While the neighbourly song sparrow and the swamp sparrow delight to be near water, the field sparrow chooses to live in dry uplands where stunted bushes and cedars cover the hills and overgrown old fields, and towhees and brown thrashers keep him company. He is not fond of human society, however, and usually flies away with wavering, uncertain flight from bush to bush rather than submit to a close scrutiny of his bright chestnut brown back and crown, flesh-coloured bill, gray eyebrow, grayish throat, buffy breast and light feet. Because his tail is a trifle longer than the chippy’s he is slightly larger than the smallest of our sparrows. Unless you notice that his bill is not black and his head not marked with black and gray streaks like the chippy’s, you might easily mistake him for his sociable, confiding little cousin who comes hopping to the door.
“Field sparrow head” by PookieFugglestein – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.
How differently he sings! Listen for him some evening after sunset when his simple vesper hymn, clear, plaintive, sweet, rings from the bush where he perches especially for the performance. Scarcely any two field sparrows sing precisely alike. Most of them, however, begin with three clear, smooth, leisurely whistles—cher-wee, cher-wee, cher-wee—then hurry through the other notes—cheo, cheo-dee-dee-eee, e, e—which run rapidly into a trill before they die away. Others reverse the time and diminish the measures toward the close. However sung, the song, which makes the uplands tuneful all day and every day from April to August, does not vary its quality, which is as fine as the vesper sparrow’s.
Hatched in a bush, and almost never seen apart from one, this humble little bird might well be called the bush sparrow.
Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje Blanchan
Author of “Bird Neighbours,” “Birds that Hunt and Are Hunted,”
“Nature’s Garden,” and “How to Attract the Birds.”
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP
1907 by Doubleday, Page & Company