Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - 63

he courts a female by singing and initiating short chases, and they pair up a day or
two after she arrives - usually about two
weeks after the male does.
They mate several times. During nestbuilding and egg-laying by the female, the
male remains close, seemingly guarding
her. She seems to choose the final nesting
site, likely in a conifer tree, but perhaps
in a wide variety of other trees or shrubs.
The nest usually is hidden in foliage 3 to
30 feet off the ground.
Like most birds, though, some chipping sparrows don't follow protocol.
For instance, back in 1911, R.F. Miller
reported a chipping sparrow nested for
three straight years in pepper plants hung
up to dry in a shed at a Philadelphia
County farm.
Another nest, in Huntingdon County in
1923, was built in the bottom of a hairy
woodpecker roosting cavity.
And Maurice Broun, the first caretaker
at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, wrote
about a chipping sparrow nest 50 feet up
an oak tree.
The cup nest, woven from rootlets and
dried grasses, then lined with hair- is built
in four days by the female. The female is
known to yank hair from horses to collect
as lining, but hair from deer, raccoons,
cattle and humans also might be used.
Still, the nest is flimsy and often can
be seen through.
The female lays two to seven pale
blue-to-white, lightly streaked or spotted
eggs and incubates them for 10 to 15 days.
The male feeds her frequently while she
is on the nest, because she rarely leaves it.
The nestlings emerge over a 24-hour
period, and the parents immediately eat
the eggshells. The male begins feeding
their young within an hour of hatching,
JANUARY 2019

while the female continues to brood the
naked nestlings until they develop feathers. She gradually decreases brooding
after their fourth day and joins the male
in feeding them mostly weed seeds, followed by insects, as the nestlings mature.
Eggs and nestlings are preyed upon by
snakes, American crows, blue jays and
domestic cats, while adults and flying
youngsters might fall victim to Cooper's
hawks, American kestrels, red squirrels
and domestic cats.
Chipping-sparrow nests sometimes are
parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds,
but often the sparrows deter cowbirds
with alarm calls and threatening displays.
They frequently desert nests with cowbird
eggs in them.
After nine to 12 days, nestlings climb
to the rim of the nest and then onto tree
branches and practice short flights. Their
parents continue to care for them for
three weeks or so. But the male provides
most of the care if the female is starting a
second brood.
Later, the young gather in flocks of
five to 15 birds to forage in weedy places.
Once their last brood is on its own, the
adults leave their territory. Parents and offspring often join foraging flocks in weedy
fields, forest edges and along fencerows.
Fall flocks range from 25 to as many
as 1,000 birds as they move south for
the winter in stages along the coast and
mountaintops, leaving Pennsylvania in
mid-September to the third week of October, or later, depending on the weather.
Because chipping sparrows occupy a
wide variety of habitats on breeding and
wintering grounds, they remain incredibly
common, with an estimated 3 million
breeding males in Pennsylvania alone.
So, we can look forward every spring
to the return of these human-adapted
birds.
63



Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - 4
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - 21
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Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - 64
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - January 2019 - Cover4
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