Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)


French: Bruant familier German: Schwirrammer Spanish: Chingolo cejiblanco

Fringilla passerina


, 1798,

Quebec City, Canada


Probably closely related to S. pallida and S. breweri, and individuals of the three in first-winter plumage difficult to differentiate, although two recent phylogenies both recovered this species as sister to all other congeners#R#R. Geographical variation rather minimal, and in North America clinal, with slight increase in darkness from W to E; also substantial individual variation within populations. Proposed races stridula (described from Pasadena, California) and boreophila (from Fort Simpson, Mackenzie, in Canada) are considered synonyms of arizonae, comparanda (from SE Nayarit, in W Mexico) is included in atremaea, repetens (from R Molino in S Oaxaca, in Mexico) is subsumed into mexicana, and cicada (from near Chalatenango, in NW El Salvador) is synonymized with pinetorum. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. p. arizonae Coues, 1872 – E Alaska, W & C Canada (from W Yukon and C Mackenzie E to N Saskatchewan, N Manitoba and W Ontario) and W USA (E to W & C Texas), S to Mexico (N Baja California, NW Sonora, SW Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila); non-breeding from SW USA (C California, S Nevada, C & SE Arizona, C New Mexico and C Texas) S to S Baja California and highlands of Mexico (S to Oaxaca).
  • S. p. passerina (Bechstein, 1798) – N Minnesota, N Michigan and SE Canada (C Ontario and S Quebec E to SW Newfoundland) S in USA to S Oklahoma, SE Texas, C Louisiana, S Mississippi, NW Florida, C Georgia and SE South Carolina; non-breeding from Oklahoma and Arkansas E to Virginia and Maryland S to S Florida, Gulf Coast and NE Mexico (Nuevo León and Tamaulipas).
  • S. p. atremaea R. T. Moore, 1937 – W Mexico in Sierra Madre Occidental from S Chihuahua and S Durango E to C Nuevo León and S to Aguascalientes and NE Jalisco.
  • S. p. mexicana Nelson, 1899 – highlands of C & S Mexico from Nayarit, NC Jalisco, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and E Veracruz S to Chiapas, and NW Guatemala.
  • S. p. pinetorum Salvin, 1863 – NE Guatemala (E Petén), Belize, Honduras, N El Salvador and NC & NE Nicaragua.
  • Descriptive notes

    12–14 cm; 10·3–15·5 g. A small, slim sparrow with long, notched tail. Nominate race breeding has forehead black, usually small whitish medial spot... read more


    Song a thin, dry rattle on one pitch. Call a thin, clear “tseep” or dry “chip... read more


    Breeds in dry open woodland with grassy understorey, orchards, parks and golf courses; also in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Consumes seeds throughout year; insects form bulk of diet during breeding season. Seeds of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) an... read more


    Season Mar–Aug, from Mar (Jun in Morelos, in Mexico) in S, but from mid-May and Jun in Oaxaca (S Mexico); commonly double-brooded,... read more


    N races migratory; resident in S. Begins to leave wintering grounds in S USA (Florida and Texas) in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Often common or very common in appropriate habitat. Widespread within its large range. Relatively tame, and easy to observe.

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).