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Songbirds of North Dakota


Warblers, Sparrows, and Grosbeaks

Family Emberizidae


The family Emberizidae contains many species related by genetic characteristics but is outwardly diverse. Many of the most colorful birds belong to this family and include groups such as the sparrows, warblers, and grosbeaks. Members of this family which can be seen in North Dakota include the yellow warbler, black-and-white warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, ovenbird, common yellowthroat, yellow-breasted chat, American redstart, rose-breasted grosbeak, black-headed grosbeak, indigo bunting, Lazuli bunting, rufous-sided towee, grasshopper sparrow, Baird's sparrow, Leconte's sparrow, sharp-tailed sparrow, Vesper sparrow, savannah sparrow, chipping sparrow, song sparrow, lark sparrow, american tree sparrow, field sparrow, clay-colored sparrow, dark-eyed junco, swamp sparrow, chestnut-collared longspur, dickcissel, lark bunting, white-throated sparrow, Harris' sparrow, northern waterthrush, snow bunting, and McCown's longspur.

Yellow Warbler
Dendroica petechia

JPG -- Picture and Range Map of Species

Yellow warblers are the most common and well-known warblers in North Dakota. The male's bright yellow color, along with the chestnut streaks on the breast, make it one of the easiest warbler to identify. Yellow warblers will inhabit any are as long as patches of trees or shrubs are present. Their diet consists mainly of caterpillars such as the cankerworms, many of which are destructive to foliage of trees. They also eat many other types of insects such as moths, beetles, weevils, and grasshoppers.

The nest is constructed primarily by the female and is shaped into a well-formed cup made of fibers, fur, lichens, and spider's silk. Eggs are green-white and spotted with brown and gray.

Black-Headed Grosbeak
Pheucticus melanocephalus

JPG -- Picture and Range Map of Species

The name grosbeak fits this bird appropriately; it has a huge, powerful, triangular-shaped bill used for crackling large seeds. The black-headed grosbeak prefers open deciduous forests and is found throughout the western United states. Its diet consists mainly of large seeds but will often eat berries and insects. Grosbeaks are somewhat tame and readily visit bird feeders during the spring and summer.

Nests are usually built in deciduous trees or shrubs bordering streams and rivers. Eggs are either blue-white or green-white and spotted with shades of brown. Both the male and the female share the duty of incubation. The song of the black-headed grosbeak resembles that of the American robin.

Chipping Sparrow
Spizella passerina

JPG -- Picture and Range Map of Species

The chipping sparrow acquires its name from its call; a rapid "chip-chip-chip". Chipping sparrows are one of the easier sparrows to identify. They have a bright chestnut-colored cap and a broad white line over each eye with a black line passing through the eye. Chipping sparrows eat large amounts of grass seed, especially pigeon grass and crab grass.

Nests are preferably built in conifer trees and are lined with fine material such as moss, cattle hair, and fine grasses. The breeding season runs from March through August. The female lays 3-5 eggs which are a pale blue-green and scrawled with blues and blacks. The chipping sparrow is one of the most common victims of nest parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird. Nest parasitism is defined as a bird that lays its eggs in another bird's nest with the intent the young will be raised by the host.


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