Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)

field sparrow

Field sparrow./R. Royse

General: These small, secretive birds live in fields and grasslands that have at least some low woody vegetation, such as old pastures dotted with shrubs. Field sparrows are also found in woods edges, fencerows, woodland openings, and the brushy fringes of wetlands. The plumage is dull brown overall, with a red cap, pink bill, thin pale eye-ring, and an unmarked breast; the tail appears long for the size of the bird. Field sparrows site their nests on or near the ground, often in clumps of grass, beneath low shrubs, or in dense low brush or saplings. They eat grass seeds in summer, although insects make up more than half of the summer diet; in winter, field sparrows primarily eat small seeds.

Status: Field sparrow populations have declined rangewide. The biggest threat to the species is the loss or degradation of habitat from development and the maturing of forests. As of 2015, 16 states and the District of Columbia listed the field sparrow as a species of greatest conservation need.

How to Help Field Sparrows: Local numbers of field sparrows rise in response to forest management practices that create areas of young forest. Studies have shown that field sparrows increase in abundance after clearcuts take place in hardwood forests, especially after shrubs and young saplings start growing back.
Both public and private landowners can make young forest habitat. The Young Forest Guide explains how.

Click on the map at left to see a larger image.

For more detailed information on the field sparrow, including references to scientific papers, download Under Cover: Wildlife of Shrublands and Young Forest. This publication can also be purchased from the Wildlife Management Institute.

Visit a habitat demonstration area within this species' range to increase your chances of seeing field sparrows and other wildlife that use young forest.