Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Tim Avery
Photo Copyright Tim Avery

The American tree sparrow, Spizella arborea, is migratory, breeding in Alaska and northern Canada, and wintering in southern Canada and the northern United States south to northern Texas. It is uncommon in winter throughout Utah in proper habitat. Its name is somewhat of a misnomer, for it is not a forest bird or one that commonly is associated with trees. The breeding habitat of this species is open scrubby areas, such as open tundra with scattered shrubs, and areas near treeline; during migration and on its wintering grounds, the American tree sparrow utilizes fields, marshes, and residential neighborhoods. Its foods include seeds, berries, and insects. In winter, when seeds on the ground are hidden by snow, American tree sparrows have been known to hover over weeds, beat them with their wings to dislodge seeds, and then to fly to the surface of the snow to find and consume the seeds.

The nest is usually constructed on or near the ground, often in a clump of grass near the base of a small tree, but sometimes up to a few feet above the ground in a tree. The clutch consists of about four to six eggs, usually five, which are incubated by the female for twelve to thirteen days before hatching. Both parents feed the nestlings, which fledge in eight to ten days.


  • Naugler, C. T. 1993. American tree sparrow. Birds of North America 37: 1–11.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.