I often see these small birds while hiking on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath. This is a northern species that visits the United States in the Winter. It can tolerate very harsh weather and low temperatures if it has a good food supply.
American Tree Sparrows are mostly gray with a rufous crown and ear stripe. Their upperparts are streaked brown. There is one dark spot in the center of the breast; another good identification characteristic of this bird is its bi-colored beak.
In the Winter, they are gregarious and form flocks, sometimes hanging out with other bird species. They mainly search on the ground for seeds, but they also may ascend on plants, to look for seeds, berries and invertebrates.
Their preferred habitat is weedy fields with hedgerows or shrubs, usually along forest edges or near waterways. American Tree Sparrow often visit backyards, especially if there’s a birdfeeder.
This species breeds in the far north and is rarely seen outside of northern Canada in the Summer. It is fun to watch, as it adds its color and song to our sometimes drab Winters.