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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

American Tree Sparrow -- Spizella arborea

RANGE: Breeds from Alaska and northern Yukon across Canada to northern Quebec and Labrador, and south to northwestern British Columbia, northern Saskatchewan, and central Quebec. Winters from southern Canada south to northern California, northern and east-central Arizona, north-central Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: During the nesting season, inhabits scrub conifers, boggy meadows, and wet, hummocky tundra strewn with boulders and interspersed with willow, birch scrub, and other low shrubbery. Occurs as far north as scrubby growth is found, and in sparse forests just below treeline. In winter, frequents open country, weedy fields, brushy pastures, marshes, fencerows, hedgerows, and thickets.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Scrubby trees or bushes for nesting.

NEST: Usually constructs nest on or near the ground in a depression, in a tussock of grass, or atop a mossy hummock, placed at the base of a tree or shrub, and concealed by grasses. Occasionally, places nest up to 5 feet above ground in dwarf spruce or willow.

FOOD: In summer, primarily eats insects plus some plant material, while in winter, primarily eats seeds of weeds and grasses.

REFERENCES: Baumgartner 1937a, 1937b; Bent 1968b; DeGraff et al. 1980; Forbush and May 1955.

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