American Tree Sparrows at the Farm

January 6, 2018

Ever since we built our new house on the farm 13 years ago, my friend Mike Arduser has repeatedly asked me if I’ve seen any American tree sparrows during the winter. My response has always been the same, “No, never, at least to my knowledge,” and Mike’s reply has always been the same, something to the effect of, “Hmmm, I would think you would be seeing American tree sparrows in that type of habitat.” The type of habitat Mike was referring to is open grass fields with brushy fence rows and some forest around the corners.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been noticing, for the first time, some American tree sparrows feeding on Indian grass seed out on our prairie. I remember my first sighting from the living room about a month ago. I thought to myself, “Boy, that Mike Arduser knew all along that there should be tree sparrows here.” I never doubted Mike for a moment because most of you know by now from my previous editions that Mike, a retired natural heritage biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, is considered by those who know him and know of him as a natural history guru. Better yet, Mike’s sage advice is always tempered with humility and respect for the often confusing idiosyncrasy of nature.

I think the appearance of American tree sparrows at the farm might be a result of the tallgrass prairie we planted five years ago. I’ve never seen them in any of the other fields, which feature broom sedge, fescue, purple top and other standards from non-restored farm fields. We also attributed the appearance of Henslow’s sparrows two years ago to the same prairie restoration, although they were known to roam and call from other fields than just the prairie. We’ve even had the occasional quail or two since we planted the prairie, so overall I’d say it has been a success. Just looking at the flowing, rusty-colored Indian grass every day at sunset has been worth the price of the ticket, much of which was covered by the Missouri Department of Conservation and Quail Forever.

I captured the featured image this morning on my way up the hill from my hide near our resident barred owl’s favorite perch. The barred owl never made an appearance but I couldn’t believe my luck as I walked up the path past the prairie and found at least 25 American tree sparrows feeding so intensely on Indian grass that they didn’t noticed me. The image above was most representative of the behavior of the little critters as they jumped up on seed heads and rode them to the ground under their own weight. Watching and photographing the tree sparrows was balm for my soul on a cold, Saturday morning.

Thanks for looking,


Email me with questions, comments, or for print information at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images:

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.


6 comments on “American Tree Sparrows at the Farm”

  1. I learned of your work through Robin Tillett. I am a complete fan.

  2. They like tall grasses even better when they’re sprinkled with forbs with nutritious seeds such as sunflowers and coneflowers.

    • Yes, exactly how I had it until the Sericea came back with a vengeance and I had to boom spray the entire field with PastureGuard. The forbs are slowly returning though.

  3. Wow. To have it there. To know what it is. To have the camera handy. To get that shot…all of it has to come together. You’re quite the guru yourself, in the original Sanskrit sense of the term… a teacher…you share your knowledge with others, through your images and words and let us learn. Thank you. Deepa;

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