Nonbreeding Chipping Sparrow on a Wild Rose

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Chipping Sparrow on wild rose, Box Elder County, UtahChipping Sparrow on wild rose – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 1000, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Last week was hard on me on a personal level and out in the field with birds and animals and this week will be challenging too but at least we are supposed to get some rain finally and maybe that will help out the firefighters with the wildfires that are still raging in Utah. A fire up near Mirror Lake blew up over the weekend because of the high winds and the photos I saw in the news of the fire were alarming. The Mirror Lake highway is such a beautiful, scenic trip and now I wonder what it will look like once the fire is out. Anyway, I just don’t feel like I have much oomph this morning so I am keeping my post simple.

I photographed this nonbreeding Chipping Sparrow the last week of September as it perched briefly on a wild rose, I love the pop of color the rose hips provided.

This time of the year I try to look carefully at every Chipping Sparrow I see in the hopes of finding a Clay-colored Sparrow which aren’t common in Utah because these two species can look alike and Clay-colored Sparrows are migrating to their wintering grounds, at least one has been spotted here that I know of this fall. So far I haven’t found one but if I am persistent and keep a keen eye out perhaps I will.

The bill of this nonbreeding Chipping Sparrow in my photo is pink with just a hint of black at the top of the bill, I find it interesting that while this species is in breeding plumage their bills turn black when their cap turns a bright rufous.

Life is good.


Chipping Sparrow facts and information:

  • Chipping Sparrows are medium sized sparrows, with long tails, black-streaked backs, pale gray underparts, white throats, black lines through their eyes and they have rufous caps. During their breeding season their bills are black and during the nonbreeding season they are pink.
  • Chipping Sparrows can be year round residents or migrate short distances within their range. Throughout the year they can be found in all the lower 48 states and Alaska.
  • Chipping Sparrows prefer open woodlands, grasslands, forest edges, brushy pastures, gardens and parks.
  • Chipping Sparrows eat insects and seeds and they prefer to feed on the ground.
  • Chipping Sparrows lay 2 to 5 eggs which hatch in 11 to 14 days. The female incubates and they are monogamous. Females develop a bare patch on their abdomens that fill with fluid during the breeding season which is thought to allow the transfer of heat from their bodies to the eggs.
  • A flock of Chipping Sparrows can be called a “tournament” of sparrows.
  • Chipping Sparrows can live up to 10 years.


  1. Pepe Forte October 2, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Terrific shot. Rich and vivid with great color balance. Thanks Mia.

  2. Patty Chadwick October 1, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Love little brown jobbie and bright orange red berries…great combination…

  3. azstu October 1, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    excellent mia..

  4. Elephants Child October 1, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Echoing everyone else. Thank you.

  5. Rosemary Harris October 1, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Lovely image and composition in great light Mia.

  6. Liz Cormack October 1, 2018 at 7:12 am

    I love this photo with the Rose Hips providing the pop of colour.

  7. Marty K October 1, 2018 at 6:15 am

    Such a pretty bird! Their feather patterns are so beautiful.

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