Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Return of the Chipping Sparrows

The return of the chipping sparrows is the first real sign that autumn is coming to central Texas. We know it’s here, has been for a month, and the occasional flirtatious cold front suggests that winter might make an appearance, but the chipping sparrows come about the time the leaves begin to fall from the cedar elm out back.

They’ll be regulars at the feeder the next few months, poking for the small seeds the white-winged doves and house sparrows aren’t interested in. They’re less skittish than those two year-round species as well. When I open the back door, the house sparrows and doves fly off immediately, but the chippers stay put as if to say, “Dude, what’s the deal? That’s the ape that brings the food.”

Through the winter I’ll usually see a dozen or so in the mornings and evenings, but come late March just before they fly north, I’ll see massive flocks in the backyard. Seventy or more birds poking around in the grass and to a colorblind guy like me who has trouble seeing brown birds in green grass, it seems the very lawn is writhing and wiggling awake after the winter. Then, one day, they will be gone and summer will be just around the corner.

I started my Project FeederWatch counts last weekend. Here’s who showed up for the first count. Mostly, the usual suspects:

  1. Chipping Sparrow: 4
  2. Black-crested Titmouse: 3
  3. Carolina Wren: 1
  4. Carolina Chickadee: 1
  5. House Sparrow: 8
  6. Blue Jay: 2
  7. White-winged Dove: 17

The only no-show was the Bewick’s wren, which I see pretty regularly, though I didn’t see one on my official count day.


  1. that’s a very pretty little sparrow!

  2. So that’s where our chippers go! We get tree sparrows down from the muskeg to take their place, though.

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