Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 253 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, June 1998- April 2021.

The song sparrow is easy to overlook, but a familiar sight to those who look a little harder, a little longer. In a typical year, the streaky sparrow with the central dark spot on the breast appears in March or April, and migrates south in October, if not before. The bird lives up to its name, singing from small bushes, especially in April. Key dates are 13 March to 3 November. Less often, birds may overwinter, sustained by bird feeders, with sightings from 27 December to 29 February (in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009) and two in late November of 2017.

The song sparrow is widespread across the province. Most birds that breed in Ontario winter in the USA, and forest clearance has generated much favourable scrub and "edge habitat" for the bird (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.456-457). The species is especially abundant south of the Canadian shield, with an estimated provincial population of 3 million birds, 60% of them south of the shield (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.560-561). At Presqu'ile park the song sparrow is a common migrant and summer visitor from mid-March to late November (LaForest, 1993, pp.358-359). In the Kawarthas, to the north and west, the bird is an abundant summer resident and often overwinters in small numbers (Sadler, 1983, p.150). The birds' nest is often victimized by cowbirds.

View the complete 22-year (1998-2021) monthly data summary (242-kb pdf file).


Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.

Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.

LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.

Graham Wilson, posted 29 August 2014 / update 20 April 2021

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