Alberta, Canada
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American Tree Sparrow
Spizella arborea
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General Description


American Tree Sparrows are northern breeders whose range does not extend quite far enough south to reach Alberta, although they do breed in northern B.C. and northern Saskatchewan. In Alberta we see them as migrants and, in small numbers, wintering birds.

They winter from southern Canada south to a line through southern Nevada and northern Texas to South Carolina. Spring migration through Alberta starts in the last week of March and continues to the end of April, and fall migration extends from the last half of September to the middle of November. Both on migration and in winter they like areas with deciduous shrubs and dried weed stems. Look for them in willow thickets, weedy borders of agricultural fields, shrubby or weedy roadsides, abandoned farmsteads, grain elevator yards, and similar areas. Although they spend time in the shrubbery for protection, they do most of their foraging on the ground.

Food consists mostly of insects in the summer and seeds in the winter, supplemented with berries when available.

American Tree Sparrows construct a neatly-woven open-cup nest of dried grass, moss and sedges, lining it with fine grass, sedges, and feathers. Favoured locations are in shrub thickets or other low vegetation, with the nest almost always on the ground, but occasionally up as high as 1.4 metres. The most common clutch size is 4 to 5 creamy white eggs with reddish markings. Incubation takes 11 to 13 days, and the young leave the nest after 9 to 10 days.

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Where to find American Tree Sparrows in Alberta   

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