Flocking in scraggly shrubs, near bird feeders, or snow-covered fields, American Tree Sparrows are a common sight in southeast Michigan in winter.
They only spend a few months in our area.
The birds migrate from their homes near the northern tree line in northern Canada and Alaska for fall and return home in early spring.
I typically find the copper-crowned, bicolor billed birds with the rusty eyeline in hedgerows and tall grasses as I’m searching for Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls.
The American Tree Sparrows call back and forth to each other with soft sounds, making them one of the few birds I can identify by sound before I see them.
I caught this photo of the American Tree Sparrow behind the Belle Isle Nature Center when it paused for a moment before flying off to the nearby field.
In the “I didn’t know that” department, the American Tree Sparrow was mistakenly named by early European settlers, who thought the bird looked like their Eurasian Tree Sparrows.
American Tree Sparrows are ground birds; they forage and nest on the ground.