Sparrow Patches of the Pacific Northwest
What makes a good patch
Sparrow Finding at the Astoria Airport
Show us your sparrows
Sparrow Patch Photo Showcase

Finding the perfect patch

Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder?  Do you go spiraling into a deep blue funk when the days get short and the weather turns unpleasant?  You need to find yourself a good sparrow patch.

A sparrow patch is a winter microhabitat; a place where sparrows, finches and other small passerines gather for shelter and a stable food source.  Most of these patches have in common a dense, scrubby character that provides shelter from the wind and from predators.  The best of these habitats cover sizable areas, border open grassy or wetland habitats and are not overly managed by humans.

The joy of a sparrow patch is in pishing up the residents.  About 10 species of regularly occurring sparrows are likely in the typical microsite.  Add 3 finch species, chickadees, Hutton's Vireo, wrens and the ubiquitous House Sparrow and you have a pretty good day list for the dead of winter.  But these microsites also hold the potential for winter irregulars, like over-wintering Orange-crowned or Palm Warblers, Clay-colored Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow.

A good sparrow patch is likely to have its predators as well.  Northern Shrikes, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Merlins typically stake out the best patches.

Coastal microsites will invariably be composed of some or all of the following plant species.  Learn to recognized these and you'll be well on your way to finding the best sparrow patches:

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Evergreen Blackberry (Rubus laciniatus)
Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus vestitus)
Douglas Spirea (Spirea douglasii)
Oregon Crab-apple (Pyrus fusca)
Black Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)
Nootka Rose (Rosa nootkana)
Willow (Salix sp.)
Pacific Wax-myrtle (Myrica californica)
Red Alder (Alnus Rubra)
Astoria Airport
The areas to the south and east of the Astoria Airport in Clatsop Co. are among the best places to go looking for sparrows. There is a large expanse of mixed blackberries, willow and open rank vegetation that can be accessed fairly easily from the pullout on the west side of the Lewis & Clark River Bridge (DeLorme p.70,c-3).

If you only have time for roadside birding, a good sized chunk of habitat can be found along Airport Rd. near the south runway.

Along with the great sparrow watching comes the added bonus of Virginia Rail, White-tailed Kite, American Bittern and a sizable herd of Elk.


Other Patches

Millicoma Marsh, near Coos Bay, Coos Co., OR

Simpson Park, North Albany, Linn Co., OR

Three Rivers Farm, near Canby, Clackamas Co., OR

Big Flat HMU, Franklin Co., WA

Wireless Road, Clatsop Co., OR

East Regional Park, Cottage Grove Lane Co. OR

Two Rivers County Park, Benton Co., WA

Minto Island, Salem, Marion Co. OR

Yakima Area Arboretum, Yakima Co., WA

Alton Baker Park, Lane Co., OR

Got Sparrows? Tell us where.

Photo Showcase
Song Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Hermit Thrush
Hutton's Vireo
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Palm Warbler
Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Gillson, Greg. 1998. Fox Sparrow ID. available online at:

Irons, David & David Fix. 1990. How to search for Passerines more effectively
    in winter: notes on winter microsite habitats.Oregon Birds.16(4):251-254.

Rising, James D. 1996. The Sparrows of the United States and Canada.
    Academic Press, San Diego.

Byers, Clive, Jon Curson & Urban Olsson. 1995. Sparrows and Buntings.
    Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.

revised 10/24/2000