American Tree Sparrow

Spizelloides arborea
Range Map

The American Tree Sparrow winters in the northern 80% of the USA, but breeds in Alaska and the northern provinces of Canada, further north than any of its sparrow relatives. Neither do they migrate very far south in winter, often staying in all but the southern reaches of the lower 48 states of the USA.

Until recently Science classified these birds in the genus Spizella, but DNA research suggested that it should have its own genus: Spizelloides. The name Tree Sparrow is a hold-over from the early days of European settlement in North America. They gave the bird its name because they believed it resembled the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, a bird they were familiar with from the old country.

In 2003, I met this species on the border between Oregon and California. Then, in 2005, I took a trip to Alaska and discovered these birds were one of the more common small birds in the far north.

Modern science recognises two subspecies of American Tree Sparrow:

  • S. a. arborea breeds in north-central and eastern Canada from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and east to Labrador, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. They spend winters in the eastern USA and southeastern Canada.
  • S. a. ochracea breeds in Alaska and western Canada from the Yukon and Northwest Territories south to British Columbia and Alberta. They spend winters in southern Canada and the western USA states from South Dakota and Iowa, to northern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Click map markers to reveal further information