Bird Database

Field Sparrow

(Spizella pusilla)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance


Strongly Decreasing


Habitat maturation, Habitat loss

Conservation Actions

Manage early sucessional habitat

Field Sparrow

(Spizella pusilla)

The Field Sparrow is a tiny bird, even for a sparrow, and in fact is the smallest of this group to occur regularly in New Hampshire. It is related to the far more common Chipping Sparrow, which it superficially resembles. It lacks the distinctive face pattern of the Chippie however, and is best identified via the white eye ring on its otherwise gray face, in combination with a slightly rusty cap. They are birds of shrublands, including power line cuts, old fields, and pine barrens, and like other species of such habitats have declined following development and forest maturation.

The Field Sparrow’s song, along with those of the Eastern Towhee and Prairie Warbler, is a fixture in most power line cuts in southern New Hampshire. It is a complex trill that starts slowly and speeds up, and is often compared in pattern to the noise a bouncing ball makes as it settles. As in all songbirds, males need to learn their songs during a critical period of development, and in rare cases grow up with a mistake or two in their repertoire if a similar or related species sings repeatedly nearby during this time. In this species’ case, a male Field Sparrow was once observed singing the song of a Chipping Sparrow.

The nest is a tidy cup of grasses built on the ground, typically at the base of a small tree, although those initiated later in the breeding season may be in a low crotch of a shrub. The female lays 23-5 eggs and usually incubates them for 11-12 days. However, if the weather is unusually cool or otherwise inhospitable during laying she may delay incubation for up to 5-6 days without any negative effects on hatching. If a first brood fledges successfully a pair will start a second within 1-3 weeks. If eggs or young are lost to a predator they will renest within a few days.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Field Sparrow
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count