrows are certainly cute little guys!