Creature Feature: Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Humans aren’t the only species that use the affect of music to court the opposite sex. Instead of a lead singer’s crooning voice, the male Song Sparrow serenades his prospective female mate from a visible perch in contrast to the shrubbery and grass in which Song Sparrows spend most of their time. The Song Sparrow scours for food in the low brush without calling attention to it, but when courting, secrecy is abandoned.
If attracted to the male’s beautiful songs, the courtship will escalate to the two creatures fluttering together in the air with their tails arched and legs dangling. Together the pair will search for a nesting site to rear their young. Nests may be cleverly hidden in grasses, on the ground or even built as high as 15 feet.
The Song Sparrow is unique in raising young. After the female incubates the eggs for about two weeks, she will care for the young for approximately ten days. Then they will leave the nest and become the responsibility of the male. The female will then lay more eggs.
Besides attracting mates, the male sings to declare ownership of territory. Its songs consist of repeated notes, trills and isolated notes. The Song Sparrow will sing the same song over and over before alternating to a different melody. It learns its tunes from several other birds located in neighboring territories.
- Even great mimics such as the mockingbird cannot exactly imitate the Song Sparrow.
- The Song Sparrow earned its moniker because the birds may sing up to 20 different songs with nearly 1,000 improvised variations.
- Eggs are greenish white.
- Song Sparrows are mostly monogamous but some sire young with multiple mates each breeding season.
- Its diet consists mostly of seeds and fruits but the Song Sparrow also enjoys snacks such as beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers.
- The Song Sparrow is native to North America. There are about 20 to 30 subspecies in the United States and Canada alone with four or more in Mexico. Despite minor regional differences, a Song Sparrow is easily identifiable almost anywhere.
- The oldest known Song Sparrow lived to be 11 years and 4 months old.