A Handsome Visitor

Over the past few days, a chipping sparrow has visited our Littleton, Colorado, farm.  Easily identified by their slender form, bright rusty crown and light, unstreaked chest and abdomen, these summer residents are rather common along the Front Range urban corridor in mid spring; however most end up nesting in the open ponderosa parklands of the foothills, joining western and mountain bluebirds, pygmy nuthatches, Williamson's sapsuckers, mountain chickadees, Steller's jays, Townsend's solitaires and other montane species.

There they feed primarily on the ground, feasting on both seeds and insects.  Nests, which are placed in shrubs or small trees, consist of dry vegetation and an assortment of man-made and natural materials; chipping sparrows often use animal hair in their nest and were once known as the "hair bird" when horses were our prime mode of transportation and plowing-power.

By late summer, chipping sparrows become less territorial and gather in modest sized flocks.  As cool autumn winds drop across the Rockies, these handsome birds leave for wintering grounds in Florida, Mexico and Southern California.